Home » Articole » EN » World » Europe » United Kingdom » London » London Underground

London Underground

posted in: London 0

Mornington Crescent station (Mornington Crescent station on the Northern line, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TubeStationWithTrain.jpg)

Location: Greater London, Chiltern, Epping Forest, Three Rivers and Watford
Entry into service: January 10, 1863
Length of network: 402 km
Lines: 11
Stations: 270
Attendance: 1,229 billion (2012/13) or 3.37 million passengers per day
Track gauge: 1435 mm
Operator: Transport for London
Website: tfl.gov.uk/
Average speed: 33 km / h
Maximum speed: 100 km / h (62 mph)
Related networks Tramlink, Overground, DLR, London Bus, Barclays Cycle Hire

The London Underground is the metro system serving the Greater London and areas around Essex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. First subway opened in the world (1863), it is commonly called Underground (although 55% of the network is located on the surface) or The Tube, in reference to the cylindrical shape of tunnels deep lines.

The oldest lines of the current network, built by several private companies, have been linked to an integrated transport network (which excluded the main railway lines) in 1933, during the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) , better known as the London Transport. The underground network became a single entity when was creating the London Underground Limited (LUL) by the British government in 1985. Since 2003, LUL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London agency, public company responsible for most transport operations in Greater London, led by a steering committee and a commissioner appointed by the Mayor of London.

It runs on an electrified track by third rail and fourth rail (630 V). On some lines, a special rail provides automatic steering oars (steering remains however monitored by the driver of the train).

The first project of a subway in London dates back to 1827. The Metropolitan Railway was the first line, inaugurated on January 10, 1863 (the plot of the time is now, for the most part, the Hammersmith & City Line). Its current network serves 270 stations (some closed) on nearly 402 km. He carried a maximum of 976 million travelers in 2004-2005, a daily average of more than 2.67 million people.

A second network, the Docklands Light Railway, also serves the London area, particularly the Docklands and the City.

Since 2003, the London Underground belonged to Transport for London (TFL), managing the London buses, among others. He was formerly operated by the London Regional Transport.

Central line train at Lancaster Gate (A deep-level Central line train at Lancaster Gate bound for Ealing Broadway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lancaster_Gate_tube.jpg)

The metropolitan network

The London Tube does not run 24 hours on 24, a daily maintenance (roads, rails, rolling stock, cleaning, maintenance …) is performed during the night, after the closing of the stations. Indeed, subway trains can not, for the most part, be routed in deposits to be checked and repaired. The first trains start between h 45 and h 30 according to the lines, and operate until h 20 am (6 days out of 7, to 23 h 30 on day 7).

The lines

London Underground has eleven lines: Bakerloo Line, Central Line, Circle Line, District Line, Hammersmith & City Line, Jubilee Line, Metropolitan Line, Northern Line, Piccadilly Line, Victoria Line and Waterloo & City Line.

Until December 22, 2007, there was a twelfth line, the East London line, but it was closed for conversion works. It was integrated into the London Overground network when it reopened in 2010.

Subway lines can be classified into two types: covered (Subsurface) and deep underground (Deep-level Tube). The covered lines were dug by the method of covered trenches, with tracks located about five meters below the surface.

The lines in deep underground, built using a shield to drill tunnels, are located about twenty meters below the surface (although this varies considerably), each channel being in a separate tube. The diameter of these tunnels is only 3.56 m and the gauge is substantially smaller than on the trench lines, the British rail gauge. Both lines generally emerge at the surface outside the central area of London. While deep lines are largely autonomous, the covered trench lines are part of an interconnected network: each line shares its tracks with at least one other line. This organization is a bit like the subway in New York, where the lines also share the same channels.

The table below shows the existing lines in 2010. In the table, we find in order: the name of the line, color representation on a plane, its opening year and its construction.

