diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 05, 2022

I'd like to thank the anonymous citizens who send pertinent Freedom of Information requests to TfL, and to the case officers who sometimes reply. You never know what'll be asked, nor whether the response will be a brusque brush-off or a deluge of data. So I was very excited this week to open up a spreadsheet which finally answered this key infrastructural question...

Which station has the tube's longest platform?

That wasn't the original question. The petitioner actually asked "Could you please provide me with the platform lengths in metres of all platforms at all London Underground stations", and this proved even more informative.

The longest platform on the Underground, it turns out, is this one.

This is platform 2, the eastbound platform at Becontree station. It's 231 metres long and claims the 'longest platform' crown for the outer reaches of the District line. It's 40cm longer than the platforms in joint second place, which are the eastbound platforms at Dagenham East and Hornchurch. It's longer than some Crossrail platforms. What's more a District line train is only 117½m in length so this platform is somehow twice as long. What's going on?

Gale Street station opened in 1928 to serve the new Becontree estate. It was renamed Becontree in 1932 when the line was doubled and electrified, adding two new platforms. All four platforms were long enough to take Southend-bound trains, but these now only stopped at the new platforms and District line trains served the originals. Southend trains no longer stopped after 1962 leaving just the two platforms for the Underground, both with a huge gap up one end.

The far ends of these platforms are now fenced off and overgrown with grass and weeds. Walk up to the barrier and you can see how unkempt they are and just how far they stretch, although most passengers never do because today's trains don't quite stop this far back. A power company has even sponsored a small wildlife garden in the last usable gap on the westbound platform, but it's the eastbound platform opposite that's officially the longest of all.

And Becontree's not alone. All the stations between Barking and Upminster have disused wildernesses at the far end of their platforms, always at the western end and all much longer than necessary. Indeed the 14 longest platforms on the Underground are all to be found at these seven stations, so the far end of the District line totally sweeps the board. But all are part sealed-off so arguably none of them properly count, which begs a further question - what's the longest platform still in use?

The longest platform still in use on the Underground, it turns out, is this one.

This is platform 2, the eastbound platform at Plaistow station. It's 212m long, which is somehow 100m longer than the trains which stop here. It's also 13m longer than the next longest platform, which is platform 3 at Stanmore station. It's the only platform on the tube which could accommodate a Crossrail train. It's been here since the 19th century, indeed it's older than the Underground because again it was built to be long enough for steam trains. It has some gorgeous ironwork. And it's still open because it's adjacent to a bay platform where Hammersmith & City trains sometimes terminate.

The bay platform was originally used for North London Railway services between Chalk Farm and Plaistow, then from 1869 to 1916 a Bow to Plaistow shuttle. It survived the rebuilding of the station in the 1900s and demolition of the adjacent railway depot. It's nowhere near the steps up to the ticket hall, it's a lot further back. And it's now where passengers who'd really rather be going further east get turfed out when a train stops short, only to discover they need to walk much further up the platform if they want to catch another service.

So platform 2 is really long because it extends back far enough to accommodate a terminating train on the adjacent bay platform. By my calculations it's twelve carriages long, the overlap between platform 2 and the bay platform being just two carriages in length. And you can still walk all the way to the far end because the backs of terminating trains stop that far down, making this monster the longest platform still in use on the Underground.

The spreadsheet also allows me to identify the longest platform on each individual tube line.
District: Plaistow (eastbound) [212m]
Jubilee: Stanmore (platform 3) [199m]
Central: Fairlop (both platforms) [194m]
H & City: Paddington (eastbound) [186m]
Piccadilly: South Harrow (westbound) [184m]
Metropolitan: Watford (platform 1) [183m]
Northern: Colindale (southbound) [165m]
Victoria: King's Cross St Pancras (northbound) [142m]
Bakerloo: Queens Park (northbound) [122m]
W & City: Waterloo (both platforms) [95m]
For comparison purposes, no Underground train exceeds 134m in length.

The average tube platform, it turns out, is 132m long.

And finally here are all the tube platforms shorter than 100m.
Notting Hill Gate (District) (both platforms) [96m]
Waterloo (W & City) (both platforms) [95m]
• Mornington Crescent (Northern) (northbound) [95m]
Holborn (Piccadilly) (disused platform 5) [95m]
Westbourne Park (H & City) (both platforms) [94½m]
Ladbroke Grove (H & City) (both platforms) [94m]
Bayswater (District) (both platforms) [92m]
Bank (W & City) (both platforms) [79m/78m]
Chalfont & Latimer (Metropolitan) (disused platform 3) [75m]
Thank you anonymous FoI petitioner.

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