diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pass through all 270 stations on the London Underground network in less than 16½ hours and you might end up in the Guinness Book of Records. I say might, because Guinness are fairly draconian in demanding incontrovertible proof, and that's hard to provide. Plus you need to have a nerdlike devotion to timetables, the athleticism to run between various stations in the outer suburbs, and the good fortune to pick a day without delays and line suspensions. Too tough for me. I've been trying something easier.

I've been attempting to pass through all the stations on the London Underground network in one year. I started at Croxley, soon after midnight on January 1st, and by the time I reached home I'd already visited 22 stations. Good start. Things got a bit slower after that, because my daily commute didn't add much more and kept repeating. But, maybe unlike you, I'm the sort of person who travels all over town visiting places so that helped force the numbers up. A trip to the windmill ticked off Upminster, a walk in the forest dealt with Epping and a Heritage Day sorted Amersham. With two dozen termini to visit, the Annual Tube Challenge is not an achievement you'll earn by accident.

I won't bore you with the full details of where I've been, but some stations proved particularly resistant to my presence. I only got out to Watford last month, despite starting my 2011 trek at the station nextdoor. I never got to Aldgate until few weeks ago, because it's not a station you ever need to visit when you live out east. I somehow missed Lambeth North until I took a deliberate diversion recently to make sure I'd been. I haven't officially passed through Blackfriars because it's been closed all year, so I'm discounting that. And I still haven't made it to New Cross, but that's OK because the Overground isn't part of the Underground so doesn't form part on my annual to-do list.

Taking stock at Christmas I'd visited 258 of the possible 269 London Underground stations, with eleven still to go. Nine of these were far out west so, in the absence of anything else meaningful to do in this post-festive hiatus, that's where I went yesterday. To Chiswick Park on the District line, which I'd bypassed several times but never previously passed through. And then to the Heathrow end of the Piccadilly line. Walking the Capital Ring had taken me to Boston Manor but no further, so I needed to make an entirely gratuitous trip to the airport to make up the numbers. I headed out to Terminal 5, wandered around a bit, then came home via Terminal 4 on its awkward one-way loop. And, to avoid the entire trip being entirely pointless, I think I've got a post out of it...
London's free trains: The most expensive train journey in London is surely the Heathrow Express. It's £18 to travel from Paddington to Heathrow Airport, or £32 return - that's more than a pound a minute. The Milk-A-Tourist line has even more extortionate first class fares for businessmen with money to burn, should saving time be more important than losing fifty quid. But (and I suspect this is not well known) the far end of their non-Oyster network has infinitely more reasonable fares. Travel one stop beyond Heathrow Central, to either Terminal 4 or Terminal 5, and your journey is totally free. And what a peculiar journey it is.

I started at Terminal 5, amongst the international tourists and the Brits returning from Christmas hols. HEX tickets are sold on the Arrivals floor, then you make your way down into the catacombs by escalator or (more probably) lift. There are no ticket barriers, nor any obvious staff, just a London-bound train waiting in a deep glass chasm. No really, you can climb aboard, so long as you only travel one stop. Big comfy seats, lots of luggage space... this is better than first class on most normal railway lines. But there is a downside, you get to watch Heathrow Express TV while you travel. A stewardess-like lady welcomes you aboard, invites you to check the safety instructions and that's half the journey gone. One mile, beneath the runways, for nothing.

At Heathrow Central it's important to get off. Stay on to Paddington and it'd cost £18, but here again there are no ticket barriers, just open access to Terminals 1 and 3. The Express/Connect station is a gloomy place, essentially two long train tunnels with a pedestrian tunnel inbetween. Imagine a dystopian future where we all live underground in tedious grey tubes, it's like that, this bleak subterranean bunker. It's only when you've experienced a station built by a private company that you realise how architecturally excellent most TfL architecture is.

For transfer to Terminal 4, there's a single-stop shuttle. This runs every fifteen minutes like the trains on the mainline, except these carriages aren't quite so luxurious. Expect a few suitcases here and there, but you should have absolutely no problem getting a seat, and at least there's no TV to be forced to watch. Four minutes later, the destination is a platform in a tunnel just as gloomy as before, plus a disappointingly bland walk to the lifts that'll raise you to departures. What with Terminal 4 itself being more functional than gorgeous, visitors to Britain aren't seeing the loveliest side of our nation when they arrive. But should you ever have the need to travel from Terminal 5 to Terminal 4, or partway inbetween, rest assured there's a comfy seat waiting for you and nobody'll ever ask to see a ticket.
So, I have two stations left. One is Mill Hill East, because there's almost never a good reason to visit Mill Hill East. And the other is Bayswater, which has been closed all week but is at last open today, so I do have a hope of finally getting there. 364 days, six hours and twenty-five minutes, and counting.

Bayswater: 11:40am
Mill Hill East: 2:19pm
entire network: 364 days, 13 hours, 44 minutes

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream