London Underground

08 June 2011
Legible London?
Brian Micklethwait

I photoed this yesterday afternoon, embedded in the pavement in the top bit of Horseferry Road, just past the Channel 4 building as I walked towards St James Park tube.


I was baffled, and despite visiting the website alluded to, I still am baffled.  It says: What is Legible London?  Those were my exact sentiments, and they remain my sentiments.

It is something to do with the fact that walking is often quicker, for short journeys, than using the underground.  But why this plaque in the pavement?  Is there some kind of electronic gizmo underneath, with feeds into iPhones or something?

I am sure there is a semi-rational explanation, but can anyone oblige?

(The fact that two of the screws are missing doesn’t bode well, does it?)

10 March 2011
Geographically accurate London tube map
Brian Micklethwait

Here.  Via here.

20 December 2010
Boris blames everybody else
Brian Micklethwait

Mayor of London, Boris Johson:

Well, folks, it’s tea-time on Sunday and for anyone involved in keeping people moving it has been a hell of a weekend.  Thousands have had their journeys wrecked, tens of thousands have been delayed getting away for Christmas; and for those Londoners who feel aggrieved by the performance of any part of our transport services, I can only say that we are doing our level best.

Almost the entire Tube system was running yesterday and we would have done even better if it had not been for a suicide on the Northern Line, and the temporary stoppage that these tragedies entail.  Of London’s 700 bus services, only 50 were on diversion, mainly in the hillier areas.  On Saturday, we managed to keep the West End plentifully supplied with customers, and retailers reported excellent takings on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

We have kept the Transport for London road network open throughout all this.  We have about 90,000 tons of grit in stock, and the gritters were out all night to deal with this morning’s rush.  And yet we have to face the reality of the position across the country.

It is no use my saying that London Underground and bus networks are performing relatively well – touch wood – when Heathrow, our major international airport, is still effectively closed two days after the last heavy snowfall; when substantial parts of our national rail network are still struggling; when there are abandoned cars to be seen on hard shoulders all over the country; and when yet more snow is expected today, especially in the north.

Boris blames, in particular, the Met Office.  Everybody else believed them when they said it would be a warm winter.

More about the weather forecasting angle of this by me at Samizdata.

11 January 2008
The Metros of South East Asia: a Transport Blog podcast
Patrick Crozier

“It’s not much of a quid pro quo for having lived through the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward…”

The other night Michael Jennings, Brian Micklethwait and myself sat down with the intention of recording a podcast about South East Asian Metros, Michael being pretty clued up on the subject.

We started well.  We managed to keep to the subject for a good five minutes before veering off onto topics as far apart as colonial architecture and the evils of communism1 the Metropolitan Railway’s Club carriages, the importance of passenger information, maps and timetables (or lack of them), international fare system convergence and commuter escalators.

The Singapore Metro with fancy butterflies

And our tendency for all talking at once continues unabated.  Oh well.

1. As evidenced by Michael’s quote at the top.

Update 11/01/08 Michael tells me that that “South” bit in the title is inaccurate.

29 August 2007
Man pushed under tube train - to his death. I understand incidents like this are a lot more common than we tend to think.  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)London UndergroundCrime
21 July 2007
How public transport fails
Rob Fisher

Yesterday I observed an interesting public transport failure mode.  Floods had closed many tube stations, so people took to the buses.  The buses filled up.  People making journeys that would otherwise have been unaffected by the tube station closures were left stranded as the full buses drove past their stops.

This situation should be a good business opportunity, but with all public transport in London provided by the same organisation, I doubt the incentives are strong for extra bus services to be laid on.  No doubt taxi drivers did very well.

28 March 2007
How to go down the up escalator
Brian Micklethwait

Said Transport For London:

“This is a dangerous, stupid and irresponsible act that could have resulted in serious injury or death to not only the individual concerned, but other passengers.”

Quite so.  But: wow.

Although, I wouldn’t be “wow”-ing if I had been trundling up the up escalator, and that had come hurtling down straight into me.  Which wouldn’t have happened, because:

The film’s producer said other people were not in danger as friends of the stuntman, a Norwegian national, had warned passengers away.

Oh a Norwegian?  Why didn’t you say?  I love Norwegians.  Even when they ski.

20 March 2007
Make friends with other commuters on the Underground via the internet
Brian Micklethwait


The increasing success of social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook show they have an important place in the hearts of Britain’s residents. But this week Between the Lines was introduced to a site which may be one of the weirdest ever developed. aims to match up people who travel alone on London’s Underground and overground train systems, allowing long commutes to be more enjoyable than the time usually spent with someone else’s armpit stuck in your face.

Profiles can be personalised to include pictures of the commuter and information about their lifestyle, job, relationships, and journey habits.

Users can even search for someone leaving their station, for example High Barnet, and travelling to the same destination, let’s say East Finchley, at the same time as their commute.

But what if you get attached to someone nasty or mad, asks the next paragraph?  Well, that’s true.  Better to not make friends at all, with anybody.

Personally I think that OnTheSameTrack is a recipe for Underground hell, not so much for the people who do this, but for those who have to endure their armpits and their stupid babbling.

