The prodigal daughter returns: a love letter to the Northern Line after four long months
Being grateful for the Monday morning commute is normally the purview of yoga bloggers or influencers, not journalists. But yesterday was a moment to rejoice as the Bank branch of the Northern Line finally reopened its doors after four long months of stasis. The closure of the Moorgate to Kennington service was announced last year to disbelief from many Londoners just trying to get around.
In my almost five years living in London, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Northern line – more than I’d like to admit. When I was living near Camden Town, it was almost a prerequisite for going pretty much anywhere.
Now, in Angel, it’s the easiest way to get to work in the City. Angel to Bank was the equivalent of roughly three songs on my iPhone – a pleasantly quick journey compared to the average commute of 74 minutes in London. Until that fateful January day.
I was freshly back from the Christmas holidays – extended slightly by a run in with Covid-19. So I was already disoriented. This was only exacerbated when my tube arrived at Moorgate and instead of closing the doors again and going onto Bank, it stopped. Completely. Without clocking the longevity of the hurdle, I shuffled off and walked to the office.
That evening – same problem. I went back to Bank to head home, winding all the way down the maze of a station to where my platform once was, somehow taking no notice of all the signs around me telling me my journey was futile. I was, apparently, the only person in London to forget about the closure. A nearby TfL worker looked at me in amazement: “have you not seen the signs?”
I am someone who relishes routine. So in a bid to keep it going, I tried desperately to stick to the Northern Line. Loyalty, afterall, is a valuable quality, I told myself. So I took the tube to Moorgate and walked – for a while.
Eventually I admitted to myself what most already knew: spending more time on foot than on public transport was deeply impractical. The bus would be my saviour now – the 21 or 141. London buses are great. Normally. But when you’re stuck at the Old Street roundabout, it becomes a lethal traverse trying not to be hit by a bike, scooter, e-scooter, or even a pigeon frantically escaping the traffic.
Last month, the beautiful weather and a desperate need to do some exercise seeded another idea: a bike.
My second-hand bike cost £80 and takes me from home to the office in 14 minutes (yes, I timed it). And I was almost getting used to it until the Northern Line greeted me once again with its sudden reopening.
I felt the melancholia lift – I had missed my line.
The interruption was a hassle, but an entirely manageable one when you’re almost a straight shot from work. But if the journey from Angel – almost as central as you can get – became tiresome, the plight of those further afield must have kept many at home altogether – hardly good timing for a Transport for London struggling to make up lost revenue in the pandemic.
So, my fellow commuters, this one’s for you: we can reclaim our rowdy, packed, but beloved way of getting into the City. For this week, at least, I’m grateful for my Monday morning commute.