Home East London The ‘most confusing’ London Underground station, according to Londoners

The ‘most confusing’ London Underground station, according to Londoners

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There are lots of stations on the London Underground where – unless you know them really well – you can end up plodding along endless tunnels, making wrong turns and going up and down escalators until you’re travel sick.

Particularly confusing stations include the tunnels and interconnections of Green Park and the myriad of exits at Charing Cross and Piccadilly Circus. However, when we asked Londoners on Facebook to nominate the Tube station that confused them the most, there was one that kept coming to the surface.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the Bank and Monument station interchange folks! According to you it’s about as easy to navigate as a labyrinth…So what exactly is it that makes this station such a nightmare?

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1912: Workmen removing a concrete wall during construction of the Central line extension to Bank

Well for a start it’s got no fewer than 16 entrances and four ticket halls. On the west side it has platforms for the Waterloo & City Line (the Drain), and east of those there are the Central Line platforms 5 and 6. To the north of the station you have the Central Line ticket hall then the East End of the Central Line platforms to the east of this.

This all links to the Northern Line ticket hall further south and down to the Norther Line concourse and escalators, and then onto the Northern Line platforms. Underneath this you have the DLR platforms and then further south still you have the District Line ticket hall and platforms. Confused yet?

The root of the complexity of the station lies in the way it was developed. It came about by linking up a number of different stations built by separate railway companies back in the early days of the London Underground.

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A commuter at Bank station in 1976

The very first station was completed by the competing Metropolitan and District railways as part of what was effectively the first Circle Line – a loop of railway around London known as the Inner Circle.

The final stations on this route included the one at Monument. It was opened as Eastcheap on October 6, 1884. It was renamed The Monument the following year. This would eventually of course become the Circle Line in 1949.

In 1898 the Waterloo & City Railway opened, linking Waterloo with a terminus in the City of London. On this line a station with platforms under Queen Victoria Street and close to Mansion House, opened in August 1898 and was called “City”. The Waterloo & City line platforms here were renamed “Bank” in October 1940.

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Commuters walk past Monument Underground Station in 2007

The first station to be known officially as Bank opened in February 1900 when yet another line, the City & South London Railway (C&SLR, now part of the Northern line) opened its extension from Borough to Moorgate. The station was effectively a sub-surface ticket hall and lift entrance in the crypt of St Mary Woolnoth Church. The opening of the eastern terminus of the Central London Railway (CLR, now the Central line) at Bank followed on July 30 1900.

It wasn’t until 1933 that the stations began to be connected up for the first time. The southern end of the C&SLR (by then part of the Edgware-Highgate-Morden line) platforms was close to those of Monument station and, on September 18 1933, a connecting escalator link was opened, connecting the two stations directly for the first time.

In 1991, the Docklands Light Railway was extended to Bank station, following criticism of the original, poorly connected terminus at Tower Gateway. The new platforms were built parallel to but deeper than those of the Northern line, with connections at one end to the Central line and Monument Station at the other.

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A commuter leaves Monument underground station in central London, on June 9, 2009

In the late 2010s, a new entrance was constructed at Bloomberg’s new London headquarters on Walbrook, near Cannon Street station, providing direct access to the Waterloo & City line via four new escalators and two lifts – providing step free access to that line for the first time.

This incredibly complex set of developments has created the station we see today. But like most of London, it developed it in a higgledy-piggledy way with very little overall planning.

Since 2003, demand at the Bank-Monument station complex has risen by over 50 per cent to 337,000 customers per day. TfL is upgrading the station – this includes adding 12 new escalators, two new lifts and two moving walkways. This is currently being completed.

But the confusing and complex nature of the station comes – like so much in London – from the haphazard way it grew.

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