On a recent trip to London I found myself along with many other people riding round on the London Undergorund. It was hot and sticky, but strangely enough no one seemed to complain, no anger bubbled to the surface as we were all crammed into the carriages like sardines. Must be the British stiff upper lip thing.
Love it or hate it, the London Underground is a quick and efficient way of getting around our capital. It is split into nine zones, but for most people on a day trip or a weekend break, you'll only need to negotiate your way around zones 1 and 2 as this is where all the popular tourist attractions are.
My advice before you travel is to familiarise yourself with the London Underground or Tube as it's more commonly called map. They are easily found on the web and can be printed off quite easily for free. I've use the official London Transport web site http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ many times. Start by working out where your hotel is and then which Tube stations it's near and on which line it is, there are 15 in total, all being given a different colour, such as the Piccadilly line is dark blue, the Circle line is yellow, the Jubilee line is silver/grey and so on. Then work out where you want to visit and the nearest tube station to that, it could be that your hotel is near a station that is also on the same line as the attraction that you want to visit, in which case great, however it could be that you may have to change lines and here's where the fun can start. There are many stations where it is possible to change lines without leaving the underground system, you simply leave one train and then follow the signs to the next line that you want to connect to. This can involve a lot of walking and the use of either lifts or escalators, so if you're in any way scared of these then my advice would be to use the buses because there's no other way of getting to any of the stations. Each station has two platforms, either West or East Bound or North or South Bound and each has a map showing which station you're at and then a list of the stations that the train will call at. Simply choose which one you need and go and wait on the platform.
On each platform there is normally an electronic sign which tells you which train is about to arrive and how long you have to wait as well as information about the next couple of trains. You'll know when the train is coming as you'll feel the air start to move as the pressure from the train pushes it. Now you have to be quick when you're getting on and off the trains as they don't hang around for long which can be rather tricky during the rush hour as people jostle to get on and off, there's no set routine, all passangers off first then all passengers on, it's every man for himself so make sure that if you're travelling as a group or with children that you hang onto them for dear life as you don't want to loose them, believe me I know, I was seperated from my partner once, he got on the train and just as I was about to get on the doors closed and I was left on the platform. Luckily I knew where I was going and the next train wasn't too far behind, so we were fine, but remember there are no mobile phone signals so you can't get in touch with someone if they're left behind. Once on the trains there is normally a station by station annoucement telling you which station is next and if there are connecting lines which they are and also for certain attractions.
The trains themselves are clean, fast and efficient, although some of the stations are in need of a little TLC but they are again clean and tidy. There is a rule when walking down the corridors that you stick to the left so that people who are walking faster than you can pass, whilst on the escalaters you stand to the right in single file so that again people can walk past you if they're in a rush.
Here's a short list of some of the stations that I hope you'll find useful:-
Westminster - Circle (Yellow) and District (Green) and Jubilee (Silver/Grey) get off here for the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and The London Eye
Tower Hill - Circle (Yellow) and District (Green) and DLR (2 Light Blue Lines) get off here for The Tower of London and London Bridge
Knightsbridge - Piccadilly (Dark Blue) Harrods
South Kensington - Piccadilly (Dark Blue) and Circle (Yellow) and District (Green) get off here for The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and The Royal Albert Hall
North Greenwich - Jubilee (Silver/Grey) 02 Arena
Oxford Circus- Central (Red) and Bakerloo (Brown) and Victoria (Light Blue) get off here for Oxford Street shopping.
There are many types of ticket which you can purchase, the most common being an Oyster Card which works in the same way as a pay as you go mobile phone card, you keep topping it up with money, then when you enter the station you scan it over a sensor and then when you leave you scan it again and the money is deducted. Again I'd visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ to see which card would be best for you.
Well I hope I haven't made the tube sound too scary, it really is one of the best ways of getting round London, once you get the hang of the system. Yes it can get very busy and yes it can get hot, but it can also cut out a lot of wandering around looking for places, when with just a tube ride you're right on the doorstep.
Strange how the internal memory brings to the fore the 7/7 atrocities at a time when London is basking in glorious Olympian endeavours - I firstly, wonder where the time has gone, since London won the bid in 2005, and secondly, ponder how London Underground would seem to Bhutan Olympians who'd come to seek Olympic gold in their specialised event under a backdrop as alien to them as a Stanley Kubrick set from; 'A Space Odyssey' (1968). The Underground is one place that change doesn't reach - a time warp of dust, wind and tunnels. The only obvious sign of an era rests on the poster dates, crumpled to the stone - holding onto the tunnel walls for dear life each time a train passes. Once succumbed to the gravitational gusts, a demise is quick - the graphic details get lost in small tornados of dust and confectionary wrappers, then it eventually gets spat out into the black tunnel where it's lost forever, it's sole purpose now is bedding for illiterate rodents.
My initiation to the Underground came in the form of a chance meeting with a fellow student whose youthful derriere sparked off my hormonal engine. Her frivolous adventurous nature got her experience beyond her years and I admiringly got caught in her slipstream of curiosity. Before I knew it, I was following her derriere down the steps at 'Piccadilly Circus'. I wasn't the only adolescent male that day, finding it hard to focus on anything else, while she was in the vicinity. Her Timotei hair caught the breeze from the anticipated train grumble. A long whiff of coconut tantalising my nostrils as the tunnel wind galvanised; the train approached the station. It woke my active hormones up once more. She embarked on a bubbly account on what station we were aiming for. I gingerly smiled like a puppy - I repeated the smile again getting a glimpse of my shiny mug on a window reflection. Sad, I know. Her enthused vocals were distorted by the deep rumblings of incessant train activity and shuffling passengers. My eyes shot downwards and I paid more attention on how her shorts slid up towards her crack, unwrapping a succulent fleshy curve, peachy formed just like a Pre-Raphaelite woman - a moment to treasure on a packed Underground train; my first ever one on the London Underground. Instead of concentrating on the Underground map or absorbing the unique bustle of commuters with their Morrissey hair-cuts and long antennae mobile boxes, half the size of their briefcases and external disk drives -I was guilty at gazing haplessly at her short's ruffles queuing up to peer at her derriere crack, who could blame them. Blood rushed to my groin, imitating a runaway train, running past all stations - until halting at the 'erectile tissue' station. Not knowing when our stop was could've been a major set back as I sat crossed legged. Not only did I gradually feel like a horny sardine, as the passengers manoeuvred about me to path out their exit strategy, noticeably my vision of beauty was getting impaired by City slickers wanting a sniff of coconut - luckily our stop - caused a breathy sigh of male disappointment and sneers greeted me as I prodded my way towards the exit doors - not by my hands either. It seemed anything goes when commuting, using the Underground. The fact I had a raving erection made my exit strategy quicker than if I didn't - By the time the cold air of the tunnels hit my semi perspiring brow - size-wise I was back to normal, swinging to the left and mentally I was slowly coming out of my arousal state. On the next platform the notable quietness actually woke me from my sexual daydream into observing my environment possibly Bond Street. An area where an eateries namely Domino's marinated the walls with a warming, oily deep pan scent. The vibrant coconut wafts were less frequent - as constant airflow dilutes the scents intensity.
