diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Minute distances

In every other part of the country distances are measured in miles. In London, however, distances are measured in minutes.*
* Visitors to London should note that distances on the Underground are measured in Tube minutes. These are approximately 40% longer than normal minutes so that, for example, when the train indicator board suggests that the next train is due in 3 minutes, it will more probably turn up in 5.

Five miles along a motorway in the Midlands may take less than two minutes, but five miles across London can take a lifetime of traffic jams, one-way systems, waiting on platforms and changing trains. In London no form of transport, be it train, bus or car, is permitted to travel for more than two minutes without stopping at a station, in a tunnel, at a bus stop or at traffic lights.

I've just taken thirty minutes to travel less than two miles across East London. It would have been good to be able to travel in a straight line, only this is nigh impossible with a river, industrial estate, rugby ground and cemetery blocking the way. As a result I've actually travelled at least 50% further than necessary in order to get home. What's more, this time-wasting seemed perfectly normal for London and I thought nothing of it. When I was living in East Anglia I could have spent those same thirty minutes driving as many as thirty miles from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds, rather than the miserly distance I've just travelled. The biggest difference between London and Suffolk, however, is that there never was any point in travelling to Bury St Edmunds, whereas two miles across London can be worth every minute.

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