Which are London's most squashed tube journeys, and when?
It's now possible to answer this question thanks to the release of a massive datafile by the TfL digital team. They've made public a dataset describing "the typical LU train loading, for each 15 minute period of the day, between every pair of consecutive stations on each LU line, in both directions." The figures are for a typical weekday in November. To keep things simple, train loading is expressed on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being 'very quiet' (which means there are seats) and 6 being 'exceptionally busy' (which means there are more than 5 passengers standing per square metre). Now that's squashed.
Actual measure on train
zero to all seats taken
0 to 2 customer per m2
2 to 3 customer per m2
3 to 4 customer per m2
4 to 5 customer per m2
>5 customers per m2
To give you an idea of what the data looks like, here's the northbound Victoria line between 6am and 11am. All I've done is colour the cells - the data engineers kindly put all the rows in the right order. You can click to embiggen.
Here's what the data shows. At 6am the northbound Victoria line is 'very quiet' (1). Passenger traffic picks up south of Euston until around 8am (2 & 3). The most crowded period is from 8am to 9am between Stockwell and Oxford Circus (4). The busiest section of line is between Victoria and Green Park (5), which continues to have standing passengers even after the morning peak. The line north of King's Cross is always 'very quiet'... at least until 3pm when the drift home north begins.
Across the entire set of data, most tube journeys most of the day are 1s. If this isn't your experience, that's because you're probably commuting in the 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s, which is why they're 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s.
Here's a brief summary of the busiest times on each of the tube lines.
• The Bakerloo line never gets busier than a 4, southbound between Marylebone and Oxford Circus in the morning rush hour.
• The Central line is at its busiest westbound between Stratford and Bank between 8am and 9am, and eastbound between Chancery Lane and Mile End between 5.30pm and 6.30pm.
• On the Victoria line the morning rush is busier than the evening, with crush zones northbound between Victoria and Green Park, and southbound between Highbury & Islington and Oxford Circus.
• The Jubilee line is also more packed in the mornings, particularly westbound between Canning Town and Westminster, but also eastbound between Waterloo and Canary Wharf.
• The Northern line is particularly crammed from Clapham South up to Moorgate and from Euston down to Bank between 8am and 9am - with the evening peak a little better spread, and the Charing Cross branch rarely so busy.
• The Piccadilly line only gets 'very busy' at three points - Manor House to Finsbury Park at 8.15am, Caledonian Road to Holborn between 8.15am and 9am, and South Ealing to Acton Town just after 8am.
• The District line generally has plenty of space, with brief 'very busy' hotspots in the morning peak from Plaistow to West Ham, from Parsons Green to West Brompton, and from Victoria to St James's Park.
• The Metropolitan line also has plenty of room, except in the morning peak between 7.30am and 9am, when it's consistently 'exceptionally busy' between about Harrow-on-the-Hill and Finchley Road.
• The Waterloo and City line, as you'd expect, is utterly rammed in one direction only in the peaks, so avoid 8am to 9.15am from Waterloo to Bank, and and 5.15pm to 6.30pm from Bank to Waterloo.
• The surprise in the dataset is the Hammersmith & City line which is apparently regularly crushed. The stretches to avoid are Paddington to Farringdon and Liverpool Street to Baker Street in the morning peak, and (to a lesser extent) the reverse in the evening peak.
• Meanwhile the Circle line apparently rarely gets worse than 'fairly busy', which suggests to me that somebody hasn't shared out the Circle and Hammersmith & City line data especially equitably.
The fulldataset is fascinating. If you're interested in your own daily commute, and can manipulate a csv file, take a look. If you're the kind of statistician or geek who likes to play with spreadsheets, I bet you could extract some amazing maps or graphics. Meanwhile if you're a journalist from a London-based news site, perhaps you could hang on until someone else has done all the hard work for you and then publish a glib summary surrounded by adverts.
To be getting on with, here's a complete list of grade 6 'exceptionally busy' journey segments on the weekday tube...
» Central: Bethnal Green → Liverpool Street (0815-0830), Liverpool Street → Bank (0815-0845)
» Jubilee: Canning Town → North Greenwich (0830-0845), Canada Water → Bermondsey (0815-0830), Bermondsey → Waterloo (0815-0845)
» Northern: Clapham Common → Clapham North (0800-0845), Clapham North → Stockwell (0730-0845), London Bridge → Bank (0800-0845), King's Cross St Pancras → Old Street (0815-0845)
» Metropolitan: Harrow-on-the-Hill → Northwick Park (0800-0845), Northwick Park → Preston Road (0745-0830), Preston Road → Wembley Park (0745-0900), Wembley Park → Finchley Road (0745-0845)
» Waterloo & City: Waterloo → Bank (0830-0900), Bank → Waterloo (1730-1815)
» Hammersmith & City: far too many to mention (but none on the Circle line, so I don't trust the data)
» Bakerloo: Wembley Central → Stonebridge Park (0715-0730) ...except this is entirely unbelievable (it looks like someone's been 'playing' in the top left hand corner of the spreadsheet)
If transport data is your thing, TfL's digital team has also released an even more enormous datafile setting out "passenger flow numbers within stations based on customer entries, exits and interchanges, in 15 minute increments." If you've ever wanted to know how many people enter Oxford Circus station between 6pm and 6.15pm and walk down to the southbound Victoria line platform, or how many people change from the District Line to the Central line at Mile End between 8am and 9am on a weekday morning, this data is for you. (The answers are 1158 and 4902 respectively).