London Underground. Picture 2006.

London Underground. Flag of England.


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London Underground
Traveling without destination

London Underground, also called The Tube. Picture Earl's Court Station, 2006.
London Underground, also called The Tube
Earl's Court Station

London Underground, also called The Tube, is very similar to New York's Subway; it is just called differently in New York. The Tube is one of the mayor transportation systems in the city of London. It has some twelve different lines, about 275 stations and each day people use it close to three million times. Perhaps even more amazing is that some people like us can get to the right place on our first trial, and then keep doing it several times a day for the next two weeks without missing a single time. It is an extensive and complex system while at the same time it is easy to understand and has excellent direction signs.

London is divided into zones. Zone number one is like a circle including the downtown area where many of the tourist sites are. The other zones are like concentric circles getting further out as their number increase. Zone number two is the area around zone number one. Then zone number three encircles zone number two. And so on until zone number six. London is also divided into districts, but for now this division is not needed.

London Underground. Train waiting for passengers in one of the stations. Picture 2006.
Train waiting for passengers
London Underground

To ride The Tube a fare must be paid. As far as we understood, the ticket could be a one time only, all day regardless of how many times the services are used, or an entire week also with unlimited use. The ticket would also be for use within specified zones. The more zones the more expensive it would be.

We arrived in London October 15, a Sunday, on that same day we bought what is called an Oyster pass for each one of us. These passes were for one week for Zone 1 and Zone 2. Next Sunday we renewed the passes for the second week for the same zones. Saturday night, when we checked to get in or to get out, the turn table machine would tell us that our pass was about to expire.

We stayed at a hotel about half a block from Earl's Court Station, which is on the border line between Zone 1 and Zone 2. Then we rode The Tube to go downtown to see the attractions or to go to the train stations to catch a train to go to the other cities and towns. We only got out of Zone 1 when we went to the zoo, and still that was within Zone 2.

London Underground train going by at Temple Station. Picture 2006.
London Underground train going by
Temple Station

From what we can tell the basic public transportation in London is made up of the London Buses, the London Underground and the Taxis. There are other systems and services like the London River Services and the Canal or Waterways Services which we did use, but these are more specific and although very helpful and nice, we do not know up to what point they would be part of the mass transportation.

The buses and the taxis are easy because we see where we are going. The taxis we take them anywhere and we get dropped anywhere. The buses are somewhat different. They run a specific route and have predetermined stops. We get in at one of those stops and then get off at another. If the bus does not go where we want to go, then we change to another bus in a stop that the two routes have in common.

The Underground system is very similar to the buses, just that most of the time we do not get to see where we are. It is made up of trains that run a specific route, or line, making stops on predetermined stations. Each line runs from one station to another, with many other stations in between. Every time one station is reached, the train stops, opens the doors for some time and then closes them and continues to the next station. Passengers get in or out during the time the doors are open.

Some of the stations are used by more than one line. In these stations is where we changed lines when we wanted to do so. Sounds kind of dumb but once we got it we never got lost. To go somewhere all is required is to find the station closest by. Here is where the name of the districts helps because in many cases it is the name of the station. Then we looked up the Underground map to see what line serviced that station. If it was one of the lines that went by the station we were at, all we did was catch the train of that line going in the direction of the station we wanted to go to. If it was a different line, then we would see in what station the two lines met, go there and changed trains. We never had to change more than once. It is very easy, but with twelve different lines and close to 275 stations, we have to be frank and admit that just in case, we did paid attention. By the way, each line has a different color that identifies it.

We did use two train stations to go to cities and towns out of London. Waterloo Station has an Underground station within and The Tube station is about a block from Victoria Station. So the two systems, the Underground and the Trains are well integrated.

Notting Hill Gate Station. London Underground above ground. Picture 2006.
London Underground above ground
Notting Hill Gate Station

When we were there, The Tube was running from 5.00 AM to Midnight. Caught out of base when the clock rang twelve, well that was when the buses and taxis came really handy for us. Although we did get from the airport to the hotel in a taxi and used this service again to go back to the airport. Which since we were using the Heathrow Airport we could have done it in the Underground. To the other airports we believe the Underground does not make it but there are trains that will do the job.

During regular hours the trains were running about four to five minutes apart, with no noticeable difference on the weekend from the work week. Early in the morning, between 5.00 AM and 6.00 AM it took then longer to go by.

London Underground. Advertisement inside a train. Picture 2006.
Advertisement inside a train
Old handles. Newer cars have bars.
London Underground

The trains are made up of cars. Inside the cars there are places to sit and space for people to be standing. For those standing handles are provided. Above the windows and behind those handles there are advertisements and maps of the line the train is serving. As the train approaches a station a loudspeaker announces the station by name. The loudspeaker is also used to inform the passengers in cases when the train stops for some reason and if there is a delay.

In some cases the floor of the train is not at the same height as the floor of the station. So every time the doors are to be opened the loudspeaker says "Mind the Gap". Apparently this has been noticed by everybody and we saw some souvenir T-shirts with the sign of the Underground, the red circle with the blue bar, that instead of having the word Underground or the name of one of the stations written in the blue bar have "Mind the Gap". Just in case you see it out there.

End of the track - London Underground. Picture 2006.
End of the track
London Underground

Note: Regretfully security has been increased due to the tragic events caused by terrorists not too long ago on the London Underground. The pictures we present here are but a fraction of what they should have been. We limited ourselves to just the necessary as not to create more work for those taking care of security. We extend our most sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives on such events and our respect to the English people.

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Traveling without destination


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Last revision: January 1, 2007
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