Here are 10 fictional tube stations from TV and film

A Lego tube map, for some reason. Image: Getty.

When I wrote about the use of the tube in Doctor Who a while back, one of the stations which came up was Queen’s Arcade, seen in the 2005 season premiere Rose. This was mocked up on a Cardiff street – but rather than an attempt to replicate an existing station it was an unashamed fiction, with a made up name and a look not derived from any existing station (although it appears to be, like Fulham Broadway, a station the entrance for which is contained within a shopping centre).

Fictional tube stations aren’t uncommon in films and television set in the capital. So here in alphabetical order are ten of our favourites.

Crouch End

Shaun of the Dead, the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg zombie comedy briefly features signage for a Crouch End Underground station. There isn’t one. There was a Crouch End station, between 1867 and 1954, on British Rail: it was between Highgate and (the now also closed) Stroud Green. They were both part of the planned extension of the Northern Line/Edgware, Highgate and London Railway out into suburbs such as Bushey Green and even some places that don’t share two names with characters in Shakespeare’s Richard II

Hanover Street

1979’s Hanover Street is a not very good wartime romance film starring Lesley Anne Down and Harrison Ford, one of the half-dozen films Ford made at Elstree between the late seventies and mid-eighties, which led to him spending so much time in the area that he nicknamed the nearest suburb “Boring Wood”.

Directed by Peter ‘2010’ Hyams from his own script, much of the story’s action is set in and around the titular Hanover Street, near the the American Embassy and just off Regent Street. This area was mocked up on the studio backlot, not terribly accurately, and given a tube station of the same name. This is shown to be a Piccadilly Line station, although it looks like a High Barnet Branch Northern Line one. Quite what a Piccadilly Line station is doing on Hanover Street is anyone’s guess. If it’d been the Central Line, they’d have gotten away with it.

Hickory Road

Image: LWT.

LWT’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013) was largely set in the 1930s (although the books on which it’s based are set between 1916 and 1972). The 1995 adaptation of Hickory Dickory Dock, a story that centres on the fictional station of Hickory Road, filmed several scenes at the period-appropriate Morden Station, in the process expanding the story’s climax to feature the location more heavily .

Hobs’ Lane and Hobbs End

The 1958 BBC SF horror serial Quatermass and the Pit makes brief mention of a Hobs’ Lane station. (It is set in part on a street of that name.) When the serial came to be remade in colour in 1967 by Hammer Films, a renamed Hobs’ End station became one of the story’s major settings. Excavations for a new tube station of that name lead to the uncovering of an ancient spaceship which contains terrible truths about the history of the human race.

Quatermass writer/creator Nigel Kneale’s original story had been in part a reaction to the 1950s Notting Hill riots in West London which makes the film’s presentation of the Hobbs End as part of the then ongoing Central Line extension programme spot on. Hob (or Hobb) is a folkloric name for a spirit, generally used far north of London, and the variable spelling and punctuation of these locations, indicating singular or plural possessive, or no possession at all, are relevant to the story.

Image: Hammer.

The film, possibly the best thing ever made by Hammer, is frequently on Talking Pictures TV (Freeview 081) and the TV series is available for free on the BBC iPlayer. Both are very much worth your time.

Sumatra Road

Sherlock’s fictional Sumatra Road features in 2014’s The Empty Hearse, and is shown to be on the District Line between St James’s Park and Westminster. It’s named in reference to a joke in the canonical Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, but there’s a real Sumatra Road (although not a Sumatra Road station) running parallel to the Thameslink track between West Hampstead and Cricklewood, and it's to that part of the capital that we need to look for the fictional station’s real inspiration: the never opened North End station, beneath Hampstead Heath.

Planned as part of an extension of what is now the Edgware branch of the Northern Line at the very beginning of the last century, a successful campaign by local NIMBYs against the housing estate the station was meant to serve meant that it was abandoned unopened in 1906, although it had been largely built. Much later, its depth meant that it was a designated Cold War control centre, a place from where tube tunnels could be closed to prevent water flooding into the system from the river, should any of part of it that passed under the Thames be breached by a bomb.

These days, it’s an emergency exit from the tube and easy to visit the outside – although never the inside – of, just by the Bull and Bush pub and the intersection of North End Road and Hampstead Way.


Union Street

Union Street is a setting for the quite stupid 2008 film The Escapist, about a man who leads a prison escape of unlikely suspects so he can visit his terminally ill daughter.

Scenes at the wholly fictional Union Street were shot at Aldwych (née Strand) Station which closed for the final time in 1994, and is now a listed building. Surrounded by buildings owned by the Strand Polytechnic, otherwise known as King’s College London, its platforms and corridors are the most frequently used by films and television series needing to set scenes in or around a tube station, real or otherwise.

One platform still presents a post outlining the benefits of Britain joining the EEC. Don’t everyone burst into tears at once.

