London Underground

London’s underground train service is one of the most famous in the world, if not the most famous, period. The Tube, as it is called, is more famous than the Metro or Subway systems in other cities, and is as much a part of London culture as the famous landmarks that go worldwide in photographs. The famous tube map, with its central hub and outlying lines of various colors, is instantly recognizable to anyone who has even seen it once. You don’t even need to have traveled on a London tube train to know how it works. It is the world’s oldest underground railway. In terms of track length it is also the longest, and also was the first underground railway to operate electric trains.

London UndergroundLittle is it known, however, that 55% of the tube network is above ground. It is a travel network of incredible, huge span, and takes in not only London, but also much of the outlying area – nearby counties Essex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire included. There are 268 Tube stations, and 250 miles of track. In 2007, over one billion passenger journeys were clocked up – many by commuters making their daily trip to work, and many also by tourists seeing the city for the first time. Almost as famous as its mapping system is the Tube’s famous logo – the “roundel”, which is a red circle overlaid with a blue strip. On the blue strip will frequently be written the word “Underground”, or occasionally the name of the station that the roundel is placed on, or directing you to.

It is very difficult, even impossible, to overstate the influence that the Tube has had on a dizzying number of different areas of interest. The system itself has been copied in cities as diverse as Paris, Moscow and New York by metro and subway systems, allowing a greater volume of passenger transport in these cities than ever before.

The roundel is used in many different places, in many different forms, and has often been magpied by pop bands from the London area in the artwork for their records. There are few more recognizable ways of demonstrating an affinity for London than this. The Tube map is equally famous. One thing to note about the map is that it is not geographically set out – i.e. it is not to scale. The decision to lay the map out like this came in the light of older maps attempting to fit all the stations on a map superimposed on to an existing street plan of London. As the central stations are far closer together than those further from the city, this presented some problems of space.

To get around London by tube, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the map before you set off. Different zones are marked in different colors, and different tickets will get you a set number of (even infinite) journeys within different zones and sets of zones within a given period of time.