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November 2, 2015updated 28 Jul 2021 3:57pm

London Underground: Why are Circle line trains showing up at Whitechapel?

By Jonn Elledge

So early one morning, a colleague was trying to catch the tube at Whitechapel in London’s East End, when, well, this happened:


What was going on?


Stephanie wasn’t taking any chances:


We thought no more of it – sometimes trains get lost, y’know? But then, last week, it happened again:


Whitechapel, as all good CityMetric readers know, is on the District and Hammersmith & City lines. It’s on the branch of the Overground that used to be the East London line. It’ll even be on Crossrail.

But one line it is very definitely not on is the Circle line. Look:

We decided to put this question to TfL. (Yes, we actually used the word “witchcraft”; no, they did not find it funny.)

At first a spokesperson suggested that it had been a mistake – maybe the driver had simply placed the electronic sign to the wrong setting? But this wouldn’t explain the platform announcements – I mean, the person making those will almost certainly know what lines a station is served by, right?  

And so, our spokesperson made some enquiries. Here’s what they learned:

You’re right, those are indeed Circle line trains that have been spotted at Whitechapel. Circle line trains come out of the Barking sidings in the mornings – they come down the line via Aldgate East and join onto the Circle line from there. They can be spotted late in the evenings too when they go back to the sidings at night.

So, there you go. Very occasionally – early in the morning, and late at night – the Circle line runs far out into east London. It’s less disruptive than the Northern line extension – and it’s vastly cheaper, too.

Got an urban mystery you’d like solved? Go on, drop us a line.

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