London’s famous transportation system carries almost three million people a day in the 4,134 carriages that travel beneath the city’s surface.–
Every day, millions of people – Londoners, tourists, operators, drivers and many others – descend into the depths of the long circular passageways that make up the London Underground, or as its known in the British capital, “the Tube”.
While some walk, others race through the 407 kilometres of labyrinthine tunnels which form this great subterranean work of engineering, and which shuttle passengers from one point in the city to another.
According to official figures, 2.87 million people travel the Underground’s eleven lines each day.
Just last year, in 2011, over 1.1 billion journeys were made, the highest figure ever recorded since the Underground was built 149 years ago in 1863.
It was a few years before the launch of London’s first underground railway system that Charles Pearson spoke of putting “trains in the drains”. Towards the end of the 19th century, the centre of London was being brought to a standstill on a daily basis due to huge traffic build-up and, at that time, it was not permitted to build railway lines through the city centre.
The solution was to begin excavation, it was in 1860 when work started on the construction of the first tunnels, and it all became a reality in 1863 with the opening of the first line, the Metropolitan, which took 30,000 people on its first day.
This original line corresponds to parts of the modern-day Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. This section of track is considered the world’s oldest preserved underground railway.
The instantly recognisable red circle logo which indicates the Underground, however, didn’t appear in stations until 1908. Prior to this, the logo had simply been the word “Underground” in blue lettering.
The Underground Today
Although the Underground may seem like London’s most used mode of transport, it actually only accounts for 10% of journeys made. When compared with other forms of public transport, it comes out behind buses and trams, which take 20% of travellers. However it is used more than overground trains, which are used in only 9% of journeys, or the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), operating in part of the city, which is used in 1% of journeys.
Passengers whizzing all over London en route to their various destinations travel in one of the 4,134 carriages which make up the Underground’s fleet. They hurtle past at 33 kilometres an hour and stop at the 270 stations currently in service. It is estimated that each train travels 184,269 kilometres in a year and that only 45% of the Underground is actually underground.
As for stations, Waterloo is London’s busiest tube stop during peak hours, with 57,000 passengers passing through every day. It is also the busiest station in terms of annual footfall, calculated at 82 million.
As far as number of platforms goes, however, the station with the highest number is Baker Street, with a grand total of 10. The smallest station, conversely, is the stop for Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4, which is the only station to have just one eastbound line.
In order to reach the depths of the lines, passengers can use one of the Underground’s 426 escalators dotted across its network of stations. Waterloo is the tube stop with the most escalators, having 23.
Another option is to take the lift. The deepest lift shaft can be found at Hampstead station, penetrating 55.2 metres below ground.
Since 2000, the Underground network has increased its size by 10%, adding to the number of kilometres of track in use. Nevertheless, the Underground still has challenges to overcome, such as connecting areas that now have enough inhabitants to merit a tube station.
Making all of these journeys possible are the more than 19,000 workers – drivers, security staff, platform controllers, cleaners, ticket sellers and many others – who keep this immense machinery in motion, meaning the Underground continues to run day after day with as few problems as possible.
In short, the Underground is an essential service that allows London’s more than 8 million inhabitants to go from Hyde Park to Oxford Circus, or from work in the busy city centre to the residential areas in the suburbs.
The Other Face of the Tube
Unfortunately, the London Underground is also famous for being the location of choice for many people who have decided to end it all. Last year, in 2011, 80 people committed suicide by throwing themselves onto the tracks, almost double the figure recorded for 2000, which was 46.
Statistics from Transport for London suggest a rise of 47% in this type of incident, coinciding with the onset of the economic crisis.
The station most affected by this rise has been King’s Cross St Pancras: in the last ten years 18 people have taken their lives there. Not far behind this is Mile End with 17.
As for the lines most affected by suicide, the Northern line has seen 145 suicides in the last decade, the Central line 99, Piccadilly 92, and District 81.
(Translated by Fiona Marshall – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)