30 fascinating facts about the London Tube
London was the first city in the world to have an underground train system, which has been known to Londoners as “the Tube” since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened. With an average of three million journeys made on the London Underground network every single day, the Tube is a great and popular means of getting around the UK capital for locals and visitors alike, because it is quick, easy, convenient and safe. And needless to say, the Tube is undoubtedly a part of life for all Londoners. However, there are some interesting and curious facts about the London Tube that regular tube-users would never know and even couldn’t think of! Read on to discover them.
1The London Underground has 402 km (249 miles) of track, making it the second largest metro system in the world in terms of route length, after the Shanghai Metro.
2The first London Underground line was the Metropolitan line, which was opened on the 10th of January in 1863. This was also the first underground railway in the world.
3Steam-hauled trains still run on the Metropolitan line at special annual events.
4The Underground name on stations and the Tube’s world-famous logo, ‘the roundel’ (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar), first appeared in 1908.
5Total number of passengers carried each year on the Underground network: about 1,107,000,000.
6The average train speed is 33km per hour/20.5mph including station stops. On the Metropolitan line, trains can reach over 60mph.
7Travelling on the Tube for 40 minutes is the equivalent to smoking two cigarettes!
8The walking distance between two underground stops in central London is never more than 10 minutes, sometimes a lot less.
9The Jubilee line, which was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, is the Underground’s newest line (opened in 1979), but serves stations which originally opened over 100 years ago.
10The Piccadilly line was the first of the deep-level tube lines to be converted to one person operation (August 1987), where the operator drives the train and controls the operation of the doors.
11The London Underground employs approximately 19000 people.
12Aldgate station is built on a massive plague pit in which more than 1000 bodies were buried during the plague of 1665.
13Amersham is not only the highest station above sea level on the whole underground system (at 147 meters or 490 feet), but it is also the most westerly with 43 km (27 miles) away from the city centre.
14The deepest station is Hampstead on the Northern line, which is at 58.5m (192 ft) below ground level.
15The Circle line, which was opened in 1884, was described in The Times as “a form of mild torture which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it”.
16The London Tube runs 24 hours a day only at New Year and major events such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics.
17The longest distance between two adjacent stations by rail is the 6.26 km (3.89 miles) between Chesham and Chalfont & Latimer on the Metropolitan line.
18The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the Underground network is the 260 meters (0,161 miles) between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line. The tube journey between these two stations takes only about 20 seconds, but costs £4.30.
19The London Underground serves 270 stations, one of the highest numbers of stations in the world.
21The first Underground escalator was installed at Earl’s Court station in 1911. A one-legged man, “Bumper” Harris, was employed to ride on it and demonstrate its safety.
21An estimated half a million mice live in the Underground system.
22The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board.
23The longest journey one can make on the London Tube without changing trains is the 54.9 km (34.1 miles) trip between West Ruislip and Epping on the Central Line, taking 1 hour 28.5 minutes.
24Busking has been licensed on the London Tube since 2003, but before that Sting and Paul McCartney both allegedly plied their trade on the Underground, in disguise.
25Green grapes cause more accidents on the London Underground than banana skins.
26The tunnel between East Finchley and Morden (via Bank) is the Underground’s longest and the 2nd longest rail tunnel in the world, 27.8km (17.25 miles).
27Angel station has the third longest escalators in Western Europe, with a vertical rise of 27.5 m (90 ft) and a length of 60 m (197 ft), and which take 80 seconds to carry passengers up or down.
28The phrase “Mind the gap” originated on the Northern line in 1968. It was voiced by Peter Lodge, who owned a recording company in Bayswater. While Lodge’s recording is still in use, some lines use recordings by Manchester voice artist Emma Clarke, while commuters on the Piccadilly line hear the voice of Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer in The Archers, the BBC Radio soap opera.
29Waterloo is the UK’s busiest train station (in terms of passenger throughput), with some 88 million people travelling through every year.
30The mosquitoes inhabiting the tunnels of the London Tube have evolved into a completely different species to any that lives above the ground. Unlike their upstairs brethren, which bite only birds, the London Underground mosquitoes bite rats, mice and show a distinct affinity for human blood. Biologists named these voracious biters Culex pipiens molestus.
If you know any other interesting facts about the London Underground, please share them in the comments below!
Source: Transport for London and Wikipedia. Image source