London Underground: Why there are so few Tube stations in South London compared to North

There is a bitter divide between those who live south of the river and those who live north.

If you’ve ever lived in South London, you’ll be familiar with the arguments you have with friends trying to convince them that it’s really “not that far”.

Getting on an Overground, Thameslink connection, or – heaven forbid – tram is considered blasphemy for people who live in North London.

It’s easy to see why – they’ve been blessed with more than 250 Tube stations while South London has to make do with just 32.

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But why is that? Well, it’s primarily to do with geology and a little bit of history.

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When the Tube network was created, the ground south of the river was not suitable to dig and build on.

It was wet, swampy and marshy – making tunnelling problematic.

Compare this to the clay found north of the river that was easy to dig up.

The cut and cover technique that was used to initially build the network relied heavily on being able to easily dig up the ground and place it back down again.

However, as time has progressed so has technology.

We now have much better tunnelling machines which mean that these lines can be built with the same ease.

We’ve seen this with the recent DLR expansion to Woolwich and the HS1 tunnels connecting East London and Kent.

Proposals for an extension of the Bakerloo line would see four more stops added past Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, Old Kent Road, and New Cross Gate.

0 ble map feb 21

Proposed Bakerloo Line extension map

But issues with funding means it’s unlikely to see the light of day for some time.

The way that London developed as a city also plays a huge role in how the underground looks today.

When the Romans conquered Britain they settled in what is now the City of London and expansion grew from there.

Aldwych was where the Anglo-Saxons settled and Westminster, with its nearby royal palaces and abbeys, are also north of the river.

As London developed into the metropolitan city it is today, hubs such as Kensington and Belgravia were all thriving.

Comparatively, South London was barren with places like Clapham and Stockwell existing as only small villages, so there was really no need for the tube line to expand down there.

The same can’t be said for today as South London is now home to 3 million people.

It’s not all bad news for South Londoners though.

There are far more Overground stops on the south side of the river with 150 rail stations.

Though it sounds like a lot, you can’t really compare the two when you consider the difference in speed and frequency that the trains run.

Whilst the Tube map itself isn’t geographically accurate, it’s how most of us tend to think of the city and for those south of river, you can’t help but feel a little neglected.

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