The London Underground is one of the English capital’s most impressive feats of engineering and adds a level of ease for individuals hoping to travel across the city that other world-class capitals may look upon with envy.
That said, visitors to London are not always completely aware of the best ways to get from A to B when travelling via the Tube and that is where this helpful guide hopes to shed some light.
A (very) brief history of the London Underground
However, before we get down to the nitty-gritty of how best to make your way around the Underground, first let’s take a look at the history and beginnings of this man-made wonder.
First proposed by London planners as far back as 1830, the Underground opened in 1863 and is considered the oldest rapid transit system in the world. It has a rich and interesting heritage that visitors to London can easily explore, with the early years of the service helping to build the reputation of this world-class piece of public infrastructure both at home and overseas.
The network’s first tunnels were built using the ‘cut and cover’ method, whereby engineers dug down into the ground to create the necessary structures, before supporting them with wooden posts and covering them over with soil. Later additions were created using circular tunnel boring methods, giving rise to the network’s nickname, the Tube.
A transport network fit for the 21st century
Today, millions of visitors and Londoners alike are able to make use of efficient mass-transit between every part of the English capital and that is an achievement wholly down to the extension and efficient nature of the London Underground network.
Upgrades and extensions are being carried out all the time right around the Tube network, with visitors able to keep up with any disruptions in the service due to this ongoing maintenance via the official Transport for London website.
At present, a total of 11 lines carry travellers between the many corners of the English capital, with a full breakdown covering the opening and closing stations of each, as well as its colour code on Underground maps, available below:
- Bakerloo line (brown) running from Elephant & Castle in central London to Harrow & Wealdstone in the north-western outer suburbs, via the West End.
- Central line (red) running from Ealing and Ruislip in the west to Epping in the north-east.
- Circle line (yellow) running from Hammersmith to Edgware Road and then looping once around central London back to Edgware Road.
- District line (green) running from Upminster to Earl’s Court from east to west through central London.
- Hammersmith & City line (pink) running between Paddington and Bow Road in the centre of the capital – the line skirts the City of London and is one of the oldest routes of the London Underground.
- Jubilee line (grey) running from Charing Cross station in central London to Stratford in the east of the city – the line was opened in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.
- Metropolitan line (purple) running from Aldgate in the City of London to Watford and Uxbridge in the outer suburbs.
- Northern line (black) running from High Barnet and Edgware Road in the north of London, down to Morden in the south.
- Piccadilly line (dark blue) running from Cockfosters to Heathrow Terminal 5 and crossing the Metropolitan line in several locations.
- Victoria line (light blue) running from Brixton in the south of the city to Walthamstow Central in the north-east.
- Waterloo & City line (turquoise) running from Waterloo Underground station to Bank-Monument station – the line brings millions of people into the busy borough of the City of London from across the south-east of England.
Each of the lines offers dozens of stations along its route – 270 in total across the whole network – with each criss-crossing one another and providing swift and easy access to the capital’s many outstanding attractions as a result.
Official statistics show that more than 1.3 billion passengers use the London Underground service every year, which is a real testament to the engineering genius of those that built and maintain it.
Top tips for Tube travellers
So here we go, the information that we’ve all been waiting for, the top tips that can help travellers make their way around London using the Underground with as little stress as they can possibly imagine.
By following some of the simple steps below, visitors to London can travel just like the locals do and ensure they reach their desired destination with as little fuss as possible and ready to enjoy the many great sights that London has to offer.
- Invest in an Oyster card – Travellers hoping to see many sights around London could benefit from purchasing an Oyster card to make paying for their journeys that much more straightforward. It allows users to simply swipe in and out of stations rather than purchasing tickets and can be pre-loaded with fares.
- Have tickets ready at the barriers – Visitors hoping to reduce stress may find this difficult when confronted with the long queues that can form at the barriers. As such, it is important individuals have either their ticket of Oyster card ready to go when they reach the front of the line, so as not to hold up themselves and others.
- Try to avoid rush hour travel – The morning and evening rush hours are some of the busiest times for the London Underground and indeed for all transport options across the city. It is therefore advisable for visitors to arrange their itineraries to avoid travel at these times each day.
- Check for disruptions before travelling – With ongoing upgrade and maintenance works taking place across the Tube network on a regular basis, visitors keen to avoid any disruption to their journeys should check out planned closures via the Transport for London website before heading out.
- Keep right on escalators – A simple practice that enables those in a rush to get past other passengers on escalators is to always stand on the right and to leave the left lane open.
- Allow people to leave trains before embarking – Similarly, those keen to make the most efficient progress when travelling by the Tube should remember to allow disembarking passengers to get off trains before they try to get on. Not only does this free up space inside, it is simple common courtesy and good manners.
- Carry refreshments in the warmer months – Due to its underground nature and the confined space of the Tube, temperatures can quickly rise during the warmer months of the year. It is therefore advisable for travellers to carry a bottle of water with them when travelling, simply to ensure they remain well hydrated during their journey.
- Don’t panic – Finally, one of the most important pieces of advice that anyone planning journeys via the Tube can receive is to remain calm and never to panic. Friendly staff are always on hand to help people out with any queries about their travel arrangements or if they get lost, and information is always available at station kiosks and on the trains themselves.
And there you have it, for all those hoping to make light work of a trip on the London Underground, following these recommendations can ensure travellers reach their destination in the most relaxed manner possible.