The London underground is a transport marvel for several reasons. For instance, it was the very first underground rail system in the world and boasts a wonderful history that transcends transport. When it first opened, the trains were steam engines and the carriages did not always have roofs. During WWII it was also used as a shelter to protect Londoners from German bombs. Also, it remains possibly the most complex and extensive network in the world. Even the map is a work of supreme design that is visually impressive and unique.
As wonderful as the history of the underground is, it was the present that concerned my girlfriend and I when we visited London. We wanted to get around London quickly, effectively and economically. On the final count, things were not so bad. We found that a single day travelcard came in at the rather reasonable price of 7GBP. This is more expensive than I we had found in Marseille or Lyon in France, but for a major European capital in which we would do plenty of travelling, it was good value for money.
As we arrived just three days before the Olympics we were expecting things to be extremely busy and were worried we would face some disruption in our journeys. However, we found this to absolutely not be the case. We did most of our travelling on the District and Circle lines – these took us to Tate Modern and St Paul's Cathedral as well as the museums in Kensington and finally to our bus for the journey home. The trains were extremely regular and not at all busy. The District line was a little more regular and efficient than the Circle, but both were excellent.
The only complaint I had was the quality of information passed on to passengers. The display screens in most stations displayed the next trains that would arrive. However, they only saw as far as four or five minutes into the future and gave only information on the next one or two trains. Additionally, there were scores of announcements on the audio system. We were warned to take bottles of water onto the underground, we were told that all lines were operating well and we even heard the mayor h=giving information about transport during the Olympics. However, we scarcely heard any updates about delayed trains. There were a couple of occassions when we were waiting for a train to arrive and the information screen was blank and we were given no information over the speakers.
Overall, the underground surprised me in a very positive way. I had been expecting delays and problems, but it was quick, relatively cheap and efficient.