The 1.5-mile, four-minute shuttle service, known as The Drain, links Waterloo and Bank stations without stopping and is the only direct route between the City and the country’s busiest rail station. Pre-pandemic, it was used by about 15 million commuters a year.
Transport for London closed it last March as the lockdown meant there was little passenger demand, and to allow drivers to work instead on the Central line.
On Monday its reopening was due to be marked by Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL commissioner Andy Byford, accompanied by leading figures from the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the city’s financial district.
Last week, Mr Khan agreed that as part of the latest Government bailout for TfL, it would draw up an outline business case by December on the cost of switching the line to driverless mode, but with an “on-board attendant” akin to the system used on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
TfL, working with the Department for Transport under the terms of the £1bn bail-out, also has complete a full business case within a year – and for the Piccadilly line within 18 months. However, Mr Khan has made clear he doubts whether driverless trains will ever become a reality.
Monday’s reopening comes a fortnight ahead of schedule after months of pressure from the City Corporation and business groups.
The line will operate from 6am to 10am and from 3.30pm until 7pm on weekdays, with trains running every five minutes.
Ridership on the wider London Underground is less than half that before March last year but has increased by more than a fifth since May 17 as workers return to central London.
Mr Khan said: “As London’s economy continues to re-open and more people return to the offices, having this key artery connecting Waterloo and Bank stations up and running will be vital.”
Andy Lord, managing director of London Underground, said: “The reopening of the Waterloo & City line is a welcome step back towards normality for the City as well as for the rest of London.
“I am proud of the fantastic work done behind the scenes that has enabled us to bring the line back into service sooner than projected, and look forward to customers being able to use the full network for the first time since the pandemic began.”
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said it was a “huge step” on the City’s journey back to normality.
Adam Tyndall, of business group London First, said: “Having extra capacity to transport passengers safely is another sign of confidence in London’s economic future.”