Uncovering the Underground: what you didn’t know about the Tube

London Underground

The London Underground public transport system is used by millions of people every year, many passing through its maze of walkways without giving its history or capacity a moment’s thought. Yet the underground maze of tunnels, tracks and stations is a fascinating part of London with many hidden stories and impressive statistics to its name.

Here are just a few.

Longest and shortest

The shortest distance between two stations is 260m, separating Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line. The journey between the two stops takes just 20 seconds. The longest distance is Chesham to Morden (via Bank) on the Metropolitan Line, which is just under four miles. The longest journey you can take without having to change is West Ruislip to Ealing on the Central Line – a journey of 34.1 miles. Finally, the entire tube network stretches across 249 miles.

Highest and deepest

The deepest station below street level is the DLR concourse at Bank on the Northern Line, going down a massive 41.4m. The highest elevation above the ground is 18m, found on the Northern Line, crossing the viaduct at Dollis Brook over Dollis Road in Mill Hill. The longest escalators are at Angel station, each descending 197m.

First and last

The oldest section of the underground network opened in 1863 and the first tunnel was put into service in 1880, running from the Tower of London to Bermondsey. The reason why the train tunnels curve so much is that they follow the medieval street plan of London. The first Central Line journey took place in 1900 and had the Prince of Wales and writer, Mark Twain on board. The first baby born on the underground entered the world in 1924 at Elephant and Castle, while the first crash took place 14 years later when two trains collided between Charing Cross and Waterloo, injuring 12 passengers.

Speech and music

Busking was made legal on the London Underground in 2003 and famous buskers include cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber, as well as, allegedly, Sting and Paul McCartney, who, it has been claimed, have both performed in disguise. The famous warning, ‘Mind The Gap’ was recorded by Peter Lodge in 1968 and is still in use today on some lines. Peter owned a recording studio in Bayswater and stepped in when the original actor demanded royalties. Other tube lines use the dulcet tones of Manchester voice artist, Emma Clarke and BBC Radio Four actor, Tim Bentick, better known for playing David Archer in The Archers.

Strange but true

It’s estimated that half a million mice live in the Underground network, while a species of mosquito was named after the transport network after examples were discovered feasting on the rats that lived down here. Aldgate station was built on the site of a plague pit containing the bodies of 1,000 bubonic plague victims. On a happier note, soil and rubble excavated when digging out the Piccadilly Line was used in the construction of Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club.