Orphaned newspaper sheets danced all provocatively synchronised to the rhythm of the platform airflow. Plastered unceremoniously was a Jody Foster's poster from 'Silence of the Lambs'; depicting a fearful Clarice - the vision installed a shiver, yet I was warm, too warm. The air pressure changed again at the same time passengers move closer to the white line - a London Underground Health and Safety measure to warn delinquents of the dangers of on-coming trains emerging from the earthy black holes - to a space cadet such darkness allures you in - so a simple white line on the platform stops this occurrence from happening. Ah the wonders of white line technology. And the infamous cyberspace-vocals calling out 'Mind the Gap!' to remind commuters who've evidently got a gap between their ears, the dangers of planting your size nine shoe in the chasm between platform and train. Eventually I learnt the ability to shove the one day travel pass into the suction operated barriers the right way round. Coincidentally it was 'moi' who'd managed to systematically receive the dodgy magnetic ticket which temporary disabled my travel plans - like the black sheep I was removed by a London Underground attendant so that the rest of the flock could move efficiently between the barriers at a steady pace. After a few muttering and head scratching from the attendant while looking at the offending ticket with a suspicious eye, he ushered me to use the unorthodox route of sheepishly walking 'around the barriers', much to the astonishment of accomplished London Tube commuters who'd in one clinical wrist movement operated the barriers as if their palms were digitally bar coded at the barrier check-out. My tube neophyte was evident for commuters to see
The King Cross fire originated from the escalator certainly had an impact on me, the event was 1987 and although I didn't engage into Underground activity until several years later, I without fail always felt the temperature of the metal hand rail - Peculiar, considering if I had found the temperature excessively hot, and close to combusting, I yet found the sprinklers, nor have been unlikely to resolve the problem with 907.18 kilograms of bottled Evian. The problem of masculinity is we all want to secretly be a hero, regardless how idiotic it is, creating a damsel in distress scenario is eighteenth century, now the twenty first century women drives the Underground trains, first on the scene when 7/7 occurred. And co-ordinate commuter diversions by walking on the left-hand side instead. If god willing, a desperate busker or a wino was to empty his / her full bladder onto the mosaic tiled floor - pandemonium will start. Such a situation would incur a slippery surface for oncoming commuter traffic, the fear of falling supersedes the actual possibility; the answer is: a yellow plastic signage stating 'beware of slippery surface!' No white line this time, but a small but robust portable yellow signage, illustrating a stick man slipping up, just in case you didn't comprehend the wordage. Because the signage is rather small and can easily be missed by a sudden surge of fast walking London Underground commuters, a calm female attendant sporadically informs commuters of the oncoming hazard - And repeats the health and safety message every twenty seconds.
This event conveniently leads me onto the on the vexed question of urinating on the live rail would you survive? I hasten a guess the answer is in the autopsy report on the London Underground's dust. I also envisage a Victorian dress incredulously hindering when trying to avoid 'the Gap' - a flurry of little steps and then a gargantuan leap for man-kind; hauled into the train by oily hand labourers. Designed for a form of initiating courtship, a prehistoric type of social networking - Nowadays, such events of grappling with a dress in the same cause potentially will result in a customary slap or a restriction order. The immortal words of: "But I was only helping her onto the train - I know nothing about this women, nor know where she lives?" echoes round airy modern courts. Grappling with dresses on a tube even if death is an inch away, is unkind to wanna-be heroes - Whose kind, romantic default mechanism overrides the judicial system of chucking the law book at those who heroically 'grappling with dress' in a quest to aid or save a life. Now my tube thoughtful actions have diminished - My neophyte label has long gone. I peer in mild fascination at tanned wafer-thin ladies wrestling with luggage. Those ladies who have chosen unsuitable attire for tube riding or decided to max out their partner's Gold card by collecting as many designer bags as possible; obviously forgetting the gullible one is still at work paying for last month's shopping exploits - therefore, not today's shopping donkey. After managing to do the impossible mission, their rapid breathing reaches a climax, they gulp hard and videophone their partner at work. "Hun, look, I'm absolutely exhausted - Missing you terribly - mwah!" Once, I may have craved for a videophone message of that sort - but the wisdom from having two decades of tube chatter, tube shenanigans, and tube gentleman etiquette has made me like the rest of the silent nomads who sit in close approximately to each other on a daily basis, who're closer to each other than their own spouses, who share the same air, smell each others cologne, coffee breathe, and experience the resonance of their meal the night before. Plus, in most cases commuters share more time with their fellow commuters than their own family. It beggars belief what the transport system would be like if the London Underground didn't exist, by the 1970's the over-ground infrastructure would've collapse.
In the history books, it states the men who built these tunnels never saw their visions of the system realised. They're renowned as the "Tube Martyrs" - Thanks to the likes of Harry Beck and Albert Stanley - I still do and will remain to have a soft spot for our nation's London Underground system - The greatest achievement of British engineering.
