The Tube

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Is the name given to the London Underground rail network, the fastest way to travel through Greater London and some counties.

The first tunnels were built just below the surface using the cut and cover method, and are large enough to take trains of normal size. Later, smaller circular tunnels – which give rise to its nickname – were dug through the London Clay at a deeper level.

The network has 12 lines, plus the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and an interconnected local train network (they can be identified by Color). It generally runs between 5am and midnight, Monday to Saturday, with reduced operating hours on Sunday.

London’s public transport network is divided into nine travel zones each with a different fare (Before the introduction of fare zones, tickets for rail travel in Greater London were purchased on a ‘point-to-point’ basis between two stations, either as a single, return or season ticket; and were priced according to distance travelled).

London Tube Map

Devised in 1933 by Harry Beck, the Underground map is a 20th-century design classic. It’s very useful, clearly indicating the general directions used to designate trains (north, south, east or westbound), and with all interchanges clearly shown.

Curious facts
  • Many tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, but the Central Line was even converted into a fighter aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980s

  • The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the underground network is only 260 metres. The tube journey between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line takes only about 20 seconds, but costs £4.80 (cash fare). Yet it still remains the most popular journey with tourists
  • Angel has the Underground’s longest escalator at 60m
  • The deepest station is Hampstead on the Northern line, which runs down to 58.5 metres
  • Wildlife observed on the Tube network includes woodpeckers, deer, sparrowhawk, bats, grass snakes, great crested newts, slow worms
  • The London Underground trains were originally steam powered

  • The station with the most escalators is Waterloo with 23
  • In 1926, suicide pits were installed beneath tracks due to a rise in the numbers of passengers throwing themselves in front of trains
  • In 1924, the first baby was born on the Underground, on a train at Elephant & Castle on the Bakerloo line
  • The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board
  • Alcohol was banned on the Tube – and all London Transport – from June 2008
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