50 Interesting Facts about the London Underground

The London Underground is an institution in London, and anyone who’s ever been to the city has undoubtedly used “the tube” at some point or another. Love it or hate it, here are 50 facts you probably didn’t know.

    1. Smoking in the UndergroundAn average of 2.7 million tube journeys are made on the tube each and every day.
    2. With a statistic like that, you’d think many people might have inadvertently given birth while travelling on the tube. Yet only three babies have ever been born in the London Underground. The first (a girl) was in 1924, the second (also a girl) on the 19th of December 2008 and the third, the first boy to be born in the Underground, in May 2009.
    3. The busiest station is Victoria, with 76.5 million passengers a year.
    4. During the three-hour morning peak however, Waterloo is busiest, with around 50 000 people entering.
    5. Around 19 000 people work at the London Underground.
    6. Early in 1987 smoking in the stations and trains was banned for a six-month trial period and then permanently after a discarded match started the King’s Cross fire in November 1987, killing 31 people.
    7. Even though smoking is banned, a 40-minute tube ride is said to be the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes anyway.
    8. There are 64 lifts in the Underground system.
    9. The deepest lift shaft is at Hampstead and 55.2m deep.
    10. The largest Tube car park is at Epping and has 599 parking spots.
    11. The average scheduled train speed (including stops) is 33 km/h.
    12. The Animals of the Underground is an art project started by Paul Middlewick in 1988 after he spotted an elephant shape while staring at the tube map during his daily journey home from work. Created using the tube lines, stations and junctions of the London Underground map, the animal collection grows all the time and includes whales, birds and bats.

      An elephant drawing made from the underground

      An elephant is one of “The Animals” that can be found on London tube maps when using a little imagination.

    13. The longest single journey on one train is the 54.5 kilometre trip between West Ruislip and Epping, on the Central Line.
    14. On 11 July 2000, a driver fell asleep at the controls. The Northern Line train – with more than 100 passengers onboard – rolled backwards in the tunnel for almost a kilometre through Chalk Farm station.  Luckily, the train went through a signal at red and an automatic device on the track turned the train’s brakes on.
    15. Filming takes place in many places in the Underground system, but the most common locations are Aldwych, a disused tube station which was formerly on the Piccadilly Line, as well as at the non-operational Jubilee Line complex in Charing Cross.
    16. One of the levels in Tomb Raider 3 is set in the disused Aldwych tube station and sees Lara Croft killing rats.
    17. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Headmaster at Hogwarts has a scar shaped just like the London Underground map on his knee.
    18. There are many reports of the London Underground being haunted. One of the most famous haunting stories is the story of Anne Naylor, murdered in 1758 and said to haunt Farringdon Station. Passengers have often reported hearing blood curdling screams as the last train leaves.

      William Terriss, the late British actor rumoured to haunt Covent Garden station.

      William Terriss, the late British actor rumoured to haunt Covent Garden station.
      Image © The Drury Lane Theatrical Fund

    19. Covent Garden station on the Piccadilly Line is said to be haunted by a man dressed in evening wear who disappears very suddenly.  Some staff members have refused to work at the station because of him.
    20. There are only two tube station names that contain all 5 vowels – ‘Mansion House’ and ‘South Ealing’.
    21. The oldest tube line in the world is the Metropolitan line, which opened on the 10th of January in 1863.
    22. The first escalator was introduced at Earls Court in 1911.
    23. Baker Street is the station with the most platforms – 10.
    24. The shortest escalator on the tube system, with only 50 steps, is at Chancery Lane.
    25. Julian Lloyd Webber is rumoured to have been the London Underground’s first official busker.
    26. Almost 60% of the London Underground is actually above the ground and not underground.
    27. Out of the 287 stations, only 29 are south of the river Thames.
    28. Fact # 30

    29. One of the female automated voice announcers is called Sonia – rumour has it it’s because her voice “gets on yer nerves.”
    30. Edward Johnston designed the font for the London Underground in 1916 and it is still in use today.
    31. Each of the 400+ escalators do the equivalent of two round-the-world trips in kilometres every week.
    32. Amersham is not only the most westerly station on the tube, but it is also the highest at 150 meters above sea level.
    33. Harry Beck designed the tube map in 1933 and was paid only five guineas for the job.  His design still forms the basis of today’s tube map.
    34. The mosquitoes in the underground have been said to have evolved into a completely different species to any that lives above the ground.
    35. Few stations don’t have buildings above the ground – these include Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, and Bank.
    36. The air in the undeground is on average 10 degrees celcius hotter than the air on the surface.
    37. People who commit suicide by throwing themselves under tubes are nicknamed “one-unders” by London Underground staff.
    38. It is estimated that around 100 tube suicides occur each year, the majority of these at Victoria and King’s Cross.
    39. The most popular tube suicide time is 11 am.
    40. Fact # 33The best places to spot the legendary underground mice running around the tracks are Waterloo Station and any platform at Oxford Circus.
    41. Anthea and Wendy Turner have written a series of children’s books about mice living on the London Underground – called ‘Underneath the Underground’.
    42. Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance starred in a 1970′s horror called DEATH LINE, which tells the story of a cave-in while a station is being built at Russell Square in the 1890s. Several labourers are presumed dead and the bodies are left there when the construction company goes bankrupt. Of course these people are not really dead – instead they survive and reproduce… Years later, they start to find their food supply from the platform at Russell Square.
    43. A fragrance call Madeleine was introduced at St. James Park, Euston, and Piccadilly stations in 2001 as an idea to make the tube more pleasant.  It was supposedly a fresh, floral scent, but it was discontinued within two days after numerous complaints from people saying they felt ill.
    44. In January 2005, the London Underground announced that it would play classical music at stations that had problems with loitering youths. A trial showed a 33% drop in abuse against tube staff. Wonder if it’s still happening?
    45. The Jubilee Line was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, but did not open until 1979.
    46. Aldgate station is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1000 bodies were buried in 1665.
    47. The District Line serves sixty different stations; Piccadilly Line serves fifty-two; and the Northern and Central Lines serve fifty-one and forty-nine stations respectively.
    48. In 2004 it was found that rubber mountings on carriages were collapsing on Piccadilly Line carriages due to excessive passenger weight! The estimated cost of replacing these defective mountings is in excess of twenty million pounds.
    49. This could be related to the fact that the Cadbury’s Whole Nut chocolate bar is by far the biggest seller in the dispensing machines at tube stations.
    50. The nickname “tube” originally applied to the Central London Railway which was nicknamed the Twopenny Tube – because of the twopenny fare as well as its cylindrical tunnels. The “tube” part of the nickname eventually transferred to the entire London Underground system.
    51. The phrase MIND THE GAP originated on the Northern line in 1968.
  • John Smith

    Hey! Thanks for your post. Its really nice blog. Keep posting!

  • Brad Paris

    Bethnal Green is another station with no building above ground. Also it was the scene of the largest civillian disaster of the 2nd world war.

  • Lois Day

    thanks nd more thanks to harry beck for designign these things for us to use nd see more often nd to help ourselves round the train station. :) !!!!! xx

  • Lois Day

    yep thts rite :) ????? <3 xx

  • Roj Ash

    There are two problems with Fact #30:

    1. In the text it says “two round-the-world trips in kilometres every week.”, whereas in the box it says “two round-the-world trips in kilometres every day.”

    2. The phrase “in kilometres” is completely redundant. Two round the world trips is two round the world trips, whether it’s in kilometres, miles, yards, furlongs, or any other linear measurement you care to specify.