It is interesting analysing the variation of reviews and opinions on the London Underground; some love it and some obviously do not. I personally am grateful it is there because whilst to me there's nothing quite like a red London double decker, the Tube does provide a more efficient, reliable alternative. Not to mention the cabs are so inexplicably expensive; although I happen to think they provide the best service of the lot. Private minicabs are an all together different deal. I got one that didn't know his way to the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous London landmarks, and had to use his Tom-Tom to help; and charged the earth at the end of it and the driving can be quite scary. I love walking in London, though. Honestly I do; especially in summer. I'm wouldn't go around in less than desirable places alone at night but that applies to anywhere and is common sense; but I really enjoy walking around the back streets of the West End and I love parks and cities in general so walking feels like the best way to explore and feel the vibe. However, whilst most of the major attractions are within reasonable walking distance, some are not so public transport may be your only option. It is also a more appealing option if it is pouring with rain or you're worried about losing your way. Driving? Like I have stated, I'm no driver and even if I was... in London? No!
However, when I plan a trip to the capital, I always locate the nearest Tube station to my intended destinations prior to any other mode of transport. I moved out of London when I was about seven and my accent has refused to budge so I gather I am suppose to be a Londoner and cannot wait to move back eventually. Not everyone does but I adore it; it's imperfect perfection. The Tube is a good description of the city as a whole: cosmopolitan, people rushing around and annoying you, exciting, dreary, confusing, mazy, unpredictable, old, modern, tourists, commuters, locals, foreigners... it has all these flaws but has this great energy and cosmopolitan vibe where you encounter people from all over the world; basically when you're in it, you often cannot wait to get out but without it, you'd miss it.
I have an Oyster Card which enables me to watch the money I'm spending on transport as I go along, but often buy a Travelcard because that covers all zones all day at under a tenner. Last time I used my Travelcard to as both a return ticket between Victoria and Bromley South as well as at a number of Tube stations throughout London, making my day in the capital stress free; it cost me just £8. Although you'd require an Oyster Card to buy a Travelcard that lasts longer than just a day. These can be bought on the TFL website or at stations. Prices range from about £2 to over £10 if you're travelling using an Oyster and from around £5 to £10 with Travelcards.
I always use Victoria as my base in London. I have no idea why as I am not a fan of running around Victoria Station but it just feels like an appropriate base geographically; so all trains that I catch end up there if I'm on my own. From there I will go up via escalator to Victoria Tube Station and let the fun and games continue! I think that the first thing you'd notice about the Tube if you're a first time user is the sheer complexity of it and it can be intimidating as a result. There are always plenty of maps on the walls to help you find your required platform (you'll probably need to check on an ordinary map of London to check which Tube station is located nearest to your destination) and it is a little bit of an underground maze. You'll find yourself going up the steps, down again, around the corner and back up the stairs again and back again... eventually you'll get to know your way and it'll become easier.
The London Underground is the oldest and second most extensive underground/metro system in the world with 270 stations in all so it's no surprise it becomes complicated to particularly first time users, although in effect it is quite simple. The stations are quite dull but feature lots of adverts on the walls and buskers along the corridors; it's quite grubby and has a particular smell. I know this is strange but I like that it has that typical 1980s big gritty city feeling - sometimes. In fact it's the pushing, shoving and staring on the platform that annoy me more. Overall I have never found the Underground to be particularly filthy as is claimed but it certainly isn't squeaky clean either. I think it just feels dated. Because of the old age of the Tube, accessibility is a problem despite lifts and escalators but this is due to be improved. It's more New York than Moscow grandeur; all quite simply designed.
Escalators can be very long as well: just stand on the Angel escalator and keep checking the time! Oh and do not stand on the incorrect side or loiter at the bottom - oh this annoys 'em bundles!
Once you've chosen your required Tube station, you'll need to work out how many rides you need to take to get there; it's no different to train journeys - just think of it as a short train journey and possibly requiring a stopover or two along the way!
To work this out you need to decide which line you need - there's the Piccadilly, Northern, Jubilee, Victoria, Central, Bakerloo, District, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Waterloo & City and then there's the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and Overground; all are represented by a different colour and run in straight lines across the city.
When you've got an idea of what line you need you'll find directions around the station of what trains run on what platform. This is where the running around comes into it. It will tell you whether you require southbound, northbound, westbound or eastbound depending on line direction and you invariably follow that rule, literally. Once you've found the correct platform via the help of signposting the train will be along in about five or so minutes. It's very efficient, unlike buses. Sometimes both platform and trains are packed with people, other times it is empty and it depends on time and location.
Off the top of my head the last Tube journey I took was from Holloway Road station to Victoria where I went on to catch the train down to Southampton. My journey took about fifteen minutes in all. As you'll notice on a Tube map, Holloway Road is located on the Piccadilly line but this doesn't travel direct to Victoria. So I took the Tube to the nearest station on the Picadilly line to Victoria; Green Park. I got off at Green Park and changed to the Victoria line which ran to Victoria station by one stop. I did the same journey in the other direction. Of course it is like maths: it is up to you how you work out your journeys and which stations you choose to change at as long as you get there.
On the trains it can be extremely hot in summer due to lack of air conditioning but this is to be improved upon eventually. Also, it can be annoyingly overcrowded so there's a good chance you'll have to stand and end up squashed in like sardines. My biggest problem is knowing where to look. If you have some music, a book or a pair of sunglasses on you, it helps. If there are a lot of people they tend to stare at you and other passengers. I'm sure I have done it without realising but I find it quite off putting because some people do it the whole journey and I think, 'Please look at the guy next to me now!' Sometimes it is just down to daydreaming, perhaps or people watching, which I admit is always fascinating. People can be quite rude but there are also a lot of people (British, foreign, tourists, young, old, locals etc.) who are probably thinking what you are thinking. I once went to sit down on the Tube a few inches from the seat and this grown man actually rushed over from nowhere so he could sit on it first. He won. I lost.
The trains are not especially dirty but again, like the stations, they're dull. On the train it will tell you via audio the next stop and it says above the seating what stops the train will be visiting so you shouldn't get lost... unless you've boarded the incorrect train!
