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The London Underground well I consider myself a bit of an expert on the system having worked there as a Control Room Operative based at Euston Station. Below I will give my experiences of the Underground from every angle I can think of and I hope this does not bore you to much lol.
HISTORY OF THE UNDERGROUND -------------------------------------------------- This seems like a good point to start the review so you have a general understanding of how the Underground system came about and how much more advanced it is today compared to when it first opened.
The first Underground system was built way back in 1859 and was the first of it's kind in the world. The first system was set up in London. The first two lines to run were the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District then between 1859 and 1990 13 lines were opened opening the system up to cover most of the surrounding areas of London. The very latest line to open was the Jubilee Line.
There were many other smaller branch lines that were used but have since been de commissioned and there are load's of disused station which if you keep your eye's out the window when traveling you may just see yourself whizzing through. Having the great advantage of working on the system I was lucky enough to visit the old and disused Stations hidden behind closed doors in many of the big stations the spookiest of which I found to be Euston.
Behind the Northern Line platform is a little door and opens up like a spooky Alice in Wonderland story. As you enter you see all the old posters from the 1940s still intact on the wall's. The damp wet smell can be quite overpowering but you get used to it and the rat's after a while. Passing the old ticket house you can just see everyone piling through and trying to get their tickets before they miss the train.(At one stage I am sure I did actually see someone).
Ghost stories are rife amongst the staff and many many reports have been made regarding a tall gentleman in a long tall hat walking up and down the corridors not one I have seen but scares the hell out of you whilst down there. A Ghost Hunters paradise.
If you are fortunate enough to know someone that work's on the system ask them to arrange a tour with them they may just be able to sort it out but be aware that this is not normally aloud however some Station Managers will allow it provided all the relevant paperwork is completed it is a real experience especially those interested in history.
The Underground stations especially deep lying stations(Those tunneled the deepest down)were used as safe places during the war and many people slept down there during the night bombings as well as my Nan who was a regular visitor at nights. Although it was a known place to go for safety not many bed's were available and toilet facilities were nearly none existent so you just made do. My Nan tells me stories and say's just how close everyone was in the stations singing songs and all feeding each other sounded great in a have to make do kind of a way nothing like nowadays.
Bad history ---------------- One of the worst pre the London Bombings is the Fire at King's Cross which killed 27 people and was started by a simple cigarette butt being dropped under a wooden escalator in 1987 the fire began at 1930 and had it been earlier would have claimed many more lives. This prompted the Underground stations to be seriously revamped and all wooden escalators to be removed as well as a no smoking policy being introduced.
Another was the horrific Tube crash at Moorgate in 1975 which claimed the lives of 43 people there has to this day been no cause found for the crash. The train over ran the platform crashing into the tunnel wall at 30 mph. It took twelve hours to clear the site of injured and dead as most of the station was left in complete darkness.
One we all know is the horrible London Bombings on 7th July 2005 when four bombers killed themselves by detonating home made devices on three trains and a bus killing 52 people and injuring a huge 770 people many losing limbs. At first it was thought the explosions were Power stations causing power surges but the horrific truth soon came to light.
THE CURRENT SYSTEM ----------------------------------- Today the Underground is still one of the largest systems in the world with more stations than anywhere else. 275 Stations serve 13 Lines which are Bakerloo, Victoria, Northern, DLR, Circle, Hammersmith and City, Central, Piccadilly, Jubilee, District, East London, Waterloo and City and Metropolitan Lines and covers a total of 253 miles of railway. Most stations have more than one line running through them making it very easy to change lines and get to your end destination quickly and with little fuss.
Every Station is staffed and there are approx 12000 staff employed to help keep the system running smoothly and securely. The Underground reports to have 3 Million passengers every day but I would personally estimate much more than this having seen the sheer volume of people that passed me every hour whilst I was working there.
The staff are trained as I was to a very high standard with week's of training pre employment and ongoing training almost on a weekly basis. The staff are treated very well despite what you read and the salaries are good in fact very good shame I had to leave.
MAP ------ The Underground Map is probably one of the most famous in the world created way back in 1933 by an Underground Employee Harry Beck and it has not changed much since his original design some 74 years ago. It was a stroke of genius and started the Underground staff reward system which is a great benefit should an idea of your's be implemented.
The map is now available to download from the London Underground Website or can be picked up at any Station, It is also available in large size for those who are visually impaired and in many different languages for travelers however it is very easy to read and color co-ordinated.
There are also many helpline phones numbers contained on the map for help whilst traveling on the system as well as a large print map on nearly every platform around the system. All map's supplied are free of charge and also included in most tourist book's for London.
TICKETING ---------------- London Underground has two types of ticketing both of which are very easy and very easy to use.
Oyster Card ----------------- The Oyster Card is designed mainly for those who use the system on a very regular basis it can be scanned at either the kiosk or ticket machines and then the relevant amount of credit placed on it.
This is a touch sensitive ticket so just approach the barrier and touch your card on the circular Oyster logo and the gates will open providing you have enough money on your card. The system will automatically deduct your fare from the card upon leaving at your destination. The card can also be kept and re used just top it up and away you go again. They can be topped up at any station and newsagents as well as at the manual machines.
All form's of Travel Card can be bought and placed on the card it just expires when the date is up. This invention was a god send for staff on the gate line who used to have to use a key to let people through when their passes didn't work but with the Oyster you just touch the pad and let the passenger through.
