If you haven’t ever clock-watched at Victoria Coach Station while waiting to be driven to an obscure destination on the cheap, you probably know someone who has: it's practically a Londoner’s rite of passage. Opened on March 10, 1932, the iconic Belgravia transport hub has now featured in travel diaries all over the world for 85 years – and all that mileage has given it a few stories to tell.
1. It’s the busiest coach station in the UK
As such, it’s handled more than half a billion journeys in its lifetime and each year over 13 million people use it. Transport for London claim that’s even more than London Luton Airport. Although to be fair, Victoria Coach Station is actually in London.
2. It’s the first place in London many visitors see
The coach station is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. From Portsmouth to Poland: its 40 coach operators can connect you with the rest of the UK and the Continent.
3. But the whole building sits on just three acres of land – the site of a lost medieval village
A few local street signs still mention the name of Ebury – as does a famous publishing house, also nearby.
4. It was built so that city-folk could be transported to the seaside en masse
This was way before the mass availability of the car – let alone holidays abroad.
5. This is travel on an industrial scale
The architects of this landmark art deco building were Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, who were best known for designing factories. There’s a theory that Gilbert was just a made-up person, invented by Wallis to make the company sound bigger than it was.
6. The building almost got torn down – but was listed instead
It was a pretty grotty place to hang out in past decades, but its fortunes seem to have reversed, and it was saved from redevelopment in 2014. In fact, it was praised for harking back to a 'more stylish' era of travel.
7. It’s a 365-day operation...
...so there is a way to get out of London on Christmas Day.
8. But there was one notable break in service
There were no coach journeys from here during World War II, when the government used it as a warehouse for storing and repairing vehicles. The building had to be covered to make sure enemy bombers couldn’t spot it from the air.
9. You’ve heard of babies being born on the tube…
...like Jerry Springer, who entered the world at East Finchley station. But the birth of a girl at Victoria Coach Station in August 2015 was believed to be a first in the building’s decades of service. And she was named Victoria – cute!