18 March 2007
Mobile phones on the London Underground
Brian Micklethwait

Says diamond geezer:

You know how wonderful it is that mobile phones don’t work on the Underground? The fact that you can hide away on a train where the office can’t ring you? The fact that you don’t have to listen to everyone else in your carriage droning on and on to their mates while you’re fifty feet under? Well, that peace and quiet is about to end.

A new system is now about to be tried out on the Waterloo and City line, and could be all over the Tube in 2009.

And then there’ll be no escape. Make the most of being incommunicado while the silence lasts.

I find people talking on the Tube infuriating, except when I feel the need to do it myself.  For starters they shout, to make themselves heard above the din of the regular din, imagining that their extra din won’t matter, what with all the din already.  But it does matter.  Screening out regular Tube din is easy, but screening out their particular and irregular din is not.

13 March 2007
Here are a few fun animations from Nexus (whatever that is) showing how London's rail network has grown over the last two hundred years.

Warning: big files and you'll be wanting to use the pause button and when it opens up the window may turn out to be bigger than the screen.


Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)London Underground
27 February 2007
Buy this London Underground Mirror, a snip at £60. Thank you Wired.

Trouble is, every line is gold coloured. I think I'll wait until it's in full colour and then decide not to buy it.

Brian Micklethwait • PermalinkFeedback (0)London Underground
06 December 2006
British Transport Police at Baker Street
Jackie D

As part of the ongoing investigation into my assault, today I had to go to Baker Street station so that some evidence (a CD-ROM onto which I burned the photo I took of my attacker) could be seized from me, and so that I could give a statement about that evidence. I was told to meet the officer in “the police room”.

None of the London Underground workers at the station knew what I was talking about. I was eventually led through a door and a long hallway to where the British Transport Police have a couple of training rooms and a few offices. In the main office, five policemen were absolutely lovely to me and made sure I was comfortable as I waited for the detective to arrive from Aldgate. Amusingly, one of the officers was clearly having an email debate with someone else in the BTP, and read his reply aloud to the other men so that they could tell him he was being too harsh. “I liked the last two words,” one remarked, referring to the “kind regards” sign-off. Another two officers discussed what a shambles OASIS, the police’s central IT system, is. When I received a call on my mobile, I wandered into another office to take it; nobody tried to stop me. On the desk, there were about a dozen very nice iMate JAMs, a spiffy web-enabled phone/PDA which I owned myself (until I got tired of being connected all the time).

Eventually, the detective from Aldgate found me, and led me down another long, winding hallway, through many doors, up one floor, down another series of very smoky hallways, and into a small room. He took the evidence from me, took my statement, and the whole process lasted about half an hour. “I can’t believe this is all still done on paper,” I said to him as he wrote down my name, address, phone number, and all the other details they already had for me on yet another set of forms. “Yeah, well,” he said, smiling weakly.

What really surprised me was just how much more there is to a London Underground station like Baker Street than one would ever guess from rushing along its platforms and wandering around the halls. It was a little disconcerting, too, to note how many more cops were deep in the labyrinth and offices, immersed in bureaucracy and paper-pushing, than were visible in the station. Am I being unfair?

05 December 2006
My Tube attackers might be caught this week
Jackie D

Brian blogged here about what two thugs did to me on the Underground ten days ago. Well, I’m happy to report that British Transport Police think they’re going to catch them soon. I was given a “personal guarantee” by a very sharp detective today that they would have these scumbags behind bars by the time I return from a quick trip to New York next week.

I was told by the officers who took my statement on the day of the attack that I was much better off in the hands of the BTP than I would be with London’s Metropolitan Police. If they catch these two that quickly, I guess they will have been right.

27 November 2006
Jackie D photos her attacker and sticks his picture up on her blog
Brian Micklethwait

Yes, incident in the Underground, endured by and reported by Jackie D, and then given an extra blog-nudge by Samizdata.

One of Jackie’s numerous commenters reckons that Jackie being attacked in the Tube, and then her photo-ing the attacker and showing it to everyone, could be a Mainstream Media story.  If Jackie blogging him and photo-ing him helps to catch this guy, that would surely be a story.

13 November 2006
This is cool.

Via Driver Chris, who gives it a far better intro than I can muster: It's a map of the British motorway system in a London Underground style.

Mark Holland • PermalinkFeedback (2)London UndergroundRoad
27 October 2006
A deluge of diamond geezer tube trivia and profundity (tube = London Underground railway), all stations from here to here, and maybe the journey will continue a while yet.

Brian Micklethwait • PermalinkFeedback (0)London Underground
Free newspapers caused New York subway flooding
Brian Micklethwait

Via Kristine Lowe (again) this:

Free newspapers distributed to subway commuters are a major cause of subway track flooding, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority investigative task force has found.

Leftover stacks of papers such as AM New York and Metro that blew onto the tracks and clogged drains were partially responsible for the crippling subway flood of September 8, 2004, which affected 15 subway lines, according to the task force’s findings.

Will the London Underground be next?

07 November 2005
“What part of ‘It’s not valid’ do you not understand?” - London Underground challenges Tim Hall's faith in nationalisation but he stays true  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)London Underground