Paper Tickets ------------------- You can still purchase the old fashioned paper ticket which you just slide into the slot at the front of the gate and it appears on top and allows you access should your ticket be valid. The machines are very easy to use as they work on a zonal charge basis so your station will be within a designated zone and your destination station in another and you pay for the zones you travel through. You can also just select the station you are going to and it will automatically charge the correct fare.
Travel Cards are a great way to get about London for the day as they cover Trains, Buses and Tube trains and provided you get an all zone Travel Card you can travel anywhere in London you like. These can be a cheap and easy way to travel around however if you are only doing one or two journeys this may not be the cheapest ticket, always check with the ticket office if your not sure as they are there to help.
STAFF --------- The staff on the whole are really good well trained and helpful however bear in mind that they do have to deal with some very nasty people and may not always be in the best of mood's as I am sure we are all not sometimes. Working with the public on such a large scale can be very stressful and especially at the very busy times of day.
Staff will always help you with information on both traveling and local thing's to see as well as direction's we are very well trained and after telling people where thing's are a couple of hundred times a day usual can help with anything. Staff are put through vigorous training and have to be licensed to carry out their duties so you can rest in the knowledge that should an emergency occur there will be someone on hand that knows what they are doing and can help. Staff also act as Security for the station and deal with not only passengers but some of the very worst of society I personally was attacked with a dirty syringe whilst on duty. Although staff are very well trained obviously things like the London Bombing's just can't really be deterred so they really on the public as well as CCTV and Control room staff for help in keeping the system safe and hopefully nothing like that terrible day will ever happen again.
PROBLEMS ----------------- Heat
The heat is a main problem with London Underground as constantly when the weather get's hot which seems to be more and more regular in the past few years people are taken ill and in some cases have died. The system as such has no ventilation or air conditioning that is effective at bringing the temperature on the system down being underground and especially during rush hours it gets very very hot and can cause some major problems. People are fainting on trains all the time during the hot weather and this has knock on effects as other trains have to wait in tunnels whilst the first incident is dealt with, however by the time the next train comes through someone else has gone down. The most common cause for this is a mixture of the heat and lack of food and drink before leaving home so many times the answer to have you eaten this morning is no.
The system having so many people flowing through it is prone to beggars who sometimes can be very aggressive with it and in some extreme cases children are used to help the person beg(this I find the worst). As staff we always did and I am sure they still do our best to clear out beggars and stop the harassment as it can be very intimidating for some passengers and is not short of robbery. You tend to find that most of those begging are drug dependant and this causes more problems with used needles etc being found on the stations on a daily basis, staff do their best to clean them up upon discovery but always appreciate having it reported should you discover one.
There are unfortunately many reasons why the system can be shut down from the extreme such as the London Bombings to a train breaking down in a tunnel. The reason something like a train breaking down causes so much trouble is that it blocks the line and unless the line has a slip then you just have to wait until the train can be shunted out the way. The system however is great compared to other forms of public transport and with trains running on average every 2-5 minutes your never waiting long for the next one. You can always make life easier for yourself as all planned work that needs doing and any line closures that are planned are always displayed on boards at the ticket office well worth a check when there.
Not all stations have disabled access though they are working on this and hope to have all the system updated eventually, staff are however always there to help in any way that they can providing it is safe to do so.
Trains are always very crowded during rush hours and are not the most comfortable ride in the world, they have been improved over the years but without losing a lot of the space for passengers there is not really much that can be done with the limited space, increasing the size of trains or length would put a strain on the system and create major safety issues as well as increasing waiting times.
FUTURE PLANS ----------------------- There are many future plans including Refurbishment of Stations, Mobile Phone Receivers, Kings Cross and St Pancreas redevelopment and probably the biggest project of all is the re development of Wimble Park ready for the opening of the New Wimble Stadium and the Olympics in 2012.
WEBSITE -------------- The London Underground has a great website that can be found at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tube/ the site is very easy to navigate and you can find out anything you want to know that you have not learned from this review. Online and printable Map's are available to download as well as the latest travel new's and planned works being carried out on the system. There are also links to be able to purchase your tickets in advance and have them delivered to you.
A great feature is also a route planner which will give you times and changes needed to complete your journey on the Underground. Then you have a link to be able to purchase the ticket needed and price you will have to pay. I however always enjoyed using the map however it became imprinted in my head after working for the London Underground for 5 years lol. You can also check the latest job's available on the London Underground.
JOBS -------- There are many different job's you can do on the Underground and the beauty of working for them is they will train you up to be whatever you want within the system. You can go in at entry level as a Station Assistant and various permutations of it and a Train driver however progression is very easy provided you have the dedication required and it has been known for people to become Station managers within a year.
The Pay is quite simply great when I started as a Station Assistant my salary for 38 hours a week was £18500 a year and when in the Control Room after being employed for a year I was on £25000 a year. The training is top drawer and no stone is left unturned in getting you up to speed and ready for your new career I am only sad that I had to move out of London otherwise I am sure it would have been my job for life.
SUMMARY --------------- The London underground system is probably one of the best if not the best in the world from the reliability to the staff it oozes professionalism and service and can only go from strength to strength. There are a few issues that need to be worked out such as those I have listed above but overall I can't knock a system that is 148 years old and still running strong and improving all the time.
I do hope I have covered any queries you may have about the London Underground system and supplied you with some interesting and helpful information however if you have any further questions please leave a comment and I will get back to you.