Still on London, the theme for today is what every tourist to the city would like to try if not forced to riding. It’s the London Underground or more popularly called The Tube.
I tried on many attempts to see most of the famous sights of London by foot, in a day, but I just could not do it. It is so huge that it might take at least three days of non-stop walking if I am mad enough to take it even as a challenge. London, at 1,572 sq.km. is one of the largest cities in the world that The Tube is an indispensable way to travel faster, that is, if you avoid the rush hour. Last week we did just the opposite! A few minutes before the “grand rush”, we decided to call our walking tour a day and descended underground to catch our tube. The overhead screen reads, “the next tube will arrive in 4 minutes”, so we thought we could rest a bit, stepped back against the wall, leaving about two meter distance between us and the ramp. Suddenly, a wave of humanity came rushing down the steps, short of a stampede, scaring the hell out of H, my sister-in-law (SIL) and me.
“Let’s get out of here, quick!”, announced SIL as she grappled her way through the crowd.
Five minutes later, we were drinking coffee at the basement level of a Lebanese Eatery nearby with the main purpose of killing time while the underground mob abated. We returned after one hour and rightly so, the crowd is gone, everything was quiet again and we caught our tube in peace.
If I get the chance to go back to London on my own, I would like to explore The Tube further. I shall spend an entire day hopping on and off – outside the peak hours of course -not only to check on all the 287 tube stations but also to do my favorite activity – people watching. While I was doing my research on this subject, I came across vast numbers of passenger photos revolving around this mode of transport, very interesting, if not funny!
In the meantime, let’s just make do with what I have in my archives
King’s Cross St. Pancras is the biggest interchange station on the London Underground.
The best known symbol of the Underground is the bar and circle, also known as the roundel.
The roundel where the word “UNDERGROUND” written across the bar has become a symbol for London itself.
Entrance to the Victoria tube station
Victoria is the busiest station in the London underground.
Harry Beck, designer of the tube map in 1933, waspaid only five guineas for his original job. His design is still the basis of today’s tube map.
The tube map gets re-drawn constantly as new stations or extensions are added.
It is the oldest underground railway in the world with the first section opened in 1863, the reason why the rail tracks and platforms are narrow, creating the most-dreaded rush hour human traffic.
And the carriages are smaller because people were smaller when they were built in the 1860’s.
As to the tube widely used for advertising, some ad companies complain that they don’t get the expected response after spending as much as 3,000£ on the London underground. Well, personally, I love scanning on the posters, same as this lady is staring at one.
But the majority are just too in a hurry in catching their tube connections that they don’t even notice the art-sy adverts.
It’s only while waiting for the train itself that one is forced to look at the ads.
One-or several-man concerts are usually found playing on the underground. This is called busking, as they play music in public for money. Busking is strictly controlled so only the good musicians are granted license to perform. If you will notice a coloured half-moon on the station floor, such as the one where this violinist on the photo is standing, it is the pitch reserved for the performers.
All 409 escalators of the total 287 stations do the equivalent of two round the world trips every week.
And this is The Tube, inside up close.