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Public transport in London: diverse, vital and vibrant

 Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (1)It is a pillar in the functioning of the city. Over 3 million Londoners use it. Without it, the city would be paralysed. The Underground, the Overground, buses, DLR, trams and even cycling are other options for passengers of this great capital.


The requirements for the transfer of its citizens are constantly transformed due to the demand of a population constantly on the move. In 2012 there were 1.171 billion journeys, 64 million more than the previous year.

Since starting in 1999, the studies conducted by Public Transport London (TFL) show that reliability, speed and confidence have grown by more than 80%.

Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (6)This growth began with the population movement that occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901).

London then went on to become a magnet for immigrants from the colonies and the poorer parts of Europe, whose numbers reached as much as 20% of the population of the capital.

The city grew an enormously requiring the development of public transport.

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, transport in London was expensive and  passengers did not have many options. The  ‘Hackney Carriages’ company had a monopoly and connected peripheral locations like Paddington, Camberwell, Blackheath.

Transporte público de Londres13The Thames was also another important route: many barges passed along the river between different parts on the banks, but the vast majority of workers could not afford to use public transport, forcing them to live within walking distance of their work, which resulted in overcrowding.

This situation changed thanks to George Shillibeer, an English coachbuilder. After visiting Paris in 1828 he was impressed by the effectiveness of a new type of transport by means of a horse-drawn bus. The following year, he began to run a bus connecting the suburbs of Paddington and Regent Park with the town centre.

In 1832, 620 buses were pulled by horses, and in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition in London, there were 150 routes with services often every 5-20 minutes in the centre of London and an hour or more in the suburbs.

These improvements remained virtually unchanged throughout the late nineteenth century, but it was in 1861 when, George Train, built the first tramways in London, which nine years later led to the first tram service between the districts of Brixton and Kennington.

Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (4)Buses

The problem with this type of transport was maintenance. A single bus or tram on the road required a team of 12 horses, an expense that could not be sustained.

But the situation changed with the advent of the motor coach to London just before the First World War.

Today, red London buses are a national symbol of the United Kingdom, running 6,800 daily services and carrying more than 6 million passengers. In addition, there are more than 100 night routes operating 24 hours a day.

Local buses, articulated buses (bendy buses) and double-decker buses (double-decker bus) run daily over 700 routes across the city.

Transporte público de Londres14The politician William Ewart Gladstone referred to this means of transport when he said “The best way to see London is from the top of a bus.”

No doubt, it is a highly valued means of transport for Londoners. According to the latest survey by ’Transport for London’ (TfL), statistics show that there is great confidence in the network of public bus services.

In the first months of 2012 there were only 2.23 complaints per 100,000 journeys, which were about drivers showing a rude attitude or not stopping at certain stops requested.


Transporte público de Londres10 The Metro

Another major transport in the city is the London Underground, or also known as “The Tube”.

Built in 1863, it is the world’s oldest subway. Although the first line did not look anything like it does now: it was only a steam train with carriages available for passengers in first, second and third class.

Today, three million people travel on the 11 lines every day connecting the suburbs and the centre of the capital.

Beneath London there is a network of 408 kilometres of track with over 275 stations.

According to TfL, last year there were only 1.72 complaints per 100,000 passenger trips, which makes it the best rail operator in the UK.

In addition, the TfL study makes clear the reliability the London commuter enjoys, making 1.17 billion of journeys last year while delays were reduced by 40% compared to 2007.

Another commuter rail service of great importance to the population of London is the ’London Overground’, that carries more than 400,000 passengers a day. Formerly part of ’National Rail’, it became part of Public Transport in London in 2007.

It works like a commuter train network that includes lines from Richmond to Clapham Junction, Stratford; Gospel Oak to Barking, Euston to Watford, and Highbury & Islington to West Croydon, Clapham Junction.

camdenBesides being one of the most modernized public transport in London, it seems that almost everyone is well ‘connected’ and that 30% of Londoners are less than 15 minutes from a metro station.

And despite the reduction of services during the weekend for maintenance, it is still the the train company with best performance.

People seem to be happy, because in the surveys conducted by the TfL during the spring of 2012 they achieved about  90% approval in terms of punctuality and reliability of service.


Using the bicycle for transport has also experienced a resurgence in recent years. It’s the cheapest way to get around the city and can sometimes be faster than public transport or private cars.

Between the launch of the public bike hire programme, ’Barclays Cycle Hire’ in July 2010, and December 2012 there were 18 million bike hirings.

Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (1)This bike network consists of 400 stations with 6,000 bikes throughout the city. Being a self-service system, bikes can be used 24 hours a day throughout the year.

In addition, in 2014 it is planned to add 2,000 new bikes and around 5,000 additional connection points, almost half of them south of the Thames,to provide a better connection between zone 3 and the centre of the city and improve the connections.

In this transport service, complaints dropped massively in 2012, to only 5.80 per 100,000 journeys, compared to 121.97 per 100,000 in 2011.


Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (5)The other transport system, with great cultural significance for the British, is the train. The DLR or Docklands Light Railway stands out,  operating since 1987 and has been one of the great successes of public transport in Britain.

The first model was born in the 1980s to help regenerate the London docks, which were in a state of neglect since 1960.

A subway system was proposed with three lines that ended in Tower Gateway, Stratford and Island Gardens, but in 1979 the current government changed those plans construction, leading to the first light railway in Britain.

Transporte público de Londres 1The Bayswater Omnibus (3)Besides being lighter, it possesses one of the most advanced automatic train control systems in the world, and the DLR has become the means of transport that has expanded most rapidly in the rest of the UK.

80 million passengers a year travel the tracks between Beckton, Lewisham, London City Airport, Woolwich Arsenal and Stratford International. It also has the lowest complaint rate in London, 2.46 per 100,000 passenger trips in 2012, and 86% satisfaction.


(Translated by: Sophie Maling – Email:


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