Salute to the London Tube

Shard 2Every time I return to the British capital I’m reminded just how colossal a city it is. From the top of The Shard (right) I can see dense urban development stretching every which way for miles and miles. This is a city so large that if it weren’t for what lay below –  the Tube – I doubt that I’d venture all that far.

But London’s oft-maligned main transport system is, in reality, a daily miracle. I’d go so far as to suggest it’s why London consistently ranks among the world’s top cities for tourists.

There’s hardly anywhere in this vast, sprawling metropolis that you can’t reach using London’s extensive network of underground subway, overground train, light rail and bus. And travel times are quite often remarkable.

When the Tube gets going it simply flies.  I literally shot downtown from East Finchley to Oxford Circus in about 30 minutes, including a change from the Northern Line to Central Line at the revamped Tottenham Court Road tube station. Admittedly, this journey was made after nine in the morning so I avoided the rush hour and also took advantage of a cheaper one-day ticket.

Given its age and tlondon_underground_logohe pressures upon the Tube, what’s even more remarkable is that the whole system doesn’t simply implode. And when things do go wrong, as they do quite often, there are regular announcements keeping travellers well informed. Most weekends there are closures on various lines as essential maintenance work or upgrades are done. That’s why the system still works as well as it does.

Often I prefer to ride London’s red double-decker buses, sitting at the front up top for the view. It’s a great way to see the city and there are bus routes that pass some of the city’s great landmarks. Using the Oyster Card a London bus ride is arguably the cheapest visitor attraction.

bus londonThe design of these red London icons keeps changing. A recent incarnation (right) saw the reintroduction of an open deck at the rear, which means passengers may hop off and on at will just as in the old days. Apparently this is far more effective in helping buses keep to a timetable. Driver-controlled doors slow everything, as anyone hearing the lament “back door, Driver!” will testify.

Travel costs keep rising and it can be confusing for a visitor to assess the cheapest way to get around. Read the advice on the London Toolkit website site to find out the best travel card for your purposes.

Anyone intending visitor should also take a look at City Dashboard. Not only does it give an instant update on how the trains are running but also lots of info of a more subtle nature such as air quality, plus mood and radiation levels, what’s trending on Twitter and even the current depth of the Thames. Ah London, you simply gotta love this city!

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