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. 

 
 
 
 

Why is it acceptable to kill someone? On the mysterious history of Britain’s road death toll

A London speed camera, 2004. Image: Getty.

A decade ago I became fascinated by a graph. This one:

I had been tracking the underlining data for years. The figures were easy to remember. Every year it was 3,500, plus or minus a percentage point or two.

Yet when the 2008 data was released, it had fallen to 2,538. This was 1,000 less than the figure in 2003. I plotted the above graph, and as I said, I became fascinated.

Because this is a really important graph. This is a plot of the number of people killed on Britain’s roads each year.

In Great Britain, collectively, we used to kill nearly 3,500 people on our roads every year. Consistently or, dare I say it, boringly: 3,500 deaths a year, 10 a day. It was accepted, in a, “Well yes it’s bad, but what can you do about it” kind of way. There was no clamour for change. Newspapers weren’t running headlines about the deaths mounting up, as they do with knife crime.

Meanwhile a train crash would be front page news for a week. Take the train that derailed at Hatfield on 17 October 2000, a tragedy in which 4 people died. That led to huge media interest, massive upheaval on the railways, and, ultimately, as the re-nationalisation of Railtrack, whose failings had caused the crash. Yet more than twice as many people will have died on the roads that day. Nothing was written about those deaths. Nothing changed.

In 2000, four people died in train crashes, while 3,409 died on the roads.

Here are those figures again.

1997 – 3,599 people killed on our roads

1998 – 3,422

1999 – 3,423

2000 – 3,409

2001 – 3,450

2002 – 3,431

2003 – 3508

But, in 2004 the figure dropped below 3,400 for the first time, to 3,221. Then in 2005 to 3,201.

2006 – 3,172

2007 – 2,946

Below 3,000! This was change. Significant change: 500 lives a year were not being lost. If you use Britain’s roads, your life may have been one of them.

2008 – 2,538

2009 – 2,222

When the 2010 figures came out I was amazed by the headline figure: 1,857.

That’s still far too high, of course, but it was 1,701 lower than seven years earlier.

This was a major story that deserved a ton of coverage, which it failed to get. Having shown no concern for when we were killing 3,500 people, it wasn’t overly surprising that the fact we were now killing 1,700 fewer wasn’t celebrated.

At any rate, the graph had flat-lined for years, then, in half a dozen years, it halved. Why?

The lack of media coverage resulted in an absence of answers. One commentator, Christian Woolmar, observed that there was no clear answer to why this had happened. But he went on to point out that there had been a fall in the average road speed over this period.

My anticipation of the 2011 figures troubled me, because I expected them to go up. Obviously I didn’t want them to: I desperately want zero deaths on our roads. But something happened in 2010 that I was sure would lead to more fatalities and bring a halt to the falling trend.

I was right. In 2011 we killed 1,901.

Sometimes, being right is shit.

The news was better in 2012. The fatality rate was 1,754. So was the 2011 figure just a blip, due to some significant snowfalls that year? No: the trend was over.

The number of people killed on our roads has remained stuck in the 17 hundreds. 

2013 – 1,713

2014 – 1,775

2015 – 1,732

2016 – 1,792

2017 – 1,793

2018 – 1,782

We have returned to a flatline on the graph – and if anything, I’m more fascinated now than I was before. Road deaths flatlined at 3,500 for years, then fell sharply, then flatlined again at half the rate.

This can’t have happened by accident. I wished I could explain it. I wish we could repeat it. No: I wish the second flatline hadn’t happened, and the fall had continued. If the rate of fall had continued, we’d have reached zero deaths on the road by now. You’d be right to question whether this is possible – but if you can half the number in a few years, why can’t we eradicate them altogether? The railways are an example of what is possible. The last time a passenger died in a train crash on Britain’s railways was in 2007.

It was time to figure out the answers to two questions. Why did the death toll fall? And why did it stop falling?

The obvious reason for a reduction in deaths on the road is the improvement in car safety features. This could create a gradual fall in the death toll as new, safer cars replaced older ones. But I’m not sure it can explain a 40 per cent fall over a 4 year period.

There’s a way to check whether cars on the road became almost twice as safe between 2003 and 2010: you can compare the figures with the rest of the EU. Car safety features are international, and any new feature would have appeared around the same time across the continent.

So I found the EU figures for 2000 to 2017, indexed for 2000 and plotted the graph for multiple countries. It was a busy graph. For clarity the following graph only includes Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy along with a straight line drop for comparison.