You'll need either your Oyster or Travel card to scan/insert into the machine as you enter or exit the stations. This part is extremely simple but make sure you have your card ready as you arrive at your destination as I used to end up searching my handbag by the exit whilst people were trying to get past - I didn't mean to be annoying but was scared I'd lose my ticket and you certainly don't want to be caught travelling without your ticket! I managed to put the ticket in a safe yet easy spot in the side of my bag instead of the back of my purse where it was.
Oyster Cards are simply like top up vouchers. Travelcards provide you with one paid ticket. The London map is divided into zones with zone 1 covering the popular, touristy areas of central London, zone 2 covering the outskirts of central London and zone 6 the edges of London, more or less and prices vary, becoming more expensive the further out of central London you travel and of course if you travel at peak times.
I think in any major city it is always ideal to look as little like a tourist or someone who is unsure of their way as possible. If you look like a tourist, you'll automatically stand out and become a target to less than desirable characters. I found this out in Barcelona once although the thieves are less discreet there (they come straight up to you and start shouting at you and you have to try to ignore them and walk on in the hope they'll leave you alone). I always keep my handbag tightly to the side or go with a satchel bag instead so it's in no way open to criminals, let's say. Of course I have another worry with that: that is if a character pulled my bag, it would also pull me which is scary thinking and I'd find it difficult to just let my bag go and it would seem as though I was fighting back, which as much as I'd like to, I wouldn't have the bottle to. So there's two arguments in my head to how I should carry my bag! I think it is best to walk confidently as though you know where you're going even if you're slightly unsure; basically look like a local who knows the game so plan your Tube journey ahead if possible and try to hold your belongings on your lap - mentioning this out of personal experience again.
So once you have found that famous roundel, go inside, find a destination and have fun reaching it. Daunting at first, yes, but it'll get better the more you get to know it and with all its faults you'll be thankful you have it on hand - I guess it is the brother I never knew I had!
The TFL website is on hand to offer travel updates on each of the lines as well the option to buy tickets and help with planning your journey:
Another useful website is this one:
I hope that you found this useful if you've never travelled on the London Underground previously.
I've grown up about 260 miles away from London, with no requirement to ever visit or pass through even. I think the closest I ever went to London as a kid was Great Yarmouth in the car on a Haven Holiday (which isn't all that close to London anyway!). Oh and I once went to Hamley's Christmas shopping with school after seeing the Royal Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet (I was 12 and I couldn't really see what was happening, despite the really cool binoculars in the back of all the seats!). At 26, I'd never taken the tube. My nearest experience of it was in 2005 when I went to Paris and got about using the Metro - we were two stops from everything and so it was all pretty simple! So, in 2009 when my cousin invited me down to stay in London, I was petrified to say the least at the prospect of having to get the tube!
London is an overwhelming experience for someone from a slow-paced town as it is. It's like being in a foreign country, there's so much diversity and speed - I've never seen people walk so fast. But, coupled with the prospect of having to use a network of underground trains when you don't really know which stop you want or where to board and everything looks the same and you're scared to ask anyone (even if they would stop long enough to listen to you!), it's all really daunting.
The best advice I can give any 'foreigner', in other words non-Londoner, is to be prepared for the journey. Look on all of the online sites available to plan your journey, and take in to account general sensible safety precautions i.e. don't travel alone in the dark, if your listening to music one ear phone out so you can hear some one approaching, don't advertise your valuables and so on (I sound like a nagging mother I know!).
The tube network in London is a collection of 'lines' (eg Circle Line, City Line, Metropolitan Line, etc). Each line has a collection of stops on it and you can join at any stop / get off at any stop. The tube network spans almost as many miles as it is from my house to London - at around 250 miles of track, so it's safe to say, it will get you to almost anywhere you want to be in and around the city of London (coupled with the overground services such as buses, cabs and of course walking!) - but to know where you want to be is another story! First you need to know which tube stops you will be going between. For example, my cousin lives in Vauxhall, but the closest tube station by walking distance from his house is Stockwell to find this out I used Google Maps and just typed in his postcode, tube stations are highlighted clearly with the recognisable red circle. Kings Cross has its own tube station.
The next step is to visit the tfl site (transport for London) and use their journey planner. Enter the start and end location and the time of travel and then get a resulting journey. The information here is crucial to note down ready for any journey. It gives you the line you need to take along with which Zones the line crosses (see below) and which destination you will be headed in as obviously the trains are either heading towards one end of the line, or the other. To reach my cousin's house, I need to take the Victoria line, heading to Brixton. And it crosses Zones 1 & 2.
The Zones pertain to the areas of the city. When you go to buy your tube travel in the tube station you will see ATM style machines, these vend your tickets and unless you want to wait in the queue to speak to the 'Help & Assistance' folk, then you'll use the automated machines. They are dead easy to use, you just select your zones (which you will know from planning in advance!) and whether you would like a one way ticket, return, day pass, etc. It tells you how much you need to pay and then you either pop in coins, notes on the notes only machines, or your card if you use one which accepts credit / debit cards. The ticket prints out and you're set!
You then take your ticket and go to find the platform from which you are departing, similar to a train station only this time; people are stampeding past you like obsessed cattle, so you need to know what you're doing. Spend a second looking at the overhead signs which tell you which platform and which direction you need to walk. And one Golden Rule! On the escalators / stairs keep in the 'slow' lane, unless you are a speed walker <slash> marathon runner, or you will seriously annoy people and probably get shouted at.
Usually, for security and because they don't have conductors to inspect your tickets on the trains, you have to go through security barriers - here's another tip - look at the barriers before you pass, as many are set to only accept 'Oyster Cards' which are prepay cards that save money for you if you're a regular traveller. But, if you try putting your ticket through an Oyster Card only turnstile, you'll not only be embarrassed, but you'll hold the crowds up and they will not be happy!
