The London Underground is a marvel of Victorian engineering, a sprawling subterranean labyrinth of tunnels which covers 250 miles of track and serves 270 separate stations. What’s amazing about the Tube is not just its size and age, or the sheer number of people who work to keep it ticking over like clockwork, but the fact that, over one hundred years after it opened, it remains the most efficient way to get around one of the world’s busiest cities. The Tube’s also a very inexpensive way to get around London, with fares starting at around £1.30.
Services are not precisely timetabled, apart from the first and last train of the day – they don’t have to be, because a train runs through each station every few minutes. When exactly the Tube starts and stops varies according to each station and line, but trains generally commence at around half past five in the morning and finish at around half past midnight. Towards the end of 2015, service commence on something which Londoners have been longing for for years: the Night Tube. This will support London’s 24-hour lifestyle by offering a round-the-clock service on Fridays and Saturdays, on five lines: the Jubilee, Victoria, and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines. The Night Tube will make getting home after a night on the town a breeze, and alleviate pressure on the Night Bus services, which will remain in operation. If you’re looking for hotels near Liverpool Street station – which is served by the Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, and is in fare zone 1 – look no further than The Montcalm Hotel At The Brewery London City, a beautiful and luxurious property in the heart of London.
The London Underground is an icon of London, and has a long and colourful history – here are some interesting facts about the Tube:
• The busiest Tube station is Oxford Circus, used by around 98 million passengers in 2014.
• The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the underground network is only 260 metres. The tube journey between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line takes only about 20 seconds, but it still remains the most popular journey with tourists.
• Many tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, but the Central Line was even converted into a fighter aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980s.
• Only 45 per cent of the Underground is actually in tunnels.
• Aldgate Station, on the Circle and Metropolitan Lines, is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1,000 bodies are buried.
• The TARDIS, Dr Who’s preferred form of transport, can be found outside Earl’s Court station. Or at least an old police call box can.
• The American talk show host Jerry Springer was born at East Finchley station during the Second World War: his mother had taken shelter in the station from an air raid.