The good news is that things are improving across Europe – but no country had quite the same trajectory as Britain. They all have a fall much closer to a straight line of the sort you’d expect a general improvement in car safety would produce.

One thing I did notice is that, from 2013, these five countries stop falling. The technology based solutions of recent years, such as automatic emergency braking, don’t appear to be saving lives as of yet.

So, yes, cars are safer – but that doesn’t seem to explain why British roads suddenly became 40 per cent safer between 2006 and 2010.


In 1999, the New Labour government announced that it was going to reduce deaths on our roads. The target was a 50 per cent reduction by 2010. As you now know, it succeeded. This was a major achievement for a government. The kind of thing you would bang on about all the time. “Deaths on our roads halved by Labour!” But the party wasn’t in government when the 2010 figures were released – and it’s hard to take credit for your achievements from the opposition benches.

That it was government policy is not a full explanation, and how this happened is a little opaque. From what I can gather there was a wide ranging approach. The fire and rescue service changed their practices: because they recognised that survival rates were directly dependent on how quickly people got to hospital, this became the priority. Disturbing a police crime scene was allowed if it saved a life. Accident black spots were located, highlighted and safety measures implemented. Throughout that period road safety campaigns focused on speed, with “Speed Kills” being the dominate message for that decade. The government also changed the laws on speed cameras.

RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, has a lot to say about speeding and speed cameras. Its “Speed Camera Factsheet” states that, “Cameras are a very effective way of persuading drivers not to speed, and thereby reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured.” It reports that an independent review published by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2005 said that “cameras significantly reduce speeding and collisions, and cut deaths and serious injuries at camera sites”, adding that cameras sites were delivering 100 fewer deaths per year.

Cameras first appeared in 1991, and revenue from court fines and fixed penalties went to the Exchequer. However in 2000 a trial scheme saw local councils keep the fines to pay for the cost of speed and red-light cameras. The pilot was so successful that, in 2001, legislation enabled this to happen across the country. The cost of providing and operating cameras moved from the local authority to the law breaking motorist.

The golden age of the speed camera had begun.

There was a tweak to this legislation in 2007. Fines reverted back to the Exchequer’s piggy bank. The DfT switched to funding cameras through a road safety grant. The intention was to create a greater mix of road safety measures agreed between local authorities and the police.

The number of people killed on British roads in 2007: 2,946

The number of people killed on British roads in 2010: 1,857

So perhaps the creation of the Road Safety Grant had a significant impact.

The second question: why did the death toll stop falling?

In 2010 I was unaware of Labour’s target to halve deaths on the roads. But, the change in government was enough for me to predict that the fall was over.

When the Tory/Lib Dem government negotiated its way into power in May 2010, the press declared that it was the end of the horrible nanny state – a return to personal freedom, liberty and the rule of common sense.

The way that this was to play out in real practical terms was on our roads. The evil speed camera was in the firing line. The narrative was that these cameras were just there so councils could extract cash from the poor public. Completely ignored were the facts that the fines were only handed down to dangerous, law-breaking drivers, and that councils no longer got the cash from fines.

Soon after the election the coalition government said that “Labour's 13-year war on the motorist is over” and pledged to scrap public funding for speed cameras. The Road Safety Grant to local authorities was cut from £95m to £57m. This meant that the government was now receiving an estimated £40m more raised in fines than it was spending on road safety. The cut to the grant reduced the camera maintenance budget by 27 per cent. It removed all the funding for new cameras, speed humps and other safety measures.

And the golden age ended.

Councils across the country announced their change of policy. Oxfordshire County Council switched off its speed cameras on 1 August 2010. Money was saved; lives were lost.

Eight months later, on 1 April, Oxfordshire’s cameras snapped back into life when the council reversed its decision because deaths on the county’s roads had immediately increased.

Turning off speed cameras sent out the message that we were no longer taking speeding seriously. The road safety campaigns changed their focus. The message that Speed Kills fell away and was replaced by drink- and drug-driving messages. It’s easy to miss that these campaigns move from encompassing virtually every driver to targeting a minority. A switch from confronting a socially acceptable behaviour to re-enforcing something already unacceptable. The state is no longer challenging everyone to be safe – only the small minority of bad people.

Yet speed still kills. The World Health Organisation states that an increase in average speed of 1 km[h typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4–5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities.
The majority of safety measures installed before 2010 remain in place and are saving lives. But with the funding gone councils are no longer installing new measures and the death toll is no longer falling.

So you can make a strong case that the pattern of road deaths was the result of government policy.

Which begs the question of our government: why has it accepted that it’s OK to kill, or be killed, on our roads?