The trains themselves as well as the underground stations are generally pretty shabby - at the end of the day they take around 28 million passengers per year on journeys you shouldn't expect them to be luxury. I also can't help feeling a little 'grimy' after I travel on them and usually carry a bottle of antibacterial hand cleanser with me, I'm not being disrespectful or OCD, but it's just the way I feel about millions of people touching the handrails or the escalators - and I certainly can't understand people doing things like their make up routine on the tube - but I guess I would feel different if I lived down there. Another tip is to take a little fan in your bag you know the pocket ones? It can get really hot down there and if you get stuck especially on a weekend when there's frequently planned engineering works it becomes uncomfortable.
A huge plus point from me for the tube network is the frequency with which the trains come to each stop. You seldom wait longer than 5 minutes for your train. Considering a bus on a normal road can travel 30mph + and a tube travels on average 20mph they are more frequent, don't just 'not show up' like buses and you don't have that unpleasant interaction with a miserable bus driver to endure! If you can't find a seat once you get on the train, you need to grab on to a handrail as it can be quite jerky going from stop to stop. If you have a suitcase with you, try not to stand in the way of the doors or the centre walkway. At the other end it's the same as getting on the tube but the reverse obviously, and after making one tube journey alone, you really will feel like an expert!
The tube stations are all pretty accessible for people with limited mobility and there are of course provisions in place for those with sensory disabilities. There are amenities in most of the stations such as convenience stores, toilets (proceed with caution!), public telephones, etc. And though I've tried to avoid any instance where you would need to ask for help there are guards available to help you if you need assistance - they are generally very helpful, but sometimes hard to find or really busy sorting out tickets at the turnstiles. Most stations have lifts and escalators, though some of the smaller ones are all steps - you can find out exact station information on the tfl website (www.tfl.gov.uk).
Another useful hint for when you need to make a change on your journey, as on some routes you have to change. My cousin tends to take a couple of different lines if the line he wants to take is particularly busy or has engineering works on it, to avoid delays. If you need to make a change mid journey look at the signs for exit and other platforms, follow the one for the other platforms rather than the exit, or you'll have to re-enter the station leading to all kinds of confusion! Usually, it's a case of getting off one tube, walking through a platform and getting on another one on the other side. Really easy, but can be a little bit daunting again, because everyone else seems to know what they're doing!
Value for money-wise, it's the cheapest way to conveniently get around London. A bus will cost you slightly less (you can usually use a day pass on buses and tubes), but the stops aren't as clear for a non-Londoner or as convenient as they are on the tube. Driving is a no-no from my perspective as there's so many one way streets, congestion charges, traffic jams and so on. A cab will generally cost you a fortune, unless you're only going a short distance. And walking can be pretty scary when you're trying to find your way around and at the same time being aware of your personal safety. Plus it's so easy once you know how - and can get you pretty much anywhere. Roughly speaking its £4 for a one way journey across the main zones (1 & 2) and around £7 for a full day pass for unlimited journeys in zones 1 & 2. It may sound like a lot - but for London, this is cheap - and really, up North we pay £1.80 for a one way bus journey within a town which could fit in to one area of London, so it's not that bad really. These passes usually extend to overground services too like the bus and this can be useful if there's not a close tube stop to where you need to be (though that's quite unlikely); and it can be useful when there's certain lines closed due to engineering works.
An Oyster Card which I mentioned can be useful and cheaper if you intend to travel a lot within the City. But it's really worth reading up on and working out the benefits prior to your visit as it can provide a saving for weekenders too.
There are lots of useful sites to give you an idea of where you need to be, what ticket you need and so on, but the most useful I've found are Google Maps (go to www.google.co.uk, then select maps in the top left hand corner) - it shows up the tube stations near a postcode and will also provide you with walking directions from the tube station to your end location. The other is undoubtedly Transport for London's site which I've referred to several times throughout this review. It gives you prices, a great journey planner, free tube maps (I wouldn't buy one of these in London not worth the money when you can get them both free on line and view them in the tube stations), service updates and planned line closures, ongoing bus routes and information on which lines you will take, therefore, which zones you will pass on your route. It really is an essential site to visit in your pre-tube journey planning.
Overall, a cheap(ish) and convenient way to travel around London - it can be daunting, even overwhelming when everyone around you seems to know what they are doing, but with a little prior preparation you can make like a local! Also, you must think about your personal safety when travelling - but you should do this wherever you travel, particularly if you are alone. Good luck on the great tube network and thanks for reading!
*** FOLLOWING ON FROM COMMENTS ***
Includes Toilet Facility Tube Maps (so you know how long you need to cross those legs for!), Large Print and Monochrome Maps, plus Step Free Maps so you can plan a journey based on the steps on to and off of the trains
Homepage > Accessible Cities > London > London Underground
Will soon include all of the routes which are fully accessible for people with limited mobility. For now, their Contact Us section is pretty cool and they will get back to you quickly if you drop them a line about your route.
As somebody who grew up in London within a stone's throw of a tube station the London underground has been a big part of life.
Some of my earliest memories are on the underground - I remember the old ticket gates that you could leap over - before the squarish mechanical rottweillers and their gentler curved ticket gates that came later.
Even as a child I found the underground utterly exciting, the scary (as they seemed to me then) clank of metal on metal, the sparks underneath the trains that lit up in the tunnel as the tube left the platform, the strange looking signs, the old fashioned looking stations, even the smell - all of it I found so exhilarating. I remember imploring my aunt from Serbia who hadn't a clue which tube to take, to take me home on the underground, rather than the bus - poor dear. We compromised on a London Taxi journey home instead.
I remember when I was old enough to travel on my own on the tube, I could barely contain my excitement being on my own on the darkened platform as the thudding train approached down the tunnel, its two headlights shining in the distance. The wind (particularly on the deeper lines) as the train stormed towards the platform took my breath away, no doubt making my heart pound faster.
As I got older other experiences came and went; drunk on the tube, er intoxicated on the tube (ahem), spending New Year on the tube greeting and hugging (and very occasionally kissing) total strangers. Meeting friends, invariably heading into central London to clubs, going to parties. Going to and from college. Then came going to interviews, working etc.
Of course today I don't get the same excitement as I did once upon a time, but there is still a tinge of excitement and I do love the tube, if for no other reason than all its (or my) happy memories.
