Saturday, March 1, 2008

The London Underground-aka The Tube

Mind The Gap-public service announcement heard when entering or exit train car.

Stepping on the escalator in the Metro, I expected the ride to be the usual thirty second shudder up to the second floor-not a three minute ride up four stories. Looking around induced a mild motion sickness, as the ceiling was a chromed dome and reflected the seemingly endless conveyor belt. The London Metro-The Tube, is unlike any other subway in the world.

My first thought when using the London Underground was that every city in the world needs one of these. I still think every city in the world needs a subway system like the London Underground. It is fast, clean, and one of the easiest ways to get around the giant city of London. The Tube has been around since 1863-making it the oldest subway system in the world. There are twelve named and color coded lines-the famous Map of The London Underground.

Transport for London offers a number of tips for travelers to London who will be using the Tube.

1. Try to avoid rush hour, or Peak Periods as they call them in London. Trains can fill up and carrying bags at these times is not a good idea. I never used the Tube at Rush Hour, but I did see a few crowds in the larger stations.
2. If you are traveling with your luggage try not to take up too much space. Backpackers should take thier packs off for the ride. I was only dumb enough to bring a large bag once, and it was a major mistake. If you can get by with caryy-on, as we did on the next trip, it is a lot easier all the way around.
3. On the escalators stand to the right. The wife and I were caught on one of the very long escalators and ended up blocking traffic. She even had a Policeman come and ask her to move-so stand on the right and keep your bags on the right as well. Passengers on the Left are usually running up or down the escalators, as they are all in a big hurry.
4. Allow passengers off the train before boarding. It's safer and quicker and the train won't leave while people are still boarding and exiting.
5.Stand behind the yellow line on the platforms-this is where you Mind the Gap between the train and the platform when exiting or boarding.
6. The Tube is not ari-conditioned and can get warm in the hotter months. I traveled to London in the winter and early spring and so didn't notice that The Tube had no A/C.
7. Practice basic safety precautions. Keep your bags with you at all times or the police or a thief with take them from you. There are pick-pockets in the Tube so keep a hand on your valuables.
8. Be courtesous and give your seat to the elderly, those with disablities, pregnant women and those carrying small children.
9. Keep your eyes and ears open for announcements of delays and line closures. The Tube is often under construction somewhere and this can cause delays. Security will close a line if they find an unattended bag-one more reason to keep your bags with you at all times-the bomb sqaud might blow it up otherwise.

The Wife and I had bought Travelcards before leaving the States. Though we never traveled farther out than zone three, and that was by mistake, it was not that much more exspensive to buy a Visitor's Travelcard for all six zones.

Our first Tube Destination in London was for Russel Square, and the wife wanted to hurry up and dart up the stairs. I noticed the sign that read there were several hundred stairs to get to the street level. We waited for the elevator, and the long ride up reminded us how far underground The Underground really is. We would side many escalators, including the very long one, over the next couple of weeks. The London Underground never failed to get us where we were going.

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