Getting hot in here? If you’re on a tube at Oxford Circus, then yes, probably


Image: TfL. Click for the full map

There’s nothing us Londoners love more than a bit of sun (except maybe free stuff). But be warned: while the sunshine makes the post-work Friday pint far more pleasant, it makes commuting a whole lot sweatier. If you’re prone to perspiration you might want to check out this map from TFL, showing the tube’s hottest stations (do not confuse with The Hot Line).

The map is based on data from 2010, but we doubt it’s changed much (global warming won’t kick in until we’re all dead, right?). If you have the time and the inclination you can use the map to plan a sweat-free route to work for those balmy summer days. Or you could just use deodorant, you slob, you.


Tuesday (You)Tube

Low budget and barely original but still sort of entertaining video of the week: We know, we know. Another video about making commuting fun. They’re sort of missing the point, aren’t they? Commuting isn’t fun! It’s damn serious business. But we have a secret: we love Pictionary. Anything involving Pictionary (and sweets) we thoroughly approve of. Also from now on we will refer to the tube only as ‘the fundeground’. Deadpan voice compulsory.

24 Hour Party People? Not in London, you animal

Image: doug88888 on Flickr

Image: doug88888 on Flickr

Last week the Evening Standard reported that a 24-hour tube was vital to London’s vibrant West End economy. Ever on the pulse, we went below the line and checked out the comments, to see what London’s tube-using comment leavers had to say about the underground going round-the-clock. One comment in particular caught our eye. Stand up, Mr FlemingDH! We’re talking about you!

You’re in luck, Mr FlemingDH. London Locomotion has a fantastic track record of answering our readers’ burning questions (e.g. Which line has the most attractive men? and Why is the underground so romantic?) and we are entirely  at your service. Mr FlemingDH, we will answer your question (okay, fine, indirect musing) to our fullest ability, possibly using explanatory pictures (but don’t get your hopes up). We’ve even set the answer to an appropriate soundtrack. Sometimes we cannot believe we don’t get paid for this.

We’ll keep it simple. There are many reasons why it would be difficult for the tube to run 24/7, but here are the only ones you need to know:

1. Money money money

Economists might say something like the demand wouldn’t match the cost of supplying (or something); we say it would cost too much. Our dear old tube already needs billions of pounds spent on it a year just to keep functioning, much of which is spent on necessary upgrade work to keep the old gal in tip-top shape.

A 2011 report by the London Assembly estimated that the cost of upgrading signalling on the Jubilee, Northern and sub-surface lines is £2.4 million per kilometre of track. (The Northern line is 58 km long, so to upgrade the whole track would cost £139 million.)

A 24-hour service just wouldn’t make economic sense; the cost of running an overnight service wouldn’t be matched by the income generated by sporadic late-night tube-users, and the money would be better spent on upgrading the existing service. Which leads us nicely to…


2. Upgrade U

The 150-year-old tube wasn’t built to carry the number of passengers it does today, and so is constantly playing catch-up. However, the past few years of investment are beginning to pay off; last year saw lost customer hours (hours passengers lose while travelling due to delays) fall by 20 per cent.

Due to the tube’s two-track system, there’s no room to do this vital maintenance while the tube is running – unlike in New York, as the knowledgeable Mr FlemingDH mentions, where the subway has four tracks. So if the tube ran for 24 hours, the essential maintenance usually done during four hours overnight would have to be done at other times. (Probably during every sunny weekend in August and for the entire Wimbledon fortnight.)

Essentially, the routine checks and maintenance done every night – which includes removing tonnes of dust made up of human skin particles – are the tube equivalent of checking the oil in your car, or pulling the hair from the plughole. Although it’s boring, inconvenient, and kind of gross, it’s a relatively straightforward way to keep everything in proper working order – and to prevent more inconvenient, boring, gross things becoming necessary in the future.

3. It would encourage all of the littering drunks

Never ones to slack off, we did full and proper research to bring you all sides of the argument. We found a number of less persuasive but far more entertaining reasons why the tube can’t deliver a 24/7 service, but we think this one is most worthy of your time

“Keeping the system in passenger service through the night would encourage drinkers to stay in the pubs for longer and consume more alcohol. When they then enter a station, they will pose a greater danger to themselves and others. For example, drunks often drop items onto the track, then go down to retrieve it. When you hear announcements like, “services are suspended because of a person under a train” it is just as likely to be this situation as, say, a suicide attempt. Sometimes they just fall over edge of the platform.”  (Source)

So, to conclude, the simple answer to “Why can the Berlin U-Bahn run for 24 hours but the tube can’t, even though it has the same kind of track? is “Because the U-Bahn is the tube’s fitter, more energetic grandchild”. Yes, Mr FlemingDH, we could have said that right at the beginning, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun as the informative thrill-ride that was this post, now, would it?

For a good idea of the work on the underground that goes on during the night, we highly recommend watching the final episode of The Tube, which follows the network’s night-time workers. You’ll be surprised by how much is done while the rest of us are tucked up in bed (or binge-watching The Following). If you don’t fancy watching the whole thing just give our liveblog a once over, and you’ll get the gist.

How other subways measure up

  • New York: Runs 24 hours
  • Madrid: Runs from 06:00 to 01:30
  • Paris: Runs from 05:30 to 00:40am on weeknights, but until 01:40 on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Montreal: Runs from 05:30 to 01:00, or 01:30 on Saturdays
  • Beijing: Runs from 05:00 to 23:00
  • Berlin: Runs 24 hours
  • Moscow: Runs from 06:00 to 01:00
  • Tokyo: Runs from 05:00 to 01:00
  • Delhi: 06:00 to 23:00

Tuesday (You)Tube: Silly football fans edition

Funny but also faintly dangerous video of the week that has left us with conflicting feelings towards football fans: The title of the video is “Hartlepool fans on the London Underground dressed as penguins”. I really don’t need to give you any more information than that.Other than do not do what one foolhardy penguin does in this video. We do not condone that silly penguin’s behaviour.

The Hot Line

Rejoice, fellow commuters! For we have been gifted with yet another illuminating survey attempting to determine ONCE AND FOR ALL what the best and worst London tube stations are.

Scientists Who Specialise in Silly Surveys about Underground Transport (to give you your full and correct name), allow us to save you time: the worst is Bank. It’s always Bank.

We can also confirm that it is, however, scientifically impossible to choose the best, as that’s like choosing between your children. (Not because you love them all equally, but because just when you’ve got one to momentarily cease poking you in the nostril the other will start shovelling dog food into its mouth with both pudgy little hands. You know?)

Luckily, dear readers, we here at London Locomotion are nothing if not dedicated. So we decided to bring you an alternative. We present to you The Hot Line.

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Tuesday (You)Tube: Rap edition

Slightly embarrassing (but also quite impressive) naughty-word laden video of the week: This is one of those videos that’s quite fun to watch but simultaneously excruciating because you just know that if you were there, minding your own business and reading the Evening Standard, you would not know what to do with yourself. Do you laugh? Do you watch? Do you join in? NO! YOU PRETEND IT’S NOT HAPPENING!! And we have to say the people in this video do a sterling job. We’ve never been prouder of you all.

Liveblog: Episode 6 of The Tube

Guys! It’s nearly over! I know, it’s been emotional. Feel free to make a poster commemorating the occasion and to applaud when it’s all over. I know it started a bit slowly but it really got quite good, didn’t it? I’m not sure I’m ready to end this. Maybe I’ll do The Railway next…?

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