Town Guide


Today the Underground, more commonly known as The Tube, is by far the most efficient way to travel around London, but it is also a relatively expensive way of travelling. And as for getting to see the city, it is preferable by far to take a bus, taxi or Smooth Hound Express. Nevertheless, at some point in your stay in London, you will no doubt be venturing under ground.

London Underground, 1K
The first stretch of underground railway to be built in London was a four-mile stretch that ran from Paddington to The City. It first opened in 1863 and the trains that ran on it were steam operated.

This, and other early stretches of underground, was built by digging a trench, constructing walls and a roof inside the trench and then restoring the surface above the roof. This became known as the 'cut and cover' method and was used for the next 25 years.

By the 1890s however, the underground passages were being constructed by using a shield which framed the tunnel whilst it was excavated. This enabled the tunnels to be much longer and much deeper. At around the same time electric trains began to be used and so the modern underground as we know it began to take shape.

One of the most unexpected uses of the underground passages took place during the Second World War when thousands of civilians used them as shelter from the German bombers during the Blitz. They saved thousands of lives, but unfortunately some such shelters suffered direct hits from enemy bombs, which cost several hundred civilian lives.
The 1970s saw the modernisation and automation of the underground and the introduction of extensive safety controls. Today London's underground system is one of the most extensive in the world, covering more than 650 square miles.

All underground stations are marked by a red circle with a blue bar through it and the word Underground. There are now are eleven different 'lines' that make up the underground railway and on the underground map they each have an individual colour. The one most commonly used by tourists is the Circle Line, which is yellow.

Tickets can be purchased from automated vending machines or from ticket booths. Journeys are divided up according to 'zones'; for example central London is zone 1, with the other zones radiating outwards in concentric circles.

The normal price for a single journey through one zone is £1.10, but it is more economical to purchase a travelcard which can be valid for as little as one day or as long as one week, and which can also be used on buses.

Make sure that you keep your ticket with you, as you will need it when you exit the underground. Don't try to cheat for if you are found to be travelling without a valid ticket, you will be charged a £10 on-the-spot fine.

How to navigate around London Underground:

  • Use a map of the underground to note which line your starting station is on (the easiest way is to note the colour).
  • Then note which line your destination station is on.
  • If they are two different lines, make a note of where they cross which is where you will need to change trains.
  • Work out which direction you will need to travel in (ie eastbound, westbound, northbound or southbound) OR make a note of the station name at the end of your destination line.
  • Signs and maps situated at the entrance to each station or each line will tell you which line you should take, with the stations marked on them. These will be colour coded according to the line colours on the underground map.
  • Make a note of how many stations there are until your stop, then get on the appropriate train and count the stops until you have to get off!

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