Vauxhall Cross

The fortieth anniversary James Bond film, Die Another Day (2002) was Pierce Brosnan’s final appearance as 007. As part of the character’s traditional mission briefings with both M (Judi Dench) and Q (played here for the only time by John Cleese), we see Bond access the secret, and fictional, Vauxhall Cross Station via a public doorway on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just underneath old County Hall.

You would, of course, expect Vauxhall Cross to be in Vauxhall rather than Westminster. But that’s only the beginning of the oddities. The fictional station is on the Piccadilly Line, according to its signage, and at one point we can see from a map behind Q that it’s the next station after Hyde Park Corner, where the line also terminates. Which would make Vauxhall Cross part of a fictional spur off the line, like Mill Hill East off the Northern Line, and one that goes almost in a loop in order to reach a point off the Thames almost entirely unrelated to its name. This somehow manages to be an even less plausible Picadilly Line station than Hanover Street. Well done everyone.

Walfords East and West

The Borough of Walford has two tube stations, Walford West, which has never been seen but is occasionally mentioned in dialogue, and Walford East. East was once, like West, spoken of but never seen. But the mid 1990s expansion of the soap’s exterior set at Elstree studios allowed the station to be built, with London Underground cooperating with the BBC to provide genuine items such as ticket barriers to serve as set dressing.

Image: BBC.

Signage on the exterior set indicates that the station is a single branch station on the District Line, and close examination of the map and timetables mocked up for it shows that Walford East sits in position on the tube map that Bromley-by-Bow does in reality. The set itself is a superb evocation of a Leslie Green designed station, although that’s technically wrong: Green’s work is seen only the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and (some of) the Northern Line, the lines that were part the pre-nationalisation Underground Electric Railways Company.

The set has no platforms and therefore no trains, and on the rare occasions when platform based scenes have been needed they’ve been shot on location at the Northern Line station East Finchley, which is a good match for Walford East’s brickwork, and a not inconvenient distance from Elstree.

In more recent years, the increasing cheapness of CGI has allowed special effects to put trains through the station. This is something that links Walford East nicely to Queen’s Arcade, philosophically if not geographically. The first time a train was seen passing through Walford was on Children in Need night 1993 as part of a baffling skit called Dimensions in Time, which combined EastEnders sets and characters with appearances by the five then living former Doctors Who and loads of their assistants.

The circle line may not be a circle anymore, but everything loops back to Doctor Who in the end. 

 
 
 
 

How can cities become more bike friendly? The Netherlands offers useful lessons

(Aurore Belot/AFP via Getty Images)

It might seem like cycling is in the DNA of the Netherlands, a country where even the prime minister takes his bicycle to work. But the Dutch haven’t always lived as one with their bikes. In the Amsterdam of the early 1970s, cars were considered the wave of the future. They can be seen filling up squares and streets in historical photographs, and killed an average of over two Amsterdammers per week, including many children.

It is nothing more than an “accident of history” that the Netherlands embraced cycling, says Marco te Brömmelstoet, the director of the Urban Cycling Institute in Amsterdam and a man better known as the city’s cycling professor. Today’s bike rider’s paradise was created after parents and activists took to the streets to protest “child murder” by car. A Saudi oil embargo, rising gas prices, concerns about pollution and anger about the destruction of entire neighbourhoods to build motorways did the rest. 


Amsterdam, 1958. Not a cyclist's paradise. (Keystone/Getty Images)

What’s important about this history is that it can be replicated in other cities, too. Of course, the Netherlands has certain advantages – it’s flat as a pancake, for example. But in the eyes of traffic reformers, the rise of e-bikes (and even cargo bikes) means there’s no excuse for prioritising cars everywhere. 

So how can cities, flat or not, follow Amsterdam’s path to creating places where cycling is a pleasant, safe and common way to get around? The Dutch have some tips. 

Separate bikes from car traffic

Any city could start painting dedicated bike lanes on the streets. But in the Netherlands, those white marks indicating space for cyclists are considered just a minor first step. 

“A line on the road is not enough. Motorists will ignore it,” says Frans Jan van Rossem, a civil servant specialising in cycling policy in Utrecht. If other cities want their residents to choose bikes instead of cars when dodging pandemic-era public transport, protecting them from fast-moving car traffic must be the priority, Van Rossem says. 

The Dutch research institute CROW developed a widely praised design manual for bicycle infrastructure, full of tips for creating these protected lanes: A row of vertical white posts or a curb can serve as a physical separator, for example. Still, cyclists tend to feel safest in a "solitary" path, separated from the road by grass, trees, or an elevated concrete island. 

“The main bottleneck, the main reason why people don’t cycle, is that they don’t feel safe,” Van Rossem notes. “To start, construct separate paths.”

Turn those bike paths into a network

Many cities may have some bike lanes on some streets, but leave cyclists to roll the dice everywhere else. Will conditions still be safe when they turn left or right? Often they have to continue their way without any protected facilities for cyclists. 

“In many cases, cities take fast action, without thinking it through very well,” says Lucas Harms. He leads the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a partnership between the Dutch government and several companies, which promotes Dutch bike knowhow globally. “Don’t build small pieces of bike lane from nothing to nowhere. Think about a network of cycling infrastructure.” 