Line name Color Opening year Type Length Served stations Yearly traffic
(in millions of passengers)
1906 Underground 23,2 km 25 95.9
1900 Underground 74,0 km 49 183.5
1884 Underground 27 km 36 68.4
1868 Underground 64,0 km 60 172.8
Hammersmith & City
1864 Underground 26,5 km 29 45.8
1979 Underground 36,2 km 27 127.5
1863 Covered 66,4 km 34 53.6
1907 (en partie) Underground 57,6 km 50 206.7
Dark blue
1906 Underground 70,4 km 53 176.1
Light blue
1969 Underground 22,5 km 16 161.3
Waterloo & City
1898 Underground 2,4 km 2 9.6

Tuesday, February 23, Queen Elizabeth inaugurated a new metro line which will cross London from 2018 and will be fully completed by the end of 2019. The new line is so called “Elizabeth Line” and bear the purple color, the honor of the queen. Hitherto known CrossRail, the new line will link west to east London (from Reading to Shenfield) through Heathrow airport and the city center.


London Underground Map (Map of the zone 1, at the center of Greater London, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_Underground_Zone_1_Highlighted.svg)

The Underground serves 274 stations in total. Only thirteen of them are located outside Greater London, five are located even beyond the M25, encircling the agglomeration.


The London Underground map and “roundel” logo are instantly recognizable. Originally, the maps were often street maps with superimposed lines. The stylized map of the Tube was made from a drawing of Harry Beck, electrical engineer, in 1931. Almost all urban rail systems in the world now have a stylized map of the layout and many bus companies also adopted the concept.

TfL sells licenses for the sale of clothing and other accessories via its graphics, and committed legal action against unauthorized use of its copyrighted logos and subway map. Nevertheless, unauthorized copies of the emblem continue to appear around the world.

The metro map

In 1931, Henry C. Beck, said Harry Beck (1903-1974), conceived a London Underground map that, to be readable, ignored the geographical reality of the lines, or the remoteness of the stations but favored a regular spacing station names and straight lines to enhance readability. This plan which was evolved according to network changes is still the basis for the current plan. On the July 2007 version, it can be read: This diagram is an evolution of the original design conceived in 1931 by Harry Beck. This plan was not well received by the relevant services, but it was published in January 1933 respecting the possible design of H. Beck: color lines, stations without correspondences indicated by a perpendicular line, connections with a diamond (now a circle with a white center). The 1933 edition was printed in 750,000 copies for a cost of £ 337 and 10 shillings. Nowadays £ 12 000. On a copy of 2008, the main change is the indication of accessibility for disabled people and the lack of indication of connections to the DLR line.

The roundel

The roundel (The use of the roundel containing the name of the station on a blue bar dates back to 1908. The above roundel is located in Leytonstone on the Central Line. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LU_Leytonstone_sign.jpg)

The origins of the roundel, previously known as the bulls-eyes” or “target” are obscure. While the first use of a roundel in the context of transport in London was the nineteenth-century symbol of the London General Omnibus Company – a wheel with a bar in the center bearing the word “GENERAL” – its use on the Underground stems is due to the decision taken in 1908 to find a more obvious way of highlighting station names on platforms. The red circle with a blue bar name was quickly adopted, with the word “UNDERGROUND” in the bar, as one of the first corporate identities. The logo was modified by Edward Johnston in 1919.

Each subway station displays the roundel, often containing the station name in the central bar, at entrances and repeatedly along the quays, so that the name can be easily seen by the arriving train passengers.

The roundel is used for buses and subways for many years, and since TfL took control, it was applied to other types of transportation (taxi, tram, DLR, etc.) in different color pairs. The roundel somehow become a symbol of London itself.

Contribution to the arts

The metro contributes and sponsors the art on its docks through the art and poetry project in the metro. Display areas (and in the case of Gloucester Road underground station, the set of an abandoned dock) are devoted to works of art and poetry, to “create a positive impact for the environment and to improve and enrich the users travel.” In addition, the walls of some stations are decorated with tiles motifs specific to that station, as the profiles of the head of Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street, or a cross containing a crown to King’s Cross St Pancras. Oval station has decorations themed cricket, with murals, statues and banners, all celebrating the game.

Unique Edwardian tiles models, designed by Leslie Green and installed in 1900, were also used on the platforms of many stations designed by Charles Yerkes on the Bakerloo, Northern and Piccadilly. Many of these models still exist even if a significant number of them are now replicas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.