On In London now: The Underground

On In London now: The Underground

Ilan Kelman, University College London and Twitter @IlanKelman


A transportation and commuting service. Screeching wheels, sardine-like crowds, and polluted air. A legendary tourist attraction.

On in London right now is the Tube.

Almost. It has not quite reached 24-hour service nor is it close to full accessibility. And with a £2.8 billion budget loss over the next five years, what else will not happen?

But when it is not closed due to strikes or overcrowding, and when courage overcomes assault, then magic and mystery await. It is a photographer’s and punster’s paradise!


Starting with the Tube map’s long history and multiple variations, darker episodes soon emerge. Disasters include the 1940 Balham bomb, the 1940 Bethnal Green crowd crush, the 1975 Moorgate crash, the 1987 King’s Cross fire, and the 2005 suicide bombings.

Knowing the rich history of the lines and stations adds fun and excitement to riding and exploring the network. Take the time to peruse and critique fascinating art and design across platforms, at the surface, and on the long walks/rides in between.

Instead, though, some people rush, travelling through all 270 stations as fast as possible for the Tube Challenge. Others race the Tube on foot and using a wheelchair. Or just enjoy the sway and bounce of distinct train types, mourning when old rolling stock is retired.


Staff must daily deal with medical emergencies, harassment and violence, mechanical failures, and patrons who don’t have a clue about Mornington Crescent. Flash mobs, parodies, pranks, and payrolled comedians characterise the Oyster Card and Travelcard culture.

Always under the auspices of the red circle graced by a blue line that is an international icon. As are those three little words making us feel warm and gooey inside: Mind the gap.


More information on the London Underground:

– Transport for London

– An independent Oyster card and rail guide

– Transport for All – London Underground

Secrets of the Underground

Disused stations and