Girish Mahajan (Editor)

District line

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Type  Sub-surface
Stations  60
System  London Underground
Colour on map  Green
District line
Ridership  208 million (2011/12) passenger journeys

The District line is a London Underground service that crosses Greater London from east to west. From Upminster, the eastern terminus, the line runs through Central London to Earl's Court before dividing into three western branches, to Ealing Broadway, Wimbledon and Richmond. There is a short branch that goes from Earl's Court to Kensington (Olympia). A branch also runs north from Earl's Court to Edgware Road via Paddington. Coloured green on the tube map, the line serves 60 stations in 40 miles (64 km), and with bridges across the Thames on the Wimbledon and Richmond branches is the only London Underground line to cross the river in this way. The track and stations between Barking and Aldgate East are shared with the Hammersmith & City line, and between Tower Hill and Gloucester Road and on the Edgware Road branch with the Circle line. Some of the stations are shared with the Piccadilly line. Unlike London's deep-level tube railways, the railway tunnels are just below the surface, and the trains are of a similar size to those on British main lines.


The District line is the busiest of the sub-surface lines as well the fifth busiest line overall on the London Underground with over 208 million passengers in the year 2011/12.

The original Metropolitan District Railway (as it was then called) opened in December 1868 from South Kensington to Westminster as part of a plan for an underground 'inner circle' connecting London's main-line termini. Services were operated at first using wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. Electrification was financed by the American Charles Yerkes, and electric services began in 1905. In 1933 the railway was absorbed by the London Passenger Transport Board. In the first half of the 1930s the Piccadilly line took over the Uxbridge and Hounslow branches, although a peak-hour District line service ran on the Hounslow branch until 1964. Kensington (Olympia) has been served by the District line since 1946, and a short branch to South Acton closed in 1959. The trains carried guards until one-person operation was introduced in 1985.

The signalling system is being upgraded, and the current D Stock trains are to be replaced by new 7-car S Stock trains by the end of 2016.

District Railway

The Metropolitan District Railway (commonly known as the District Railway) was formed to build and operate part an underground 'inner circle' connecting London's railway termini. The first line opened in December 1868 from South Kensington to Westminster, services being operated by the Metropolitan Railway using wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. By 1871 when the District began operating its own trains, the railway had extended to West Brompton and a terminus at Mansion House. A curve from Earl's Court onto the West London Railway was used by the London & North Western Railway (L&NWR) for a service to Broad Street and the Great Western Railway for a service to Moorgate via Paddington. Hammersmith was reached from Earl's Court, services were extended to Richmond over the tracks of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) and branches reached Ealing Broadway, Hounslow and Wimbledon. As part of the project that completed the Circle line in October 1884, the District began to serve Whitechapel. Services began running to Upminster in 1902, after a link to the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway (LT&SR) had been built.

At the start of the 20th century the District was seeing increased competition from the new electric underground tube lines and trams, and the use of steam locomotives underground led to unpopular smoke-filled stations and carriages. The American Charles Yerkes, who was later to form the Underground Electric Railways of London, financed the needed electrification of the railway and the first electric services ran from Ealing to South Harrow in 1903. Electric multiple-units were introduced on other services in 1905, and East Ham became the eastern terminus. Electric locomotives were used on the L&NWR services from Mansion House to Earl's Court, and in later years exchanged for a steam locomotive on LT&SR services from Southend to Ealing Broadway at Barking.

Hounslow and Uxbridge were served by 2 or 3-car shuttles from Mill Hill Park (now Acton Town); some trains also served South Acton and central London in the peaks. Services were extended again to Barking in 1908 and Upminster in 1932. In 1932 Piccadilly line trains were extended from Hammersmith to South Harrow, taking over the District service from Acton Town to South Harrow, although the District continued to provide a shuttle from South Harrow to Uxbridge. In 1933 Piccadilly trains reached to Hounslow West, the District continuing to run services with an off-peak shuttle from South Acton to Hounslow.

London Transport

On 1 July 1933 the District Railway amalgamated with other Underground railways, tramway companies and bus operators to form the London Passenger Transport Board, and from 23 October 1933 Piccadilly line trains ran through to Uxbridge and the District line shuttle withdrawn. Most of the trailer cars on the District line were the 1904–05 B Stock type with wooden bodies, but motor cars were less than fifteen years old. The 1935–40 New Works Programme saw the Q Stock formed from these motor cars, upgraded with electro-pneumatic brakes and guard controlled air-operated doors, and the trailers replaced with new vehicles. The off-peak District line services on the Hounslow branch were withdrawn on 29 April 1935 and South Acton served by a shuttle to Acton Town.

