London Underground – Survival Of The Fittest?

This year marked the 150th year of the London Underground since it was launched in 1863. The Tube is something for us Brits (or rather Londoners) to be proud of. It is a remarkable form of transport with 3.5 million journeys made daily. Without it, many of us will probably feel almost lost.

Many would say the Tube is a lifesaver when it comes to getting to work. However, as accessible as it is, Londoners and their relationship with the London Underground is somewhat of a ‘love it or hate it’ one.

Waking up every morning for work is a challenge itself but for Londoners, from the moment we wake up, we experience a dreadful feeling for what it is we are about to embark on -­‐ the Tube journey to work/school/university.

It is a weekday morning and it hits 8am. You rush out of the door and attempt to make your way to work, hoping there isn’t any delays and you make it in on time for 9am.

On entering the station, you pick up The Metro. Your Oyster Card is at hand and you touch in. You wait on the platform with many other commuters in the exact same position as yourself. The Tube finally arrives and the relief you feel only lasts for a second or so. You look inside and see how packed it is and in that moment, you almost dread the day ahead. Overcrowded trains can certainly put a downer on many Londoners’ mood. That can explain why most of us are rather grumpy, especially in the mornings.

The doors open and you try and squeeze into the carriage with others, pushing and prodding your way through, trying to find a pole to hold onto and a comfortable spot to stand on. Of course, the seats are packed by now so there is no way you can sit down.

Everyone is so tightly pressed up against one another, many unable to breath. By now, you can see the anger, the frustration and the desperation on people’s faces.

The train is in full swing now. Some try and suck it up and switch off with music in their ears, some read their paper or book, some play around on their iPads and iPhones and some just try and catch up on last night’s sleep.

Suddenly, the announcer says there will be a short delay and by then, everyone has clearly given up on the day before it has even begun. The ‘short’ delay turns into a delay that seems to lasts forever.

The announcer then announces that the train will not move for another hour because of a ‘signal failure’. At this point, trying to understand what that means is the last thing people care about because getting to work on time now, is highly unlikely. That leads to a panic. You moan and groan to yourself heading to catch the next train. Assuming the next train must be better is an understatement. We just simply cannot fathom that this is how normal day-­‐to-­‐day functioning of the London Underground is. It is not just a few routes or only rush-­‐hour peaks but this is how it is all the time. In rare occasions when you do find a quiet carriage, you relish it. The unpredictably is what frightens people the most.

So, not only do we have to spend our day grafting away to make a living but also the initial journey to and from work is a major mission and a major put-­‐off. We underestimate how much overcrowding on public transport can affect a person’s mood. We almost adopt a ‘tube persona’ when it comes to travelling on the London Underground. People are more ruthless and selfish in the Tube than they are normally.

This week, it was announced that Bank is the most hated Tube station on the London Underground and I think it is fair to say it is because how busy the station is day-in-day-out.

Many ‘prepare’ for the Tube experience by psyching oneself up. It is clearly the survival of the fittest. Those of us who are patient when making journeys using the London Underground should be credited.

It is an experience one can take lightly or harshly but an experience one should prepare for whether you are a Londoner or not. However, whether you love the London Underground or hate it, you cannot deny that London would not be the same without it.

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