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I am back to relaxing after a very demanding emotional and physical day. So here is an op on the London Underground system. I don’t want you to rate or judge this on factual information I have just read the other op on the London underground and it covers all the factual and operating services of the underground. Its great. This op is more on the experience of actually using it.
I have not used public transport in any form for over four years. However this morning I had an interview with a company in the centre of London and really didn’t want the hassle of the parking. I though it would be a change and a novelty to use the tube service.
I left my house at 9.30 and walked to my local station. Dagenham heathway, which is part of the district line. I fancied the walk and it was a nice morning. I arrived at the station at 9.45am. To my right there were several computerised ticket machines that I really could not be bothered to play around with. The ticket kiosk had no queue so I decided to let the human do the work rather than the machine.
The entrance to the station was dirty and there was a lot of litter on the floor. There was also a beggar with two large Labradors guarding it. I bought my ticket and I got a pleasant surprise. Ł5.10 return to Covent Garden, my destination. I thought that was reasonable. However, I do know it is more expensive if you travel before 9.30am.
The journey would involve three different lines. The district line, a journey of ten stations, followed by the Central line, six stations, and lastly the Piccadilly line, just one stop. I had to be there by 11am.
I walked down the slope to the platform. On arrival I was just in time to see the rear end of my train disappear into the distance. I immediately felt like my legs were missing without my car and a little twinge of regret for not using it. The platform was clean and tidy, but very busy with people. It was now 09.52am.
At 09.56 my train arrived absolutely covered in Graffiti. The outside of the train was filthy and looked
like it had never been washed. The doors opened and I was aghast at the mess it was in. There was litter covering the floor, litter on the seats, and more graffiti adorning the inside of the doors, and the panelling. There were not many people on the train so it was easy to get a seat as long as you brushed it down first. One thing in its favour was that it was warm; at least the heating was working properly.
I sat back to wait for my ten stops to disasapear. Approaching Barking, the third stop along the line, the driver announced over the public address system for passengers to change at barking for other destinations. I don’t remember them ever doing this before. The train stayed at barking station for three minutes with the doors wide open and it got cold.
Between barking and east ham I suddenly became aware of the vast amounts of graffiti we were passing. It decorated (if that’s the right word) every bridge, tunnel, power box, sides of houses, flats, walls, it was everywhere. Obscene words were on full view and sometimes they were large, over two or three feet high.
As we got closer to London’s east End the obscenities got worse. The sheer depravity of it surprised me, along with the volume of it. At Upton park the train suddenly filled up and there were no seats left. At West ham the driver again used the public address system to advise passengers. After leaving West ham the view got worse with the panorama sliding into human depravation. There were derelict flats and buildings, rubbish of all kinds, fridges, tyres, abandoned cars, piles of wood and anything else that had finished its usefulness to man.
“How can anyone live here”, I thought. Then I started to realise how lucky I was with living in my semi in Essex. However the evidence that humans did live here in this chaos was there, staring me in the face. I felt very lucky to be so privileged.
I arrived at Mile end at 10.21am. The station I was to change at. The platform at Mile end has both the district line and the Central line together so you wait on the same platform; you just walk a few yards to the other side. For the second time this morning I watched as my train disappeared into the tunnel. The platform at Mile end was clean and tidy, but it was packed with people.
One minute later another train arrived and I left Mile end at 10.22am. Central line trains are smaller than the district line trains. The train was busy, but there were a few seats left. I felt like I was sitting on the floor. It was very low. It felt claustrophobic and it was very hot. One of the things I noticed was the amount of different races there were on this train. No one seemed to be of the same race. They were all different. Very cosmopolitan. The public address system was used at various times but you couldn’t hear a word due to the high level of noise from the wheels on the rails.
I found this part of the journey boring as you are in the tube proper on this part of the line. It is all tunnels and blackness. That was until a very attractive young Japanese girl decided to sit opposite me. With her low cut top and lovely milky white breasts quite prominent for me to glance at, it kept me happily occupied for the rest of this part of the journey. We had one delay of two minutes outside Chancery lane, and a further three short stops, presumably for signals, which i found irritating. I arrived at Holborn, my next station to change at 10.39am.
To get on the Piccadilly line train you have to walk through a succession of tunnels and passageways to get to the platform. Although the signs are clear and easy to understand. Amazingly for the third time this morning I got to the platform to see the rear lights of a train disappear into the tunnel. But again within a minute there was another train. This train is built along the same lines as the Central line train and was small and cramped. It was packed with people and there were no seats. It was hot and stuffy and you were jammed in like sardines in a tin. It was very uncomfortable. With the walk and the ride it took six minutes to reach Covent Garden. I had arrived. It was 10.45am.
I left the train and followed the “way out” signs. One more obstacle awaited me. You have to get a lift to the surface, but there are four of them so the wait is minimal.
I arrived on the surface, glad for the fresh air and a cigarette. ( I know that contradicts itself.)
That was the experience ! So what do I think of the London Underground?
The platforms were all clean and tidy. The speed and fluency of the trains was impressive. It got me to my destination with virtually no delay, even though I missed three trains. I thought the price was good value for the money.
The District line trains were filthy. The graffiti was appalling and I would not like any young children I had with me to see it. The seats were small and uncomfortable. The Central and Piccadilly line trains were small, uncomfortable, cramped and hot. The Piccadilly line train felt like you were in a cattle market. I went outside the peak times; God knows what they are like in the rush hour. There were also beggars at all three stations I used. One was a young girl with a baby at Holborn. You had to step over her to get on the platform.
After four years away from public transport I was not impressed. The service I felt had declined even though the fluency of the trains was impressive. There were no service problems with my journey, but a number of signs and public address system announcements told of trouble elsewhere. With delays to five of the ten lines in different places. The comfort was non-existent and I felt the whole service was designed to get you from A-B in the shortest possible time without any regard for passengers needs. The overall picture to me seemed to be (Get you on, get you off as fast as possible.) Staff seemed to be in short supply. Only at Holborn did I see any. Disabled facilities did not seem very good.
MESSAGE TO KEN LIVINGSTONE AND HIS TRANSPORT FOR LONDON.
Dear Ken, I am not impressed with your supposedly improved tube network. You haven’t gained me as a customer.
The seminal and pioneering London Underground is more than a mass transportation network - ... more
it is a style icon, its history involving some of the most important architects and artists of their time. From Frank Pick's vision to Metroland and Holden's innovative designs, David Long expertly weaves the story of the Underground - its abundance of characters (some good, some not so good), design firsts and brand identity - with Jane Magarigal's atmospheric photography. From suburban expansion to Blitz bombings and Soviet adulation, this book celebrates what remains a magnificent engineering and aesthetic achievement while providing an affectionate if slightly elegiac portrait of a London which is now gone for good.