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) had taken over the L&NWR railway's service from Earl's Court and by the Second World War this had been cut back to an electric Earl's Court to Willesden Junction shuttle. Following bombing of the West London Line in 1940 the LMS and the Metropolitan line services over the West London Line were both suspended. This left the Olympia exhibition centre without a railway service, so after the war the Kensington Addison Road station was renamed Kensington (Olympia) and served by a District line shuttle from Earl's Court. R Stock, composed of new cars and the Q Stock trailers that had been built in 1938, replaced the trains with hand-operated sliding doors that remained. The new trains were built between 1949 and 1959, and after 1952 trains were constructed from aluminium, saving weight. One train was left unpainted as an experiment and considered a success, so between 1963–68 trains were left unpainted or painted white or grey to match. The transfer of CO/CP Stock from the Metropolitan line in the early 1960s allowed some of the Q stock to be scrapped. The slow tracks on the former LT&SR line to Upminster were shared with steam locomotive hauled goods and passenger services, until 1961 when the District took over exclusive use of the DC electrified lines.

The South Acton shuttle was withdrawn on 28 February 1959, followed by the peak hour District line through service to Hounslow on 9 October 1964. In the 1970s the Hounslow branch became the Heathrow branch when it was extended to serve Heathrow Airport, first on 19 July 1975 to serve Hatton Cross, and then on 16 December 1977 when Heathrow Central opened. The whole District line service could not run through Aldgate East as this station was also served by Hammersmith & City trains, so some trains terminated at a bay platform at Mansion House, leaving the line east to Tower Hill overcrowded. Tower Hill station was also cramped, so the station was rebuilt with three platforms on a new site. This opened in 1967 and a year later trains reversed at the new station.

Services were operated with 6 cars off-peak and 8 cars during peak hours until 1971, when trains were reformed as fixed 7-car trains, and some 6-car trains for the Edgware Road branch. The CO/CP and R Stock were replaced in the late 1970s by new trains with unpainted aluminium bodies. A shorter train was needed on the Edgware Road branch due to the platform lengths so more of the C stock units, then already in use on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, were built. The rest of the District line could use longer trains and new D Stock trains were introduced between 1979 and 1983. One person operation of the trains was proposed in 1972, but due to conflict with the trade unions was not introduced on the District line until 1985. In 2003, the infrastructure of the District line was partly privatised in a public–private partnership, managed by the Metronet consortium. Metronet went into administration in 2007 and the local government body Transport for London took over responsibilities.

Railway line

The District line is 40 miles (64 km) long and serves 60 stations. Much of the line is electrified with a four-rail DC system: a central conductor rail is energised at –210 V and a rail outside the running rail at +420 V, giving a potential difference of 630 V, except for two sections over which main line trains run; those exceptions are the sections from East Putney to Wimbledon and from Gunnersbury to Richmond, which both have the centre rail bonded to the running rails. West of Earl's Court, there are four branches. At Ealing Broadway station, the District line has platforms north of the Central line and the Great Western main line out of Paddington. After about 23 mile (1.1 km), the line meets the Piccadilly line Uxbridge branch at Hanger Lane junction, and the tracks are then shared through Ealing Common station until Acton Town station, where the Piccadilly line Heathrow branch joins. From Acton Town to Barons Court, the line has four tracks, paired by use: the District line uses the outer pair and the non-stopping Piccadilly line trains use the inner pair. At Richmond station, the London Overground and District line platforms are north of the Waterloo to Reading line through platforms. The two tracks which cross the Thames at Kew Railway Bridge are shared with the London Overground trains until Gunnersbury junction, after which the District line tracks join the four-track District and Piccadilly lines just before Turnham Green station.

On the main line, there are cross-platform interchanges at Acton Town, Hammersmith and Barons Court stations, after which the Piccadilly line tracks descend into tunnels, while the District line becomes two tracks through West Kensington station. Before the line enters Earl's Court station, the short Kensington (Olympia) branch joins at a flat junction and the Wimbledon branch at a grade-separated junction. On the Wimbledon branch, the District line at Wimbledon station is west of the South Western Main Line platforms, then the two-track line has a junction at East Putney station with the Hounslow Loop Line, before passing over the River Thames on Fulham Railway Bridge; there is a bay platform at Putney Bridge station, and the line continues by passing under the West London Railway and coming alongside it at West Brompton station before the junction with the main line and the four-platform Earl's Court station.

East of Earl's Court there is a grade-separated junction off the main line to the Edgware Road branch. This follows the Circle line after High Street Kensington station where there are also two bay platforms for the District line. After Paddington station this branch joins the Hammersmith & City line at Praed Street junction, before terminating at the four-platform Edgware Road. The main line joins the Circle line at Gloucester Road and the line and stations are in cut-and-cover tunnels, meeting the Thames at Westminster station, after which the railway is in the Victoria Embankment on the north bank of the river. At Tower Hill station, there is a bay platform.

After Tower Hill, the Circle line diverges, the District line joining the Hammersmith & City line just before Aldgate East station. The line passes over the London Overground at Whitechapel station before continuing on the 2-mile (3.2 km) Whitechapel & Bow Railway to Bow Road, where the line surfaces, and Bromley-by-Bow, where the line runs alongside the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway from Fenchurch Street station. There is an interchange with this line at the next station, West Ham, as well as with the Jubilee line and the Docklands Light Railway. There is a bay platform at the next station, Plaistow, and the Hammersmith & City line terminates at Barking station. The District line follows the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway for another eight stations, before terminating at Upminster station.


