Imploding Tubes

Was today a tipping point for London’s Tube network? The ancient subterreanean arteries operate far closer to the edge than most people realise – stations often kept open only because a key member of staff knows precisely where to kick a signal box to get it working – and this morning the whole network practically collapsed.

After an hour to travel 8 stations on the Jubilee Line, I abandoned it and went the long way round on the Circle. (The line shut down shortly afterwards.) With Waterloo & City closed anyway, big trouble on the Northern, and either severe or minor delays on the Met, District, Circle, and Central, that’s seven lines of a possible twelve clogged up, and that’s all you need to create blockages and waves across the whole system. At 90 mins, my journey to work averaged a speed of …. 5 km/h.

And yet when there’s a disaster like 7/7, things are corrected efficiently and coolly; barely a day before the network’s up and running, even while mangled shards of metal and human flesh are being scraped out of the tunnels. The reason the Tube is so bad for everyday users is that expectations are simply so low; as a daily commuter I think nothing of a cancelled train or a 10min stop deep within a tunnel. We’ve just got used to it.

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