Know all about the “Tube” facility in London

The Underground (or The Tube as it is called) is a rapid transit system serving the people of London and some nearby counties in the United Kingdom. When built it was a vision unrivaled as Steam Engines had just been put to use recently and a train underground was really far fetched. It opened as the Metropolitan Railway in 1863, the world’s first underground railway. Today the network consists of 11 lines, has 270 stations, 250 miles of track and in 2015-2016 it carried 1.34 billion passengers. Know all about the culture and past of the city by pampering yourself a stay in The Marble Arch by Montcalm London.

The Story Begins

The story starts with Charles Pearson the first of many of Underground Visionaries. He proposed the idea of “Trains in Drains“ all the way back in 1845. He finally succeeded in persuading the House of Commons to build a subterranean railway track between the cities of Paddington and Farringdon.

The reason this virtually impossible task got support was because London had become crowded. The streets were overflowing with traffic and the Rail line wasn’t allowed in Central London due to the Royal Commission of 1846. To know more about the history of London you can book a stay at any of the boutique hotels London offers you.

Its all History

The maiden journey at the Metropolitan took place on January 10th, 1863. More than 30,000 people rode the Metropolitan on the first day itself.

In the first year of the Metropolitan saw 11.8 million passengers riding it. For comparison, the population of London at the time was only 3.2 million. Although it was an enormous success, the conditions in the Metropolitan were pretty poor. The smoke from the Steam Engine along with the nonchalant habit of smoking resulted in shoddy conditions to say the least. Smoking was banned for a brief while. An MP reversed the ban mandating all trains to have a smoking carriage. These factors would ultimately result in the Kings Cross Station Fire in 1987 which was solely due to the ignorance of the Administration.

Among the major beneficiaries of the new railway were the common workers who were entitled to use a cheap train before six in the morning. This was a very important step. This resulted in the workers being able to live farther away from Central London and still report for work on time. This resulted in expansion of London as a whole. Whichever direction the tracks expanded resulted in economic prosperity in lying back towns. The primary reason that London still has a relatively lower population density is due to this sole reason.

Owing to the enormous success of the Metropolitan, the District Line was constructed along the Victoria Embankment and finally the Circle Line to connect the Metropolitan and the District Lines. Parts of the subterranean railways were considered through haphazard public and private investment. Conflicts soon began to arise among their owners. The two east-west lines – the District and the Metropolitan were owned by rivals James Forbes and Edward Watkins, whose perpetual quarrelling took the Circle Line 20 years to complete.

After the construction of the Circle Line. Watkin’s Metropolitan ran trains in the clockwise direction, whereas Forbes’ District ran trains in the anticlockwise direction.  The companies’ conflict of interest meant they didn’t sell tickets for their rival’s track. These inconsistencies and haphazard management lead to some stations having two ticketing counters for competition. This explains why there is an extremely poor interchange at Hammersmith and Oxford Circus has 2 stations on the surface on each side of Argyll Street. This is also the reason for many ghost stations on the network amounting almost to 40 built without knowledge of whether they were essential or not. The completion of the Circle Line was the last railway track to be dug by Cut and Cover methods.

Technical Benefits of London’s Tube

Following technological advantages in tunnelling and use of electrical rail meant train could run much deeper in the ground. This is probably the time when the phrase “Tube” arose. This meant construction of the following:

  • City and South London Line
  • Northern Line
  • Waterloo and City
  • Central
  • Bakerloo
  • Piccadilly
  • Charing Cross (part of Northern)
  • Euston
  • Hampstead

The last four of these lines were constructed by American businessmen Charles Tyson Yerkes, who also controlled the District Line. He was one of the first to hope to realize a unified version of the London’s underground network.

Tube and Its Role in World War II

All of the above-mentioned lines weren’t immensely successful. The Central Line, however, was a tremendous success due to its catering to the major routes between intercity travel. It had one class of travel and only one price for the tickets. Yerkes’ attempts to create a unified network is also clear from the fact that he tried to brand the tube. The Leslie Green designed dried blood colored lines on the Surface Stations were immensely popular.

The next person to enter the scene would have a profound impact on the modernization of London Underground. Frank Pick used to work for Yerkes’ Underground Electric Railway Limited (UERL). The UERL owned all the lines except the Metropolitan and Waterloo & City. Pick had an eminent eye for design and in the next 30 years transformed the Underground Railway into one of the most respected transport system in the world. He introduced the roundel, assisted calligrapher Edward Johnston to design the iconic front of the Tube, commissioned beautiful posters and appointed Charles Holden a famous architect to design more modern stations. Famously in 1931 he payed Harry Beck five guineas to design a map that would help the passengers understand the complicated transport system.

The Tube played an important role during the World War II where it acted as a bomb shelter and a shelter during the Air Raids. Concerts and other cultural activities all took place here. The Tube also acted as military bases and workshops for the army for the purpose of building aircrafts and ammunition.

The Tube has acquired only two new lines after Yerkes’ frenzy – The Victoria and The Jubilee. Sustained years of poor management and under-investment has left its mark on the Tube. While it looks haggard and worn, the costs keep on increasing for the daily passengers. With stations closed for several days due to repair and frequent delays it definitely needs proper investment and management. You must, however, never forget the impact it has played in the making of modern London as we know it today. Its glorious past will forever be a reminder of what London is all about.

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