Utrecht aims to have cyclists within 200 to 300 metres of a connected path anywhere in the city, Van Rossem says. Avoid constructing those paths in sketchy industrial areas, he warns. “A connection through an unattractive area may be fast, but won’t be used a lot.”

Embrace the ‘fietsstraat’, a street where bikes come first


On some streets, drivers have to give up their privileges. (Rick Nederstigt/AFP via Getty Images)

A peculiar Dutch invention called "fietsstraat" (cycling street) holds strong potential for the rest of the world, Kevin Krizek says. He’s a transportation professor from Colorado who spent three years at Radboud University in Nijmegen. 

On cycling streets, cars are “guests”, restricted by a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour. Drivers are not allowed to pass, so cyclists comfortably dominate the road. In the Netherlands the fietsstraat is usually paved with red asphalt, to resemble a bike path and notify drivers of their secondary status. But creating a cycling street can be easy. “All you need to do is put signs at intersections,” Krizek says. The effect is revolutionary in his view. Drivers have to give up their privileges, and cyclists can take the lead. 

Some Dutch traffic experts worry the cycling street won’t work if a city doesn’t also have a robust cycling culture. In the Netherlands, drivers are aware of the perils of urban cycling because they too use bicycles. Moreover, Dutch cities use sophisticated “circulation plans” to direct cars away from city centres and residential areas, onto a few main routes. 

Without “calming” traffic this way, the cycling street could be a step too far, Harms says. “In a city like New York, where all roads are equally accessible and full, it’s better to separate bicycles and cars,” he says.

Redesign intersections for cyclists' safety

If cyclists have to cross intersections “at the mercy of the Gods”, you’re not there yet, says Harms. When he travels abroad, he often finds clumsily designed crossings. As soon as cars turn, cyclists may fear for their lives. 

Harms recommends placing physical barriers between cars and bikes in places where they must cross. The Dutch build elevated islands to direct traffic into separate sections. The golden rule: cars wait behind bicycles. That way, drivers can see cyclists clearly at all times. Barriers also force Dutch cyclists to turn left in the safest way possible. They cross the street first and wait for their turn again before making their way left.

“You can create that with simple temporary measures,” Harms says. Planters work fine, for example. “They must be forgiving, though. When someone makes a mistake, you don’t want them to get seriously injured by a flower box’s sharp edge.”

Professor Krizek points out how the Dutch integrated cycling routes into roundabouts. Some are small; some are big and glorious, like the Hovenring between Eindhoven and Veldhoven, where cyclists take a futuristic-looking roundabout lifted above the highway. Most of those traffic circles move high volumes of cars and cyclists through intersections efficiently and safely. For a simpler solution, the Dutch manual suggests guiding cyclists to quieter streets – crossing a block up or down may be safer. “Nobody knows how to do intersections better than the Dutch,” says Krizek. 

Ban cars, or at least discourage them


A man rides down from a three-level bicycle parking garage near Amsterdam's main train station. (Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

The quickest, most affordable way to make a city more bikeable is to ban cars, says Ria Hilhorst, cycling policy advisor for the City of Amsterdam. It will make streets remarkably safe – and will most likely enrage a significant amount of people. 

Amsterdam doesn’t outlaw cars, but it does deliberately make their owners feel unwelcome in the historic city’s cramped streets. Paid parking is hugely effective, for example. Many car owners decide to avoid paying and use bicycles or public transportation for trips into the city. Utrecht, meanwhile, boasts the world’s largest bicycle parking garage, which provides a dizzying 12,500 parking spots.

To further discourage drivers from entering the city’s heart, Amsterdam will soon remove more than 10,000 car-parking spaces. Strategically placed barriers already make it impossible to cross Amsterdam efficiently by car. “In Amsterdam, it is faster to cross the city on a bike than by car,” Harms says. “That is the result of very conscious policy decisions.”

Communicate the benefits clearly

Shopkeepers always fear they will lose clients when their businesses won’t be directly accessible by car, but that’s a myth, says Harms. “A lot of research concludes that better access for pedestrians and cyclists, making a street more attractive, is an economic boost.”

Try replacing one parking space with a small park, he recommends, and residents will see how it improves their community. Home values will eventually rise in calmer, bike-friendlier neighbourhoods without through traffic, Van Rossem says. Fewer cars mean more room for green spaces, for example.

“I often miss the notion that cycling and walking can contribute a lot to the city. One of the greatest threats to public health is lack of exercise. A more walkable and bikeable city can be part of the solution,” says Ria Hilhorst. “But in many countries, cycling is seen as something for losers. I made it, so I have a car and I’m going to use it, is the idea. 

“Changing this requires political courage. Keep your back straight, and present a vision. What do you gain? Tranquility, fewer emissions, health benefits, traffic safety, less space occupied by vehicles.” 

Again, she points to Amsterdam’s history. “It is possible; we were a car city too.”

Karlijn van Houwelingen is a journalist based in New York City.