We should be proud of London’s Underground for three reasons: longevity, design heritage and innovation. It’s amazing to think that a transport service largely dependent on infrastructure over 100 years old runs so smoothly and efficiently to carry over 3m passengers a day. There are occasional delays, but the service is good at moving massive numbers of people around – about as many as all the other rail trips in the country combined. Design excellence is integral to the Underground – from fabulous poster design to architecture, from the iconic Tube map to contemporary public art. In addition, it continues to transform the travelling experience. Oyster, Wi-fi access and walkthrough trains have all improved journeys, and much more is being delivered, including more frequent services and the rebuilding of stations.
Wendy Neville is a manager at the London Transport Museum.
The Tube does a job. No more, and often far less. Try the Central Line during rush hour on a weekday and then tell me how wonderful a network it is. I’ve hit my head on hand rails, cricked my neck to the shape of tunnels and, at over six foot, can I ever stand tall? No. The Underground just isn’t for me. But I’m yet to see who exactly it is meant for. Perhaps it’s just for the always-late user of average height, endowed with godlike speed, and who can always avoid crammed armpits? Of course, he or she must have a completely sympathetic schedule. Or it might be for those who enjoy struggling for air on summer days, or don’t lose faith as floods, faults, engineering and delays all prolong their suffering? London’s Underground system is where other global capital cities trump us. And a breath of fresh air is ten times the souvenir than a blown nose or a neighbour’s sneeze.
Kevin Pocock is a freelance writer. He tweets @kevinpocock