A crowd of 150 people gathered at 5am to become the first passengers to ride on the Northern line extension from Battersea Power Station.
Some had travelled from as far as York and booked overnight hotel stays to travel on the first Tube extension this century and first on the Northern line for 80 years.
Many were “beside themselves with excitement”, Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford said.
Yes we rode the first train! 05.28 out of Battersea Power Station …. station. It’s open! pic.twitter.com/UUiknk0Dkm
— Geoff Marshall (@geofftech) September 20, 2021
Fraser Hay, 17, who travelled from Brighton last night and was on the 5.28am first train from Battersea, said he had been outside the station since 1.30am. “I felt it was an important milestone being on the first train on a brand new line,” he said.
His friend Jude Pirkis, 18, from Battersea, said: “It’s impressive seeing these stations here. This [Nine Elms station] used to be a car park.”
London Underground managing director Andy Lord said: “Being on the first train this morning from Battersea Power Station, seeing the smiles... of our customers, was quite amazing.”
The party atmosphere was only punctured when plans to fly a balloon in the shape of the Tube roundel from between the power station chimneys — a nod to the inflatable pig once flown above the station for a Pink Floyd album cover — could not be co-ordinated with the opening ceremony due to high winds.
The two new stations, at Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms, are on a spur that connects with the rest of the Northern line at Kennington.
The £1.1 billion project is seen as the catalyst for the wider redevelopment of the Nine Elms area, with the former power station — which reopens next summer as a retail, office, entertainment and residential complex — at its heart.
The project, which was underwritten by the Government, was funded by a loan from City Hall with contributions from developers and Wandsworth and Lambeth councils.
The project came in £160 million under budget, partly because two “run-off” tunnels that would have taken the line under Battersea Dogs and Cats Home was axed, to ensure the animals did not have their sleep disturbed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the project showcased government support for London. Asked whether it indicated a willingness to support further TfL projects, he told the Standard: “We believe in TfL. We think it’s a good outfit.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “quite emotional”. The former Wandsworth councillor and ex-MP for Tooting said: “There were many false dawns for Battersea Power Station.
Spot anything new? 👀👀 pic.twitter.com/YlLCmHcGUn
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) September 16, 2021
“There are many people over the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years who thought this part of London would never be regenerated. As a south Londoner, I’m incredibly proud.”
Crossrail will be the capital’s next piece of transport infrastructure to open - it is scheduled for the first half of 2022.
Asked whether Londoners could expect further projects to complete in his second term, or would have to wait for a third term, Mr Khan told the Standard: “Whether or not I’m here to cut the ribbon, I’m going to be trying to persuade the Government, particularly during the comprehensive spending review, that they should be investing in infrastructure. That means investing in London.”
Mr Byford said he was “shamelessly” making the case for further investment in London in discussions with Mr Shapps as they travelled on the line.
“This development would not have happened without the Northern line being punched through to Battersea and Nine Elms,” Mr Byford said.
“I was not very subtly making the point there are plenty more where that came from if we can just get a long-term deal for TfL.”
Wansdsworth council’s Tory leader Ravi Govindia said it showed what happened when the Government, City Hall and council worked together, regardless of political affiliation. “We are batting for London,” he said.
“It was exiting to be on the train. It’s all very well seeing the stations open, but actually to travel on it with ordinary passengers was amazing.”
All of the northern terminuses on the Northern line (High Barnet, Mill Hill East and Edgware) will have trains running to/from Battersea Power Station.
A peak-time service of six trains per hour will run on the extension, increasing to 12 trains per hour by mid-2022. There are five trains per hour during off-peak times, with this set to double to 10 trains per hour next year.
The majority of the apartments within Battersea Power Station, and 90 per cent of those in the wider development that have been brought to market, have been snapped up.
Simon Murphy, chief executive of Battersea Power Station Development Company, said the Tube extension was “fundamental to everything we have been trying to achieve for the last 10 years”.
He said: “Without the Northern line there wouldn’t be 50 per cent of the space in the power station committed to commercial uses, we wouldn’t be creating 20,000 jobs, we wouldn’t be building as many houses.”