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It is a good job Geoffrey is a small giraffe!
London Underground in General
Member Name: KingHerrod
London Underground in General
Date: 15/11/01, updated on 16/11/01 (317 review reads)
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Now, I know the difference and have known difference for quite a while, the London Underground, the tube, the germ can, the never ever work properly thing, whatever you want to call it, is the prime mode of transport in our sprawling metropolis of a capital city. If you do not know how it works, frankly you must have been living on the remote planet of, brain disengaged, but in case you have been living there, the London Underground is a system of electrical powered trains, that runs under the centre of inner London and runs over ground on its outskirts and further out suburban areas. In fact it should be called the part underground if we were to be picky.
That is the principle, quite simple really and our wonderful underground, or metro now that we all supposed to be Europeans is the oldest and largest in the world. My isn't that something to be proud of? Well, I think it is, lets forget about the Underground's current woes (more of that latter) and tell you a little history. It was the middle of the nineteenth century, London was expanding rapidly, and the congestion was a nightmare (sound familiar?) So the plan was to create an underground train system. The first line measuring 6 miles or 4 kilometres (depending on your distance measuring preferences) ran from Paddington to Farringdon Street and it was constructed by the metropolitan railway company, which has today gone on to be known as the metropolitan line. Since those heady days, the expansion has been huge and the latest development saw a significant portion of South-East London connected to the Underground by virtue of the Jubilee Line extension, which of course tak
es in the national treasure that is the Dome.
The Underground is divided up into a number of lines, Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith and City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Waterloo and City. Each of these lines serves a distinct part of outer London and they then converge into central London in a mass sprawl. Oh sorry, the Waterloo and City line just links Waterloo with the financial district via Bank station. To find your way around there is a nice brightly coloured map (each line represented in a different colour), Geoffrey, my pet giraffe has his favourite line and that is the Northern line as it is coloured black!
Let me ask you a question. Did you know what Harry Beck was and is famous for? Yep, the Tube map, he created the first version in 1933. It was based on a simple electrical circuit design that stripped the Tube sprawl down to its basics. The map is still used in its amended form today and the blueprint has been used across the world.
So how do you use the thing? Well, obviously you go to one of the 275 stations and get on a tube, selecting your destination and changing lines where necessary. Am I patronising you, well Gordon the mole (one of Geoffrey's friends) thought that you used the London Underground by digging under people's lawns. It was when an irate Queen Mother ran at him with a broom handle (after a particularly good tunnelling spell under her lawn) that he realised that you had to go to a station and use the trains.
If you have a disability, such as problems with stairs and escalators, then some of the Underground will not be accessible to you, but they are improving these facilities all the time. (Well they have to it is the law.) But from my knowledge most of the touristy destinations are fine, in terms of disabled access.
Let me say this, the Underground is busy, in terms of passenger trips, those made on the London
Underground are equal to all those made on the other rail operators put together (of course people tend to make longer journeys with the other rail operators), but the thing is busy. In fact I am led to believe that the Underground carries 18 million passengers a year making around one billion trips. That is a hefty amount and the system is creaking.
Before I got sick, about two years ago, I used the Underground at least twice a day. To work and back, and sometimes more if I had to go to outside meetings. I was never one of these fancy dan city lawyers that took a taxi everywhere. Luckily for me the majority of the time, I travelled outside the rush hour, before and afterwards, as travelling on the Underground during the rush hour times about 8-10 AM and then 5-7 PM is akin to some kind of horrible torture. People push and shove, there is no space, it is hot and sweaty, uncomfortable and being quite short I would often end up pushed against somebody's sweaty armpit. Pleasant. Oh yes, deeply pleasant. What was the most galling thing was that at least two or three times a week there would be severe delays. Stuck in a tunnel, cramped, hot, sweaty and deeply uncomfortable (there is no air-conditioning on the trains), you would rarely be informed as to what the problem was and boy people were grumpy! I suppose this is what comes from living in London, but there must be a better way. Over my commuting period, I used the Central and Northern lines regularly and both were as bad as each other, with the Northern line, being surprisingly better, despite its reputation as the misery line.
Now I use the Underground less frequently, probably about every two weeks, to trek to the doctors or make an appearance at the office. I do not travel at rush hour, but the whole system seems to be getting worse. There are always delays and I cannot remember the last time that I had a smooth, hitch free journey on the Underground. My partner Lorraine, used
to use it every day to get to and from work, but she has given up, fed up with the delays, poor information and terrible service. She now makes a twenty-minute walk to the overhead train line and uses that instead. Despite the terrible press the main train lines have been getting, this is still a more reliable and pleasant way to travel.
Added to this much of London the Underground is dirty, grimy, battered and unpleasant.
As far as I can tell, years of improper maintenance, poor management, a lack of replacement of parts and I suppose general neglect have led to a situation where the Underground is over capacity and cannot cope. Too many people, using too old and decrepit a system has meant meltdown.
In terms of cost, compared to worldwide metro ticket prices, the Underground is expensive (although of course not as heavily subsidised), a return from Zone 2 to Zone 1, costs £3.80, or £1.90 for a single. There is no discount for buying a return ticket. If you are a tourist and are coming in to see the sites, you will only need a Zone 1 ticket, and will make a few journeys in the day, so you are better off getting a travel card. A Zone 1 travel card is not sold, but a Zone 1 and 2 travel card costs £4, which is actually good value and you can make as many trips as you like in the relevant zones on the one-day. What are Zones, well the stations are grouped into Zones and the central areas are all in Zone 1, with Zone 2 - 6 gradually moving further out from the centre of the city. There are a multitude of different tickets and the best place to look for details is the web-site www.thetube.com, or you could call the London Travel information line on 020 7222 1234.
You can pretty much be certain of being able to catch a train from about 6am in the morning to 11.30pm at night, throughout the whole network, but with central London stations, you can probably say 5.30am to 12.00am. But there are no late night tubes or early m
orning tubes (depending on what you call 2.30am) for you clubbers, except on New Years Eve.
The Underground is essential to London, it transports millions of people, and business would be in dire straits if it were not there. Tourists are whisked from the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, shoppers are conveyed from Oxford Street to Covent Garden. The uses and the needs for the Underground are vast, yet it has been left to decay. For the future there is the public-private initiative, with companies bidding to buy and then run the various lines. (I know this is a simplistic summary, the idea is rather more complex than that.) I for one hope that it works, the Underground needs it, London needs it and it would be nice to be able to rely on the old system.
London Underground say the following: "the Underground is not only the oldest and biggest metro system in the world, it's also one of the most modern and convenient, running for 20 hours every day". Well, modern and convenient are not two words that I would choose to use.
The London Underground should be great, it conveys people, but it is run poorly, it breaks down too often, it is deeply unpleasant to use at certain times and the information given to customers is appalling. Please sort it out.
Oh and Geoffrey says that it is a good job that he is a small giraffe as otherwise he would not be able to fit in the trains. I cannot tell you what he thinks of the service as it is unrepeatable, but uses a number of offensive giraffe profanities.
I give it 2 stars as the service is so appaling, but if it ran properly and was clean, it would get 5 stars.
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