The London Underground: that 150 year old formidable beast which carries 1,229,000,000 passengers over 72,400,000 kilometres through its 270 stations every year. From Heathrow to Oxford Circus, Westminster to Kings Cross, the Tube network forms the veins of London.
Most tourists have a love-hate relationship with ‘The Tube’ owing to its notoriously unforgiving and hostile commuter clientele, but where would we be without it. It’s a magnificent feat of well-designed infrastructure and timeless engineering that has become an iconic feature of London itself.
Since arriving a few weeks ago, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade on my Tube journeys. So here is a list of my ten unofficial rules of the Tube.
1. The golden rule to live by: stand on the right, walk on the left. If ever you find yourself in London, this is your mantra. Do not ever forget it. This rule is ruthlessly enforced by 99 per cent of all passengers, and you do not want to find yourself in the other one percent. This isn’t even etiquette – it’s survival.
2. Don’t make eye contact with other passengers. Even worse, don’t even dream of flashing a polite smile unless you want to be considered insane. Consequently, you learn a lot about London footwear trends from always looking down so much.
3. Develop your London Legs. That is, forget about the days when you could leisurely stroll from the barriers to the platform. Londoners dash around at breakneck speeds so keep up to avoid being trampled over.
4. Carry a Tube map or app on your phone. Learn the colour-coded lines so you’ll always have an idea of where you are and where you’re going. Also learn about the stations where it’s actually quicker to walk between than travel underground. This could save you some cash in the long run.
5. Avoid talking loudly on the Tube at all costs. In fact, just avoid talking. Keep your nose buried in London’s bestselling novel of the time (it’s suicide to be seen reading last season’s best-seller). Even better, pull out your Kindle and you’ll get some instant Tube cred’. If you’re listening to music on your journey, keep it at a carriage-friendly level.
6. If there is a spare seat, do not stop until you are sitting (relatively) comfortably in it. Most commuters have perfected their diving lunges to claim a prized vacated seat, so it’ll be a close call trying to beat them. Tip – look out for pre-departure shuffling when approaching stations and plan your attack accordingly.
7. Never read over anyone’s shoulder. Noone wants to feel the cascade of warm, stale breath on their necks. Similarly, another pet hate of regular Tube-goers are passengers who eat hot food onboard. The smell carries so quickly in those tight, air-deprived carriages, so avoid being the person that 40 people are glaring at.
8. Read the Evening Standard religiously (London’s version of mX). Don’t even think of opening a broadsheet on the tube lest you will have it torn from your hands in shreds by angry commuters.
9. Wear deodorant and carry hand sanitiser. Seriously. The Tube is a cesspit of germs and undesirable smells. Also, avoid blowing your nose after a Tube journey because you will most likely be surprised with specks of black pollution on your tissue. #bigcitylife
10. Regardless if you’re a tourist or a seasoned Londoner, it is always appropriate to have a cheeky giggle when you see the Cockfosters Tube station. Also, feel free to believe that Elephant & Castle is a magical, enchanting place where all your dreams come true.
According to this article of Tube facts, an estimated half a million mice live in the Underground system, the longest escalator of the tube is 60m with a vertical rise of 27.5m, and the infamous Tube logo of a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar is called ‘the roundel’.