The part-time London Underground station where Tube trains can run on a completely random schedule

One of the reasons why the London Underground is so attractive is its turn-up-and-go service. In theory, this means that you should be able to turn off at any station on the network and within 15 minutes a train will take you further to your destination.

However, there are a few locations where trains don’t run as often. Woodford to Hainaut on the Central Line, Amersham and Chesham to Chalfont & Latimer on the Metropolitan Line and the Waterloo & City Line is closed on Sundays. There is also Kensington Olympia on the District line which is a total anomaly. It is the only ‘part-time’ station on the metro network of 272 stations.

Since December 2011, the District Line service has been advertised as “open weekends and some holidays”. There are actually seven departures on weekday mornings between 5:50 am and 7:15 am from Olympia to Earl’s Court and two return trips between Earl’s Court and Olympia on weekday evenings between 7:43 pm and 8:43 pm, but these trips are not well advertised.

READ MORE:The only station where you only see a London Underground train in the middle of a winter night.

There is no information screen on the Tube platform in Olympia, but there are pink Oyster readers for those using the limited metro service to get a cheaper fare. Contrary to what the sign suggests, this photo was taken on a Tuesday

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The decision to reduce the weekday service to just nine trains in one direction and two in the other was taken by then Mayor Boris Johnson, as the London Overground service to Kensington Olympia had recently been extended. It runs from West Brompton station which is just two minutes away and also on the District Line.

The London Overground service was ramped up on weekdays from every 30 minutes in 2007 to every 10-20 minutes with newer, longer trains from 2009, making the District Line service at the station look like a poor return on investment for TfL, which could use the spare parts. Tube trains to provide additional District Line trains elsewhere. Local residents and the Olympia center have repeatedly asked TfL to restore full weekday service.

Currently, on weekends, when there are fewer trains elsewhere on the District Line and exhibitions are taking place at the Olympia Exhibition Center next to the station, TfL still offers the station a Tube service. Trains run every 20 minutes as a shuttle service between Kensington Olympia and High Street Kensington calling at Earl’s Court, a rare example of an entire tube journey staying in the same neighbourhood.

For the foreseeable future, the station’s remaining Tube service is not under threat. That’s because Kensington Olympia has a direct rail link to Lillie Bridge depot, where District Line trains are stored overnight. However, this depot is expected to close in 2024 due to the redevelopment of nearby Earl’s Court, which could mean TfL giving Olympia the cart once and for all.

Before 2011, District Line trains ran to Olympia for most of the day, and there was no overground service from West Brompton, which was itself a part-time tube station at the time

Now Olympia is the part-time tube station and passengers are advised to change at West Brompton on weekdays for Overground trains to Olympia

The real asset of the station to TfL is that it is a turnback facility that is looking in the right direction. It can be used during disturbances elsewhere on the District Line to reverse trains without disrupting other lines or District Line branches. If there is a problem on the branches to Ealing Broadway, Richmond or Wimbledon, trains can be diverted to Kensington Olympia and then return to the busiest part of the line between Earl’s Court and Upminster to prevent the disruption from spreading further. This is a luxury that does not exist on other busy metro lines.

In a nutshell, Kensington Olympia can randomly receive dozens of ‘extra’ Tube trains per day appearing alongside the actual timetable for various unscheduled reasons. Trains can appear completely unannounced on the one platform they can use at the station, without anyone expecting them.

As a result of all of the above, Kensington Olympia is technically the least used station on the London Underground. TfL estimates that only 35,234 people traveled by metro in the year 2020/2021. By contrast, the busiest tube station, Stratford, saw the same number of people use it in just half a day.

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Have you ever randomly ended up on a rare weekday, a scheduled or unscheduled train from the District Line to Olympia? Tell us in the comments below.

You can read all MyLondon’s Tube related news stories, features and trivia pieces on our dedicated page here.


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