London Underground – Truly transportation for the masses

The iconic roundel - its design

The iconic roundel – its design

If you have ever been to London there is a VERY good chance that you have traveled on the Tube, The Underground.

I have been reading Bill Bryson’s latest book, “the Road to Little Dribbling” whilst I was trolling down to Joshua Tree to spend a weekend with Club Member Bill Shepherd who is working on the layout there.

Bill’s book (like all of his books) is hilarious and filled with incredible factoids. One of these was/is about the Tube. Let me quote:

“People forget how bad the Underground was once upon a time. When I first came to Britain, it was dirty, poorly managed and often unsafe. Several stations – Camden Town, Stockwell and Tooting Bec to name but three – were positively dangerous at night. By 1982, fewer than 500 million people a year, a decline of 50 per cent from the early 1950’s, ventured into the Underground. The King’s Cross fire in 1987, when thirty-one people died after a discarded cigarette started a blaze in uncleared rubbish beneath a wooden escalator showed how lamentably under managed the Underground had become.


Commuters wait to board a tube train in Clapham Common station.

Well, look at it now. The platforms are the cleanest places in London. The service is smooth and reliable. The staff, as far as I can tell, are unfailingly helpful and courteous. Passenger numbers have risen to an astounding 1.2 billion a year, which is more than all the above ground rail journeys in the country combined. According to Time Out magazine, at any given moment there are 600,000 people on the Underground making it both a larger and more interesting place than Oslo. I read in the Evening Standard that the average speed of Underground trains is just 21 miles an hour, which doesn’t seem very much (unless you travel regularly by train between Liss and Waterloo, in which case it’s like being on a rocket ship) but it all feels pretty brisk, and to convey such a massive number of people over such an enormous and aged system with rarely a hitch is an extraordinary achievement.”


Andrea Fernandes photo of a flasher on the London Underground

I never remember flashers when I traveled the Tube. No wonder ridership has soared.

If you a bit more on the Tube try these two blogs:

3,000 plus dead under London’s Liverpool Street Station

Steam train back on London Underground