Almost five million people use the London tube network every day. If you’ve ever waited for a Central Line train on a Monday morning during rush hour, you’d be convinced every single one of those five million shared the very same platform with you that morning.
As long as us commuters stay amongst ourselves, it all works well. We move at a rushed pace, we know exactly where we want to go, where to stand on the platform to ensure the quickest exit when getting off and we don’t need to consult a tube map, let alone ask someone for direction. But throw in some random tourists and this whole subterranean eco system falls apart.
If you are one of those nasty tourists, let me introduce some simple rules on how to survive your tube ride:
How to use the London Underground
Rule Number One:
Stand on the right when using the escalator. Always. Under no circumstances ever stand on the left. You will cause mayhem.
You stand on the right and you walk (meaning run) on the left. Simple and easy, isn’t it? Same rule does apply to your suitcase and other bulky luggage. Never ever is any of it to block the left side of the escalator, bringing that constant stream of commuters to a sudden standstill.
Rule Number Two:
There is a reason the Tube is more expensive during rush hour. It is to keep you tourists out and us commuters save. So save yourself some money… stay clear until after 9.30, when most of us will have arrived safely at our desk…
Rule Number Three:
Plan your route. Before entering into the tunnel system, it is strongly advised you get a firm idea of where you actually want to go. Navigating the tube plan isn’t that difficult (unless you are colour blind, that might make it a little tricky). There is absolutely no valid reason to stop at the bottom of the escalator to then debate where to go. If you can’t remember your route from top to bottom of said escalator, then please do us all a favour and walk a few more paces before stepping aside before coming to a complete halt. Common sense really, if you think about it.
Rule Number Four:
Consult a road map every now and then. The tube map is distorted for maximum legibility; meaning distances are not always what they seem. There are quite a few stops where you can save yourself a lot of time simply walking over ground rather than taking the tube. Leicester Square to Covent Garden would be one of them for example.
I remember the time I waited ages in front of Bond Street tube station to meet a friend who recently moved to London. Eventually she showed up. Turned out she had to take a detour as the Central Line was disrupted. As she didn’t know her way around town yet, rather than just walking the few meters from Oxford Circus to Bond Street station she ended up taking the Victoria Line down to Green Park, changing for the Jubilee Line up to Bond Street station. Resulting in a 15-minute tube journey for what would have been a 4-minute walk.
Rule Number Five:
Use the full length of the platform and tube carriage. Believe it or not, there are several doors to the trains, not just the one right opposite the platform entrance. And the more you spread along the platform the more chance you have to actually get into a carriage.
And once in, please move down. Stop blocking the door. Allow other people to get on. Take off your backpack and put it in front of your feet. No one wants to end up with your backpack in their face whenever you decide to turn around.
Rule Number Six:
Have your ticket ready. Listen carefully, I will let you into one of the best kept secrets of modern times. When you exit a train, walk down the tunnel and get up the escalator, inevitably you will reach a ticket barrier. Meaning you will need your ticket, Oyster card or contactless payment card to get out. So why not save yourself (and all of us) some time and start searching for this card whilst standing on the escalator… rather than right in front of the barrier. Revelation isn’t it.
Rule Number Seven:
Keep the aisle clear. The Piccadilly Line has a very big problem. Coming into the city from Heathrow airport it is jam-packed with tourists and their suitcases. And despite the Piccadilly Line having dedicated luggage areas in every carriage, so many of you decide to sit down with your suitcase in front of you. Inevitably blocking the narrow walkway in the carriage, trapping others. So here is a free piece of advice: don’t.
Rule Number Eight:
Never talk to strangers. This is the cardinal sin and allows us to identify you as a tourist from a hundred yards away. Don’t talk to us. Don’t even make eye contact. Absolutely not… never ever. We don’t mingle. We pretend to read our newspaper or to sleep, only to avoid accidental contact with one another. So don’t approach us or you will immediately turn to stone, forever blocking the tunnels of our busy tube stations.
Ok, I do hope by now you have worked out that this article may contain traces of humor. But it doesn’t mean none of this is true. Try and be considerate and we will all get on just fine. After all, we do cohabit well most of the time, so why not when sharing our very busy and overcrowded tube.
Any fun tube anecdotes to share? Please enlighten me.