London Trip Report “The Tube”


“Mind the gap, please” … “Mind the gap, please”.

These words rings in my head everytime I took the tube in London. I have heard of this phrase being used before but not until I really see what the “gap” is like on the London Underground. I mean, it should not be too tough making sure that the train floor aligns to the platform but no, most station does not align at all.

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This gap above was not too bad. I have seen worse. There is a station where there is a six inch gap between the train and the platform. Anyone know why it is like that in the London Underground?

The London Underground is the oldest underground system in the world. It is also the longest in route length. It is amazing to learn that the first line was built way back in 1863 (not 1963!!). Below is the map of the London Underground. There are currently 275 stations in the entire network. It took a while for me to get used to it but once I get myself familiar, it was not too difficult.

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Despite its name, about 55% of the network is above ground. Popular local names include the Underground and, more familiarly, the Tube, in reference to the cylindrical shape of the system’s deep-bore tunnels. That is why you see that the top of the train were rounded.

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Unlike modern subway trains and the narrowness of the train, the seating configuration is not optimum for standing passengers. The aisle between the two rows of facing seats were so close I see that many people don’t even want to move it to make room for others coming on board.

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When taking the tube, you should pay attention to the service updates. It’s because not every line is in operation all the time. So, you need to pay attention on which line is open and then plan your route accordingly. The service updates below are electronically displayed while older stations had them handwritten on whiteboards.

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Find the stations is easy. You just need to look for the familiar red circle with blue band logo — it is called a roundel. You could get to a station in the city centre within not more than 10 minutes walk. It is that convenient.

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Many of the stations were unbelievably deep underground. Some of the busy interchanges were four levels deep. There is also one that was so deep that they had built lifts that shuttles passengers to the surface. The trains and most of the stations were not air-conditioned and you actually can feel the high humidity while in the station and the trains.

I took the tube to the city centre using a 6-zone TravelCard. The card costs 6.30GBP and allows me unlimited rides on the tube and buses for the whole day. I stayed near Heathrow and getting down to the city centre takes about 1 hour.

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There is an alternative way to get from Heathrow to the City Centre in just 15 minutes. It’s called the Heathrow Express. It’s pretty expensive — one way ticket costs 19 GBP!!

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Now, this train is more modern and definitely more comfortable. I took the Heathrow Express just once.

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The Heathrow Express station in Paddington was also much cleaner and nicer.

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5 thoughts on “London Trip Report “The Tube”

  1. PS.. Most of the deep staions were built with lifts (elevators in US English) but most were replaced with escalators in the early 20th century for safety reasons.
    There are many old station surface buildings directly above stations, which became disused when the escalators were installed, and are now serving as shops, bars etc. (new surface buildings had to be built for the escalators – the deeper the station the further away from the original entrance of course!)

  2. Re: ‘the gap’..
    London’s underground railway network was, unlike all of the rest of the world’s undergound railways, not built as a planned system.
    Each line was constructed by individual companies, at different times, each using its own standards for carriage size, rail gauge etc.
    When the whole network was unified as The London Undergound, run by London Transport, the rails were standardised but many of the platforms remained the odd sizes used by the old independent operators.

    This evolution also explains the many different depths of line on the network.

  3. I just had to say, like the poster above, I came across your blog while looking for food (classic indian spicy curry recipe) haha

    Have a Good Day!

  4. You answered the question about the gaps between trains and platforms with the sentence straight after it: “The London Underground is the oldest underground system in the world.”
    The actual platforms haven’t changed much in the past 100 years, but the trains themselves have become slightly narrower, I think. Because the system is so congested and the tunnels so narrow, trains have to be quite small to be able to travel round bends at a fair speed. The oldest lines are straighter, so the older trains aligned with the platforms better. The trains travel on much more curvy lines that you’d think from the map.

    On the old (and deepest) Northern line, some of the platforms aren’t long enough to cope with the modern trains, so you hear announcements telling you to move into the next carriage if you are at the back of the train and want to get off. It’s also on the Northern line that you are likely to see black mice living on the scraps of food waste on the tracks. I think the mice have evolved blindness, as they live in complete darkness and haven’t seen actual daylight ever. Most of the overground stations are in the outer suburbs, as the tube continues to expand with London itself.

    The station with the lift/elevator is Covent Garden. It’s not actually one of the deepest stations. It’s just in a very congested area, right next to Leicester Square (where there are 3 or 4 stations within 5 minutes walk.) There simply wasn’t room to build escalators or staircases.

    British train fares are among the highest in Europe (London recently overtook NYC to become the most expensive city to live in in the world), and yet the trains are generally old, uncomfortable and break down a lot. Unlike other EU countries, the government doesn’t fund the entire network with taxpayers’ money, so the companies that run the trains are more profit-orientated. The poor state of train travel in Britain is partly responsible for the traffic congestion (cars and lorries) associated with London. I like the Tube a lot, but it doesn’t take long to realise that many locations worth visiting are actually in walking distance of each other. Certainly, nearly everything is walkable from the Circle line in the middle, so if you visit again, you can probably make do with a Zone 1/2 travelcard rather than spending all that money for all the zones out to number 6.

    I actually found this blog while looking for a picture of a pot of Tesco pasta (don’t ask why!) but found it an excellent read, with some good information for people wanting to visit London. I’m not sure what time of year you travelled, but I’d say that Spring is the best time to visit. You can then appreciate how much greenery this supposedly smoggy city has to offer (some of the public parks are massive and the blossom on the trees can help you forget all the cars). London, like most urban areas, is horrible in the cold and damp, while midsummer is usually too hot and humid for comfort. In winter the temperatures in the tube can be 5-10 degrees centigrade lower than at ground level, whereas Summer heatwaves can mean the underground temperatures are 15 degrees warmer than the fresh air. It is not nice being jammed in a tube train in the rush hour on a hot day!

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