Yes, of course its overpriced and yes in rush hour it is overcrowded and unpleasant.
But I don't care, nothing beats travelling around London on the tube, as you can feel the history around you, just as sure as you can see it above ground.
The underground is put simply, an underground network of trains that runs throughout the whole of London and is made up of different lines that interlink so you can get to anywhere in London that you need to go.
The underground is made of 11 lines: Jubilee, Northern, Victoria, Picadilly, Waterloo & City, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City, Central, Bakerloo, Circle and District.
I recently had to use the underground to get from Waterloo Station to Canning Town and from Canning Town to North Greenwich. These were all on the Jubilee line, so I only had to travel on the one line for my journey. It only took me 16 minutes to get from Waterloo to Canning Town, and driving or by bus this would have taken much longer, so I was very impressed with the speed, albeit a little freaked out by being underground.
I found the service of the underground to be wonderful, all trains were running on time with no problems or delays, there was just enough space to be comfortable for everyone and the staff at the stations were very friendly and helpful. They helped me to work out where I was going, what platforms I needed and they helped me with access to the underground as I am temporarily in a wheel chair and can not use the stairs or escalators.
The price of travel was quite good value, I paid £6.30 for a 4 zone travel card, which would take me through the majority of the underground system, and easily covered all areas of my journey. I found all the stations to be clean, tidy and litter free, but a little bit cold, although this was expected really.
Personally I had a good trip on the underground, and have done whenever I have used it in the past. I think it is a wonderful part of London that really does revolutionize travel around London, and I recommend it to everyone.
I know that this is a very split subject, possibly like marmite. For me, I love it to bits.
First of all there is the convenience issue. I live in Hammersmith, where there are no less than three tube lines (two in the broadway), and without it I would either be stuck on a bus somewhere, or trying desperately to park my oversized car in a narrow road. To be able to hop on and off a tube and get around London in a fraction of the overground time is fantastic and should never be taken for granted.
~Something else that I love about the tube is people watching. It may sound a bit silly, but on the way to work its very interesting to look around and people-watch! One of my most understated hobbies!
The oyster cards are an invention that has made tube travel so much easier. I can top up my card online, go to the station, flash it on the barrier, and woooosh I'm away!
Of course you are always going to get the problems with track repair and the very occasional strike, but where else don't you get that? Trains? Try again? Motorways? Constantly being repaired...
My point is that the underground is a priceless asset of london, without which, out city would ground to a halt. Who doesn't love the rickety trains anyway, and being handed the Metro newspaper every day!
If you're a true londoner, you will have learned to love it... if not then move somewhere else!
The London Underground - or the tube, as it's more common know - is fast, convenient and as a tourist, stopped at all the places I wanted to go.
Split into nine different zones with thirteen different lines, the Underground covers almost all area of London within the M25.
With so many different lines and zones, the tube is extremely confusing at the best of times and can take a while to get used to, but there are large maps available for viewing and some major stations also offer smaller pocket maps, it's worth grabbing a few of these are they are easily lost and ripped. The lines and zones are clearly marked by a variety of different colours for each line
As a lone parent with a young child, hauling a pushchair around can be daunting at the best of time, and out of hundreds of stations, only a handful within Central London offer step-free access. Not really a problem if there's two of you, just an inconvenience, but if you are by yourself or are wheelchair bound, this can be a major problem. Although I am able to manage stairs with a pushchair, the sheer amount was extremely intimidating though the steps at 99% of stations aren't steep in the slightest and luckily, a lot of passer-bys offer a helping hand.
The step-free access stations are clearly marked on all maps - including your handheld ones.
Although the Underground network is huge, most stations are not and you can start feeling claustrophobic very quickly, especially as the major stations are extremely busy almost all the time.
As with all public transport, peak times such as the school run do get really busy and it's worth avoiding these times, especially as pick pockets will be using the Underground.
The waiting times for the tube vary depending on which line but during the daytime, I never seemed to wait more than a few minutes.
Prices vary depending on which zones you're travelling within, though as a tourist, I didn't need to venture out of zones 1-2, which cost me £5.60 (after 9:30am) for unlimited travel, reasonable value in my opinion, though if you needed to buy one of these for more than a couple of days, it would probably be worth getting an Oyster card. If you need to travel to more zones, this would obviously be more expensive with zones 1-3 going up to £6.30 (after 9:30am) and so on.
For your money, you get a ticket that's extremely similar to a train ticket with a black strip on the back for the machines at each station to read. The machines at the station let you in and out and with every station I went to, a couple of members of staff were watching over the process.
At every station I used, there was an extra wide machine for wheelchairs and pushchairs - even if it wasn't a step-free access station.
Each station I used had a good number of staff around, mainly working on public safety and making sure people don't jump the barriers. Extremely reassuring if you get lost, injured or pick pocketed.
The trains themselves are quite narrow, adding to the sense of claustrophobia and I personally felt sick looking out the windows and seeing the tunnel wall just inches from the windows.
On most trains, there was a designated area for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and in general, people did seem to respect this. Each train differs with its seating system and you can either get the two-seater facing forward classic or the multiple seats in a row under the windows. The seats themselves, although cushioned, weren't too comfortable and not at all roomy.
Overall, I would recommend the tube if you're able to get down the steps with ease. It truly is the fastest way around London but as expected, does get extremely busy. If you're using the tube for just a couple of days, it offers good value for money but I can see travelling in London all the time would prove expensive. Although I didn't have many problems with the stations, I hope they improve the situation surrounding step-free accesses and add more escalators or lifts, even if to those stations that prove most popular.
Everyone wears these T-shirts that say they love the Underground. I don't really see how and why they would think that. Have they actually ever been on it? I am not going to complain too much though do not worry yourselves.
Basically I get the work into work, and before work I got it in to college and the train is horrible during certain times namely 8:10 - 9:00 in the morning and then again at 6:00 - 7:00 in the evening when rush hour hits, and it hits hard!
The trains at these times are packed, literally, with people in business suits, brief cases and all around grumpy looks. There is something very grimy, unhappy and selfish about the tube vibes, but surprisingly the vibes and faces mean very little as when an older person gets on they are usually offered a seat by someone sitting.