The off-peak service as of December 2012 is:

  • 6 tph (trains per hour) Ealing Broadway to Upminster
  • 6 tph Richmond to Upminster
  • 6 tph Wimbledon to Tower Hill, which 3 continue onto Barking
  • 6 tph Wimbledon to Edgware Road
  • 3 tph Kensington (Olympia) to High Street Kensington at weekends, as well as seven daily trips to or from Kensington (Olympia) on weekdays. A 2-trains-per-hour service operates on weekday exhibition days.
  • This gives a service of 18 trains per hour between Earl's Court and Tower Hill. 208 million passenger journeys were made in 2011/12.

    There are additional trains during peak hours. The central section from Earl's Court to Aldgate East is in Zone 1 and to the west Ealing Broadway and Wimbledon are in Zone 3 and Richmond in Zone 4. To the east the line runs to Upminster in Zone 6.

    C and D Stock

    When replacing the CO/CP and R Stock on the District line in the late 1970s, a shorter train was needed on the Edgware Road branch due to the platform lengths. Rather than design a new train more of the C-stock units in use on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines were ordered. Classed as C77 stock, although there are technical differences with the earlier C69 stock units of different ages can be coupled together and since the 1990–94 refurbishment there are no visual differences. The 6-car trains were made up of three two-car units, a 16.03-metre (52 ft 7 in) long driving motor and a 14.94-metre (49 ft 0 in) long trailer, both with four pairs of doors on each side and 32 seats. The trains were fitted with a public address system and rheostatic brakes on the motor cars from new. The trains were unpainted until refurbishment, when they were painted red, white and blue.

    The rest of the District line is able to accommodate longer trains, and the 110-metre (360 ft) long D78 Stock uses 6 x 18-metre (59 ft) long cars of approximately the same length as 7 x 16-metre (52 ft) long cars. Trains are formed from two 3-car units, some with two driving motor cars but most have one driving cab and a non-driving motor car. The motor cars are equipped with rheostatic braking. A six-car train seats 272 people and has four single-leaf doors on each side. Delivery was completed in 1983 and the units were refurbished between 2004 and 2008, when they were painted in London Underground colours.

    S Stock

    From 2014 the C and D Stock trains currently used on the District line will be replaced by 7-car S Stock. Like the 8-car variants now in use on the Metropolitan line, these trains are part of Bombardier's Movia family, with air-conditioning, as the sub-surface tunnels (unlike those on the deep-level tube lines) are able to disperse the exhausted hot air. These trains have regenerative brakes, returning around 20 per cent of their energy to the network. With a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h), a 7-car S Stock train has a capacity of 865 passengers compared to 739 for a 6-car C Stock train and 827 for a 6-car D Stock train. With a length of 117 metres (384 ft), the S Stock trains are 24 metres (79 ft) longer than the 93-metre (305 ft) long C stock trains, and station platforms have been lengthened. It is planned to increase the traction voltage from the present nominal 630 V to 750 V to give better performance and allow the trains to return more energy to the network through their regenerative brakes.

    The first S7 Stock train entered passenger service between Olympia and West Ham on the District line on 2 September 2013. It is planned that all trains will be replaced by the end of 2016. Since 6 February 2014, S7 Stock trains are in regular operation between Wimbledon & Edgware Road. From 13 June 2014, the S Stock began running to Ealing Broadway and on 17 June the service started running to Richmond. On 16 January 2015, the S Stock entered service to Upminster.


    The D Stock trains are maintained at Ealing Common Depot and Upminster Depot, and the S7 Stock trains are maintained at Hammersmith Depot. Ealing Common Depot was built by the District Railway when it was electrified in the early 1900s, and Hammersmith depot was originally built by the Great Western Railway to be operated by the Metropolitan Railway when the Hammersmith & City line was electrified at about the same time. Upminster depot was built 1956–58 when the District line tracks were segregated.

    Upgrade programme

    Together with the introduction of 7-car S Stock trains, the sub-surface track, electrical supply and signalling systems are being upgraded in a programme to increase peak-hour capacity on the District line by 24 per cent by the end of 2018. A single control room for the sub-surface network is to be established in Hammersmith and an automatic train control (ATC) system will replace signalling equipment installed from the 1940s.

    Open stations

    In order from west to east

    Closed and fictional stations

    Now on the Piccadilly line, Hounslow Town was a terminus station between 1 May 1883 and 1 May 1909, when it was replaced by the station currently known as Hounslow East. Between Whitechapel and Aldgate East was St. Mary's station from 3 March 1884 to 30 April 1938, closing when Aldgate East station moved.

    Walford East is a fictional District line station in the BBC television soap opera EastEnders, and since February 2010 episodes have used Computer-generated imagery (CGI) of District line trains running into the station.

    In the Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse", a fictional unopened terminus station called Sumatra Road (situated underneath the Houses of Parliament as a disused branch line from Westminster Station) was created for the episode's story of a terrorism plot. The station was actually filmed at Aldwych with ex-Northern line 1972 stock which caused continuity errors as deep-level trains and tunnels were used when the District line is sub-surface.


    District line Wikipedia