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THE LONDON UNDERGROUND
I was brought up in Surrey which is about half an hour by overground train to Waterloo, so London is pretty easy to get to. If you want to travel around London there are really only two options, either by bus or the underground. If like me you have been to London so many times you've lost count then the chances are you can find your way around the Underground quite easily. If you live a bit further away and rarely visit London I imagine the experience can be quite daunting. There are so many things to say about the London Underground but I will try to stick to the main things you need to know about the system.
When you arrive in London the first thing you need is a London Underground map. These can be bought from the majority of tube stations from a small machine. They cost about £2 at the moment but are well worth it. They fold up nicely so you can fit it into your bag and when folded there is a small map of all the underground lines. If you have come to this review to find out more about the underground and how it works please also see www.tfl.gov.uk where you can plan your journey and download maps.
SO WHAT ARE THE LINES?
The underground system make look complicated at first look but it isn't that bad. The main lines are as follows: (the colours indicate which colour they are on the map)
BAKERLOO (Brown) CENTRAL (Red) CIRCLE (Yellow) DISTRICT (Green) EAST LONDON (Orange) HAMMERSMITH & CITY (Pink) JUBILEE (Grey) METROPOLITAN (Purple) NORTHERN (Black) PICCADILLY (Dark Blue) VICTORIA (Light Blue) WATERLOO & CITY (Turquoise)
As someone rightly pointed out to me I had omitted an important part about the Undergroud structure. The London Underground is split into Zones. There are 6 zones in total. Zone 1 covers the centre of London and is the largest zone, taking in the majority of underground stations. The zones vary in size and take in different areas. Zone 6 takes you right out
into the suburbs into Surrey on the West and Epping and Upminster on the East. The zones will affect the price of your ticket. The closer you get to zone 1 the more expensive your ticket will be.
Although I have been using the London Underground for some time it wasn't until recently that I had to use it everyday for a month while doing a work placement. You don't realise just how important each line is until it isn't running, and then you have to find an alternative route.
Everything written here is my own opinion and not taken from any facts/figures.
When you arrive at the required line you will find you have to choose which way you need to go. The options will be either Northbound or Southbound, or Eastbound or Westbound. This corresponds with the map. If your station is on the left of your map then you will need to choose West, it is quite simple.
The thing I like about the Underground is the way everything is signed. You can easily find which escalator you need to go down/up, which direction you need to be travelling (north,south,east or west), where the exits are, ticket machines etc. There has been lots in the news about London Underground staff but on the whole I have always found them pleasant and helpful. I have travelled on the underground with large suitcases on numerous occasions and have always been given help if needed.
Before having to undertake my work placement I always thought the trains were reliable and on time. I liked getting to a platform and never having to wait more than about 3 minutes for the train to arrive. Although there are many lines that run like this I have found the Circle and District Line to be a little less reliable. The trains were very often delayed and during the 4 week period this line was closed twice and I had to go completely out of my way. The lines I have found to be most reliable are the City Lines and Jubliee line.
THE 'SQUASH' FACTOR
Something you should expect when travelling by tube in London is to not get a seat, especially if you are traveling at peak time ie before 9 am and after about 4pm. The trains are extremely busy during these times and sometimes can be unbearable. People try their best to hold onto the bars but there can be times that the train is so packed you are held up by other people. Not the nicest of situations to be in! If you do not like enclosed spaces or are prone to claustophobia I wouldn't recommend using the underground.
The 'squash' factor leads me onto the facilities for disabled people, as in they are very limited. The underground is practically unusable for anyone in a wheelchair. The London Underground hope to have step-free access to over 100 Underground stations by 2020. So the future is looking for better for people with disabilities, however for the time being the Underground is not an option.
The cheapest option is to get an oyster card. This means you pay before you use the service. You can get an oyster card from any train station or newsagent. You then need to put some money onto your card. Each time you arrive at the barriers you simply swipe your card over the circle, wait for the beep, and then continue through. Prices will vary depending on your journey.
Another option is to get a Zone 1 - 6 travelcard. This will cost a full paying adult £6.20, but will take you right into central London. I think this is extortion! But luckily for me I have a student railcard so a travelcard only costs me £4 odd. As I said before the price will vary depending on which zones/route you are taking.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TRAVELLING BY TUBE
I have said lots about how to get around the tube network and prices etc but now I want to give my own personal opinion about travelling by tube train.
I have never been scared to travel around London by tube. I am not worried about being underground and I don't get claustophobic. Generally the experience isn't too painful. The worst part is being stuck between so many people. When I travelled off-peak and was able to get a seat the journey wasn't that unbearable. I know for some people they would rather go out of their way on a bus than use the tube, but for me, the speed and accessiblity of the tube really makes it the best option for travelling around London.
I always feel safe on the tube. I don't know if it is because I am so used to travelling on it but I feel confident when on it, and i know that there are always other people in the same situation as me. Saying that, I wouldn't recommend travelling late at night on it because I can imagine it would be quite a lonely place. Always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN TRAVELLING BY TUBE
Always stand on the right of the escalators otherwise you will be pushed out the way by someone in a hurry, (basically everyone in London). Make sure you have your railcard or oyster card ready before you reach the barriers, otherwise you will start tripping people up as you stop and look for it. Don't rush to get on a train as there will always be one just a couple of minutes behind it. Better to wait 2 minutes than get trapped in the doors. Remember your mobile phone does not work underground so if you are arranging to meet someone or need to make an important phone call do it before you go down into the underground station.
No matter what time of the year you are travelling it is always warm and even hot on the underground, yes, even in the winter. I always end up taking my coat, and a few more layers off so remember this if you intend to travel on it!
There are windows at the end of each carriage which are intended to let a through-flow of air but the chances of you being able to get to one to open it is unlikely.
The problem with the Tube is there are no litter bins. After all the trouble with terrorist threats and such you can't really be surprised by this fact. I know I would rather see litter on the floor than a bomb!
Considering there are no bins I would expect to see more rubbish really. There are people who are employed to walk around with their bin liners so litter isn't a huge problem.
you missed the bargain aspect. I have zone 1-6 oyster card and am delayed at least 2x a week going out of the city, i know, reverse commuting, but for every delay over 15 minutes you get a voucher to the value of a single journeywhen you fill in the simple form.normally i pay about 60% of the monthly price. bargain, except i spend 12 hours on the tube a week :-(
hippykiller 02.04.2006 13:17
Ok thanks for that i might need that for when i go to london later
dan_wales 23.03.2006 17:49
nice review--one of the things i miss most about not living in london,always felt safe on it.