The London Underground


The London Underground, or the Tube as it is often called, is the oldest underground train network in the world. Opened in 1863 there are a total of eleven lines, 270 stations and over 400 km of track, making it the third longest subway system in the world. The London Underground carries over a billion passengers a year, or about 3 million every day. The deepest stations are over 60 metres below the surface, however 55% of the tracks run above it.

In the 1830s London’s authorities had the idea of linking the centre of London with the large train stations which were located farther away. In 1863 the first underground railway, the Metropolitan Line, opened. Wooden carriages were powered by steam locomotives. The system of tracks gradually expanded. By the end of the 19th century most lines used electricity to power the trains. During World War II many tube stations were air-raid shelters where people sought protection during the German bombing of the city.

Over the course of history, the size of the tunnels changed, so that today, two different types of trains travel across the city. Modern escalators bring passengers to the deep level stations of the tube. The Jubilee Line is the last line to be built. It was opened in 1979 in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 25th anniversary as monarch. In the 1990s it was extended eastwards to the Docklands.



The London Underground normally operates daily between 5 a.m. and midnight. Some lines stay open throughout the night on special occasions, like New Year’s Eve. London Underground stations can get very crowded during the weekday rush hours. Even though the system is so large, trains usually run on time. Over the decades underground stations have been modernized. In the past years many have been equipped with Wi-Fi access to make journeys as comfortable as possible. The well-known symbol of the London Underground, a red circle with a blue bar, was developed at the beginning of the 20th century and has not changed much since then.

Some of London’s Underground stations are buildings which have a special architectural value. Many original stations have been restored and look similar to the way they did over a century ago.

Although so many people use the underground every day, the safety record of the system is very good. Most deaths occur as suicides.

The London Underground also faces environmental problems.  Because the water level of the Thames is constantly on the rise, thousands of cubic metres of water must be pumped out of some of the underground stations every day.



Related Topics



  • air-raid shelter = place under the ground where you can go to when bombs are dropped by planes
  • although = while
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened in an earlier year
  • architectural value = here: the stations are important because of the way they were built
  • authorities = here: the people who govern the city
  • bar = long line
  • billion = a thousand million
  • carriage = a part of a train where passengers sit
  • century = a hundred years
  • decade = ten years
  • develop = create for the first time
  • electricity = power that is carried by cables  and used to make machines work
  • environment = the world around us
  • equip = provide, give
  • escalator = a moving set of stairs that take people to different levels of a building
  • even though = while
  • expand = to make larger
  • extend = spread out
  • face= handle, manage
  • gradually = slowly
  • however =but
  • in honour = to show that you respect someone
  • link = connect
  • located = to be found
  • monarch = king or queen
  • network = system
  • on the rise = if something goes or moves up
  • operate = here: the system works
  • over the course of history = as time passed on
  • restore = bring something back to its original form
  • rush hour = time of day when people are travelling from and to work
  • safety record = the number of accidents that happen compared with the number of people who travel on the Underground
  • seek – sought = look for
  • special occasions = certain days of the year
  • steam = power that is produced when water is heated
  • subway = underground
  • suicide = to kill yourself
  • surface = the top layer of an object
  • track = two metal lines along which a train travels
  • Wi-Fi = way of connecting to the internet using radio signals