The worst thing to do is get on before the people have got off at a station, then the F's and the C's start flying and people can get really aggie. When it rains it is horrible. Smells which you never even knew existed awaken and you will always bet standing or sitting next to the prominent odour.
In terms of the train times and regularity you are in luck as they come every 2-5 minutes normally and the times on the board is usually right. The most likely time for them to be wrong is during rush hour - the worst time for them to be wrong - or when you need to be somewhere. On the Northern line it regularly stops at Camden for a couple of minutes to catch up with the times.
On the whole the tube is a useful and on time BUT it does wind me up more than anything in the world. The heat from the trains also means that no matter what the weather outside, as soon as I get to work I have been sweating! Not much fin there!
The London Underground or the tube as is commonly known is one of the few underground rail systems in the U.K. It is a huge system of underground and a few over ground routes, which connectects all different parts of London and it's surrounding suburbs. As well as connecting a lot of the suburbs it also connects the major london overground rail way systems with each other.
As for the actual experience it isn't great, it is usually very hot on the underground and very busy especially during rush hours. It is also very expensive, a single trip costing £4, or £1.50 when you have an oyster card. London is split into 6 zones, and it cost more the more zones you cross.
I have been on many different underground systems and I think London is one of the worst I have been on. Everything is much older and is so much more expensive than others I have tried.
For a way to get around London it is very useful, but it could be so much better and that for me is dissapointing.
The Tube (or London Underground) is London's subway network, spanning the whole of London, within the M25, and some slightly outside.
The stations of most underground stations are aged and look very grimy and "Oliver Twist" like. Apart from a few stations in Central London, and some that have recently been refurbished, stations are really not a nice place. Even without rubbish, they look dirty and horrible.
You can feel the dust in the air and the snoot all around you... NOT nice. The "hall" of the station is also tiny for a majority of stations, and the ones closer to Zone 1 (central) are only slightly larger.
Ticket Offices are also almost always a deterrent. At almost every station, there is either only one kiosk, or there is a long queue. NOT adequate when you are in a hurry, but thankfully, with the advance of technology, there is now a self service machine.
The self service machine allows you to buy tickets or top up your Oyster card.
An Oyster Card is like a top up card for travelling, allowing you to quickly travel by "beeping" your card on their readers which will open barriers etc... Overall it does save time, but error with technology always exist, like that Oyster card malfunction that happened last year where some sort of "virus" broke Oyster Cards...
The prices below are average amounts
Adult One Day Travel Card: £10+ (Anytime), £7 (Off peak), £7 (oyster)
Child (UNDER 15) One Day Travel Card: £7 (Anytime), £2 (Off Peak), £1 (Oyster)
Pricing is completely disproportional, and just frankly ridiculous. When I was a child, going into central London was really cheap, which is great, but would've been expensive for my parents, which just isn't appealing to use the underground. Driving by car into central + congestion charge would've been cheaper!
If the government seriously want us to use the underground and meet their "carbon cap", then lowering prices for adults and perhaps raising price for children ever so slightly is the way to go.
Once you are on the platform, again there is that grimy dirty feeling. Waiting for trains is never pleasing, and always a bore. The constant lack of seating in ALL stations mean you will have to stand.
At most stations now, there is a computerised screen stating when trains will be coming... which has been LONG delayed!
Waiting isn't too bad, unless you're on the Metropolitan line where trains are almost always delayed, there are almost always a signal failure, and a surprisingly high rate of "people under the train"... Don't ask. OH, and they seem to have "planned engineering works" almost EVERY weekend, making travelling on such line simply HELL.
Within Central London, trains are more "on time", with a train coming around every 3-5 minutes. This is much more acceptable.
~~~ON THE TRAINS~~~
Trains on EVERY LINE are old, worn out and simply the opposite of MODERN, a word we would associate with London. Trains need to be upgraded and improved, seats need to be renewed, and air conditioning would be nice.
And you'd be pleased to know that some are! How ironic that it is the Metropolitan line trains that are getting an upgrade next year, with *drum roll* AIR CONDITIONING! D: I'll be looking forward to this, and yet again, a long delayed improvement!
The London Underground is frankly outdated and is an old system that needs to be renewed. There are so many problems and so many errors that need to be fixed. However, they ARE doing this, and are trying to make things better which are apparent and can be appreciated.
Without the London Underground, there would be chaos and travelling would be made even more difficult, so you can appreciate the necessity of such a system, although some tweaks and some improvements will make it top notch.
However, adult prices are ridiculous, whilst child ones are just an incentive for children to go rampaging in central London... this could be a good thing as they can experience the cultural side, and really LIVE in their city, but can also encourage gang and crime behaviour.
We've already seen the abuse on buses since the "free child bus travel" was introduced, and frankly, it's not much better on the trains...
I would recommend this system to tourists and London dwellers, as there's frankly no other public transport system that can rival this... Don't even mention the buses!!
I lived in London for 3 years while I was studying and the London underground was a life saver over this period. I find the underground easy and relatively cheap to use and gets you to just about anywhere in London. I have driven around London and absolutely hate it, you really have to be pushy and aggressive which I don't like and you spend so much time sitting in traffic, where at least on the tube you're going somewhere. The only disadvantage I would say is that it gets very busy (especially during rush hour) but that's because it's the easiest way to travel around London.
The stations are clearly marked around London with the underground logo seen in the picture above. In each station you can get maps, tickets and information at the information/ticket booth although sometimes at some tube stations the queues can get very long so alternatively you can get your tickets from the machine dispensers which is usually much quicker. There are maps displayed on the walls and in the train itself to plan your journey and usually before you go through the gates after you have your tickets there is a board to show any delays and services on each line.
Ticket prices are reasonable, if you only visit London a few times a year then it is best to buy a ticket on the day and would probably be easiest to buy a day travel card which costs around £5.70 (last time I was there) and this can be used all day on the tubes and buses. Children under 11 travel free. There are also single and return tickets available if you are only making the one trip.
