Mysterious delays, equipment failures and chronic rush-hour overcrowding are among the reasons Londoners have a love-hate relationship with their remarkable underground system, AKA the Tube.
The world’s first underground passenger service ran between Paddington and Farringdon on a 9th January back in 1863. Marking a truly impressive milestone for the British public transport network, carved from the hot clay beneath London’s streets and which survived the bombs of World War II.
Most of the original station building is still in use at Farringdon. During this initial phase, steam trains took carriages between west London and the City.
The Tube – as it became known by 1890 due to its increasingly deep and narrow tunnels- rapidly became a huge success with 26,000 daily passengers within the first six months regardless of the initial threats to users that included asphyxiation from smoke and petty crime.
The privately funded network developed very quickly, adding new lines and stations when entrepreneurs realised that there were profits to be made by “digging deeper”. By 1904, London already had six underground lines and was its way to be completely powered by electricity.
By connecting the capital’s suburbs to quick and efficient transit for the masses, the Tube helped shape the way of London as we know it now. Communities developed around areas Tube stations. The expansion of the underground at the turn of the 20th century linked the London’s population a whole range of opportunities in terms of jobs and leisure activities.
Only last year a record 1.171 billion passenger journeys were made across the network that now covers over 400 kilometres and connects 270 stations on 12 lines.
As for what the future holds for our beloved Tube; the current London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has promised new technologies, partly funded by yearly price increases on top of the new Crossrail and the Thameslink lines, but many argue that for London to continue to thrive as a world capital -and to cope with the demand in the 21st century- the network needs a lot more than that.
At busy commuting times it’s hard to disagree with the view that London transport will only get busier in the coming years, but for the moment we just want to say: Happy Birthday Old Friend 🙂