As you walk around London, tube trains are constantly whizzing around under your feet. The London Underground is a convenient and fast transit system that covers most of Greater London. Although 55% of the network is above ground, the system is officially referred to as the London Underground. It is also often called “The Tube” due to the shape of the tunnels.
Impressively, it was the first underground railway system of its kind. Before its creation in 1863, the world had never seen an underground railway. To top it off, it was the first system to use electronically operated trains in 1890.
Various private companies built the earlier lines of the London Underground network. They were operated separately and, as a result, difficult to change between. In 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board was formed to integrate all the separate lines into one transport system. Going further, in 1985, the UK Government made the network into a single entity, London Underground Limited (LUL). LUL has been owned by Transport for London (TfL) as a subsidiary since 2003. TfL is a statutory company in charge of most aspects of the London transport system. It is run by a board and commissioner chosen by the Mayor of London.
Today, it has 270 stations and around 250 miles of track. It is the longest metro system on Earth and has one of the largest numbers of stations. Over a billion journeys were made in the system in 2007, making the London tube the second busiest metro system in the EU, after the Metropolitain in Paris.
One of the most iconic parts of the Underground is the “tube map”. It is considered a design classic due to its schematic, non-geographical layout and multi-coloured lines. The London tube map has influenced transport maps all over the globe. It’s history and its continued high level of service should make London proud.