Wednesday, 7 May 2008

London Underground's Not For Me

Memory recall. It’s a strange thing and often hits at inopportune moments. Last week, as I stepped off the overhead train at Liverpool Street station and was heading towards the underground, I suddenly remembered that I don’t like travelling by tube! When you have your journey planned by train and tube this is not a good memory to conjure up!

The underground system is so much better than it used to be; it’s pretty clean and safe and, these days, it can even seem quite friendly! Of course, it can be a nightmare during rush hour and the crowds piling onto trains at Oxford Circus are unforgiving with their shopping bags. It is no fun being crushed together like sardines when it’s busy but, generally speaking, you succeed in getting from A to B. Besides, nobody would take the tube for fun would they?

One thing many tourists don’t realise is that the tube map bears no relation to the relative distances between stations. It’s possible to travel three or four stops, even change onto a different line, and only be a few minutes walk away from where you started. Walking up and down escalators, along never-ending tunnels, following the crowd ahead like a flock of sheep can, potentially, take longer than getting to your destination by foot! It’s a bit of a nonsense really.

Over the last few months I’ve wondered why I get so hot and bothered whenever I visit London. Sometimes I even arrive home with a headache from hell and wonder why when I’ve had a rather pleasant day out! Now I remember why I rarely used the tube when I lived in London and was often prepared to spend much longer above ground on London’s red buses. I think maybe I am tube-phobic (I looked up phobia names to see if this was covered but the nearest - Siderodromophobia - doesn’t work as I’m ok with normal trains).

From now on I will avoid London’s wonderful underground system when possible and allow a little longer for my journeys. I don’t intend to walk everywhere (heaven forbid!) but the bus will now be my first option for travelling within London. If you are using the London Pass with travel then be reassured that this option includes red London buses, Docklands Light Railway and overhead trains to Windsor as well as the underground through all zones.

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