For yesterday's post on tube line diagrams, I needed to visit one of every kind of tube carriage, and I wanted to do it as quickly as possible.
How to travel on each of the London Underground's eleven lines in the shortest time?
And that's the All Lines Challenge. This is a much simpler version of the more well known Tube Challenge, where intrepid travellers attempt to visit every station on the London Underground. But in this case the target is simply to travel on at least one section of each line, making the challenge much easier and quicker to complete.
And this is a real thing, I'm not making it up. Train-focused individuals compete on a semi-regular basis to tackle the All Lines Challenge, and an 'official' ranking of competitors exists. Before I say more, have a guess at how fast you'd think it would be possible to travel on every London Underground line. I'll confirm that the DLR and Overground are not included, the latter not since the East London line closed in 2008. But I'll clarify that the challenge does include the Waterloo and City line... which may make you adjust your estimate somewhat.
Key to a successful All Lines Challenge is selecting the right route. Ideally you only want to travel one stop on each line, and this seriously limits the variety of possible routes. The need to take the Waterloo and City line means you have to visit Waterloo and Bank, and then the only other one-stop-and-change route out of Waterloo is up towards the Circle line. This means that one end of the All Lines Challenge tends to zigzag around between the Central and Circle in the vicinity of Piccadilly Circus, and the other end tends to take the subsurface lines from Liverpool Street, or thereabouts.
If you fancy a puzzle, pop over to the tube map and try tracing out your own route that hits each line once. We'll wait.
So the record time for this, achieved in 2008, is an amazing thirty-three minutes and thirty-seven seconds. The challengers were Matthew Scrivin and Steven Karahan, two seasoned experts at this kind of thing, indeed Steven held the Guinness World Record for visiting every tube station back in 2004. History does not record the route they used to travel on each line once, but it must have been good because since 2008 nobody's even come close. Andi James managed thirty-eight minutes forty-one seconds in 2012, a full five minutes behind, but most entries in the league table are for forty-something. Yes of course there's a league table, why would you think otherwise?
So here's how I got on when I tried the All Lines Challenge. An attempt which (blimey) would have catapulted me into the league table at number 35.
Oxford Circus: There are several different possible places to start, but this seemed as good as any. 00:00Victoria The doors close on platform 5, and the challenge begins! Green Park: Ah, bugger, my first interchange is the really long tiled passageway at Green Park. I haven't thought this through. 00:04Piccadilly This is a surprisingly crowded carriage for a weekday afternoon. Piccadilly Circus: A mini-trek up and over via the mini spiral staircase. 00:08Bakerloo I'm on my third line in only eight minutes, this is going well. Charing Cross: Hang on, I've messed up again, there's a really long pedestrian interchange here, because this used to be two stations. 00:15Northern Look at that, I've wasted seven minutes. But this one-stop train journey is really short. Embankment: And this is a super-fast change, from down below to an incoming train up top. 00:17District I'm getting one of the four subsurface lines ticked off early. Westminster: And back down into the depths again, for the inevitable journey to Waterloo. 00:22Jubilee The sixth of my eleven trains, so halfway already, and things are looking good. Waterloo: But here's a slow interchange, first up two sets of escalators, then needing to touch out before a lengthy trek up and down to the odd line out. 00:29Waterloo & City Time for a nice six minute sitdown - it's been a real physical workout up until this point. Bank: This isn't the fastest interchange either, with yet another long tunnel to walk down and a lot more steps. 00:40Central Damn, I've blown the record already, and there are still three lines to go. Liverpool Street: I bet anyone taking this challenge seriously runs... I'm just walking fast. 00:45Metropolitan It doesn't matter which train comes along next, it's one of the last three I need. Moorgate: And this is so easy, I simply step off and wait for the next train to roll in. 00:49Circle But then it's a raffle to see if these last three trains arrive in the right order. Barbican: And no, damn, the next train's another Metropolitan, so I'm going to have to waste time skipping that one. 00:54Hammersmith & City Last train, and once it reaches the next station I can stop the clock... 00:55:30 Farringdon: So there you go, 55½ minutes to ride every line, and my 35th position in the challenge league table is assured.