If you live in London or visit a lot then it is worth while getting an oyster card which you can store up to £90 credit on it and is used as a pay as you go but once you have reached the price of a day travel card then it doesn't charge you anymore (very cleaver). These are much easier to carry and use quickly as you just swipe them over the yellow pad and the gates open. All tickets can be used on tubes and buses.
There are many different lines to choose from to get you all around London and as you get closer into central London the stops start to overlap with other stations so you can easily switch lines to take you to another destination. The lines include - Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith and city, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoia, Waterloo and city and the Docklands light railway. These all have colour codes so it is easy to read on a map.
Overall, the London tube is a great way to get around London, it's great for commuters and for visitors getting you to just about any destination in London. The only disadvantage is that the tubes do get very busy so you can be packed in like sardines, it also gets very hot (especially during the summer periods) and can be unbearable but even with this, it's much easier than sitting and pushing through traffic. For more information visit Transport of London website at www.tfl.gov.uk
London Underground, a lot of people hate it, so much so there is song all about how much people hate The Underground.
But in my opinion its faster, probablty more convienient.
Okay so sometimes there is the occasional delay due to signal failure or whatever, But if you have to drive through london in rush hour you are not going to get anywhere fast!
With an Oyster card, Tube travel is cheap! I travel from uxbridge to Harrow for £1.10, it takes 20 minutes, or a bus will take me 1hour -2 hours dependant on traffic, which is unpredictable and a nightmare. Bus will cost £1 I'd rather pay that extra 10p, travelling by car, if not going same route as bus can take 30-45 minutes. I will stick with the tube!
I know that there are occasionally strikes, but they are planned and the public is notified in advance. There is plenty of time to plan alternate travel.
Abother benfit of using Tube is that it makes London Greener. Whilst your sitting in a traffic jam in central your building up CO2, a tube you personally create less. Also London cars are a nightmare, trains reduce rate of people being knocked down by idiot drivers.
Jump on the tube. Its cheap, It goes pretty much everywhere and lets get greener!!!!!!!!
Underground in general
Description: Usually referred to as the tube
I live in Tyne and Wear which means that I use the Metro rather than having to suffer the London Underground. I usually go to London for a weekend of 2 in the summer and every time that I do, I come back thankful that I don't have to get the tube every day.
In case you don't know, it is Britain's largest and oldest underground rail network. It also feels like the hottest. The amount of people using it is increasing all the time and rush hour can be unbearable. Even at non rush hour times, the tourist industry means that you are likely to be jammed in.
As I have only used it in summer, I can only comment on that but it has been unbearably hot. This basically means that even if you are only on it for 5 or 10 minutes, you inevitably get off looking sweaty and disheveled. It also unfortunately means that there are a lot of people who smell quite bad, who you are likely to be pressed up against. Because I am tiny, I invariably end up jammed in people's armpits for the duration of my journey, which makes it even more unpleasant.
There is no etiquette on the tube either, manners seem to go out of the window as soon as people get on, making it okay to rudely shove, elbow and even grope those around you.
Each time I have used it, there have been cancellations due to "service improvements" or similar so it is probably not as reliable as it could be, having said that, there is a huge range of services so you are likely to still be able to get to your destination, even if it takes a little longer.
If you don't know where you are going, the lines are Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Waterloo & City. There are usually staff around to offer advice, though in my experience, these are not always polite and keen to help. Luckily though, I have never experienced anything as horrendous as the below where a worker was filmed yelling at an elderly gentleman;
I don't think that I would be able to rely on the tube to get to work every day simply because I would be so stressed after each journey. I have nothing but admiration for those who manage it! It is a useful way to travel but makes me feel a bit panicky being so jammed in and it would be better if this were regulated to ensure that only certain amounts of people could travel on each train.
Ah yes, the good old 'Tube'. The London Underground. The world's biggest underground rail network. The world's oldest one as well...and having used it regularly for the last year, in many places it certainly shows its age. Is that part of its charm? Or were it update properly we could all live a little easier when it comes to the dreaded rush hour??
The lines nowadays consist of the Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Waterloo & City. All are designated a certain colour on the world famous London underground map. That in itself is a work of art. Many people out there have posters of the map on their walls at home, despite seeing it several times every day. Bizarre? No, simply British.
The rush hours of London mean the Tube becomes almost unbearable at times. Naturally in the summer months it gets warm even when the Tube isn't busy, so imagine what it's like when you're on the Central Line running across Oxford Street in the middle of August. Stifling heat and then some.
All the lines are undergoing or have undergone improvements to them. From replacing old track to enable the trains to travel faster between stations, to upgrading the stations themselves to allow wheelchair access and give them a facelift, many Londoners and tourists fell the wrath of these improvements especially at weekends. I think I can count on one hand the number of times the entire Jubilee line has been open on a weekend since I've lived here. Thankfully I don't live near a Jubilee line station, or else I'd be even more aggrieved.
But these improvements are needed as many stations and trains look severely dated. The Bakerloo line tubes in my personal opinion look very tatty, many of the stations at the Hammersmith end of the Hammersmith and City line are shoddy and due to the nature of the line not having as many passengers as some other lines, they can be quieter but this shouldn't mean a drop in standards. The recent opening of the Wood Lane tube station on the H & C line highlights the difference between a brand new station and ones nearby to it such as Latimer Road or Shepherd's Bush Market. With all due respect to them, they're hardly state-of-the-art.
The arrival of the Oyster card was a clever, quicker way of doing things in the capital. The price rises, which will continue to happen, have angered many but considering the vast number of services available, I don't think people should argue that much. Yes, when it's delayed and slow, the London Underground is the worst thing in the world. Sitting many metres under the ground in a tunnel barely big enough to fit the train in, just waiting and waiting. But when it's running smoothly, the number of trains per hour - which will increase on many lines after improvements - means you hardly have to wait more than a couple of minutes for a train and there's no waiting around when you're on it.
Tourists from across the world come to London and the moment they get on the Tube they'll be excited and looking around, partly trying to work out where and when to get off, but also because they're on the world renowned London Underground. For all the thousands of miserable rush-hour commuters, many still wouldn't want it any other way. Long live the Tube!