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London Underground

London has an extensive and efficient underground commuter train network officially called the London Underground and nicknamed the ‘Tube’ by Londoners. The London Underground is the oldest underground train system in the world with a history that date backs to 1863 and then known as the Metropolitan Railway. Today the public transport system carries around five million passengers a day.

The Underground trains are an easy way to get around London and for most visitors, the main form of public transport in the city. Without having to deal with London’s vehicle traffic above the ground, the Underground trains are the fastest way to get around the city. The rapid transit of the London Underground network is the largest in the world and comprises of 11 lines crossing Central London and the suburbs serving around 270 stations. Each line has a name (e.g. Piccadilly Line, Northern Line and Circle Line) and a standard colour on the Tube map.

London Underground train by Tom Page

Paying the Fare

You can purchase a single or return paper ticket from the ticketing machines at the Underground stations but do not offer good value. Furthermore, there are plans to phase out the tickets. Better to use a prepaid card (Oyster Card, Visitor Oyster Card or Travelcard) which offers better value and convenience. You can also use your contactless credit/debit card such as Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass.

  • If using a paper ticket, insert the ticket into the slot on the ticket barrier and then remove it when entering the platform. When exiting the platform, insert the ticket again into the slot but this time the automatic gate retains the ticket.
  • If using a card, tap the card on the card reader (yellow pad) to open the ticket barrier when entering the platform. When exiting the platform, tap the card again on the card reader to open the automatic gate.
Ticket gate at a London Underground station by mattbuck

Operating Hours & Lines

Underground trains generally operate from around 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Trains are the fastest way to get around London but expect the stations and trains to be crowded during the weekday rush hours. Best to avoid the trains during the rush hours and are usually from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Since in 2016, some routes operate a round-the-clock service on Fridays and Saturdays called the Night Tube. The Night Tube services are currently available on the:

  • Central Line (no night service between North Acton and West Ruislip, Loughton and Epping, Woodford and Hainault)
  • Piccadilly Line (night services only between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5)
  • Victoria Line (entire line)
  • Jubilee Line (entire line)
  • Northern Line (entire line)

King's Cross St Pancras Station by mattbuck

Tube Map

You are never far from an Underground station especially in central London. The Tube map is a useful guide to access London’s Underground train network and printed copies are usually available free from major stations, tourist information centres and hotels. You can also download the Tube map (in PDF format) from the Transport for London website. Many lines have multiple branches and therefore always check the train’s destination shown on the front of the train and indicator screen on the station platform.

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