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  • Nicolas Huber

The London Underground – A brief history

By Nicolas Huber 

Have you ever had to get from one side of London to the other in a flash? Luckily for you, London has one of the best modes of transportation to offer. The infamous London Underground, known as the Tube or just the Underground.  

The London underground first opened on the 10th of January 1863 as the world's first underground passenger transport service – the world’s first! It was part of the Metropolitan Railway, which is now part of the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.  

The Idea of an underground railway in London was first proposed in the 1830s and finally approved in 1854. A small test tunnel was built in Kibblesworth, a small town with similar geographical qualities to London's. This tunnel was used to test the first trains, until it was filled up in 1861. The first underground railway was then opened between Paddington and Farringdon, carrying 38,000 passengers on its first day! A huge success! 

The Underground would undergo many modernisations throughout its history, with the first electric tube being used in 1980 and electric ticketing in the form of an oyster card being introduced in 2003.  

The Tube would also undergo many different ownerships changes up until the year 2003, in which the underground would become a subsidiary of Transport For London (TFL), an integrated body responsible for London's transport system.  

Today the underground features 11 different lines (plus the new Elizabeth Line) each with their respective colours and servicing their respective parts of Greater London. 

The Tubes logo and font is one of the most recognizable in the world, with the iconic ‘roundel’ first being used in 1908 and the Johnston 100 Typeface being developed in 1916. The map also underwent many changes from being a mess that nobody could read, to a simplified easier to read version, by having the lines and stations smoothed out. Considering there are a lot more stations today, it's a heck of a lot easier to read and understand what trains you need to take.   

The underground is nothing short of a marvel, being used for 296 million passenger journeys in 2020/20201, and that's during lockdown! It is no doubt that the London underground is imperative to keep London moving. 



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