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Tube-railway UUMI under the British Library, Euston Road, London, UK

By the late 19th Century, technology for the provision of traction for metro systems (electricity) and for constructing deeper tunnels (tunnelling shields), had developed to enable UUMI to be constructed deeper under the ground within urban environments. This minimised the affects of the presence of the UUMI on the surface urban environment until the mid-20th Century, when buildings became taller, requiring deeper foundations (Darroch, 2012; 2014).

Due to the longevity of UUMI, and the continuing changes in requirements for transport and urban design and construction (more direct alignments of metro’s; taller buildings, deeper foundations to cater for urban densification), changes to the surface urban environment, had to, and continue to, accommodate the presence of existing UUMI. While there is a perception that UUMI is located primarily under the public highway, in London, this is not actually the case, as represented by the examples on this page.

This example considers, an occurrence of the interfaces of tube railway UUMI and its environment in the vicinity of the British Library, Euston Road, London, UK. In this instance, the interfaces of the LU Northern, Victoria, and Metropolitan lines with the British Library building.

Fig.1 shows a Bing Maps satellite image of the Library building within its contextual environment (the large structure in the centre of the image). There is no obvious occurrence of the interfaces between the building and the UUMI.

Reference to Fig.2 is the only indication that there is UUMI located within the footprint of the building and  under the road to the front. The underground railways are:

  • the sub-surface Metropolitan line and station (shaded grey dashed purple;

  • the Northern line tube tunnels, dashed black; and

  • the Victoria line tube tunnels, dashed light blue.

Fig.2: Satellite image showing the British Library looking east. Source: Bing Maps, 2017.


Fig.3: Plan showing the alignment of the Northern and Victoria lines in relation to the British Library. Source: London Underground.


Fig.4: Section through the British Library showing foundation and building design. Source: Simpson, B., and Vardanega, P., 2014.


Fig.5: Section through the British Library showing foundation and building design; and with some property features overlaid. Drawing source: Simpson, B., and Vardanega, P., 2014.


Figs.4 and 5, show a section through the British Library building, with the presence of the UUMI clearly shown. Fig.5 also shows the property interfaces of the land surrounding the UUMI within the footprint of the British Library, and under the Euston Road:

  • Green (F) = Freehold of the British Library;

  • Red (A) = Freehold of LU;

  • Yellow (G) = Undetermined.

Analysis of the occurrences of the interfaces in this location identified that, the:

  • Metropolitan line was constructed in the 1860s;

  • Northern line was constructed in the 1900s;

  • Kings Cross Metropolitan line station, was constructed in the late 1930s;

  • Victoria line was constructed in the 1960s;

  • The British Library was constructed in the late 1980s.

The design of the building had to accommodate the pre-existing presence of the tube tunnels and the sub-surface Metropolitan line to the front of the site (Ryalls and Stevens, 1990; Simpson and Vardanega, 2014). When the land was sold by British Rail, the previous owner, for construction of the British Library, the sub-soil containing the tube railway infrastructure was re-vested into London Transport (predecessor to London Underground). Previously the tubes only had a right of presence through easement, rather than ownership of the sub-soil (Darroch, 2014).

Contractual requirements were also imposed on the purchasing landowner. These requirements future proofed the safe presence and operation of the UUMI, requiring any owner/developer of the land to consult the UUMI on their proposals and to gain explicit written approval of the designs contractual protection) (HM Land Registry Title and Plan NGL751633).    

Therefore it was not only because of the physical presence of the UUMI that the British Library was designed the way it is. It was also because of the property and protection requirements which occurred through the presence of the UUMI, represented by the conceptual framework in Fig.5, on the context of the AIR research project page.

The proposals, design, construction, and management of the British Library had to ensure the safe continued presence of the UUMI, adjacent to and beneath it. This was achieved by a shared comprehension of the occurrences of the presence, property, and protection interfaces, and how, when, where, and why they occur, between the interfacing stakeholders. This can only be achieved through the analysis of the occurrence of the interfaces, gathering of key evidence-based data, and effective sharing of that data, between the stakeholders.

Back to the Interfaces of UUMI and its environment page. 

Onward to the next example page.

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