30 Interesting Facts About The London Underground - London City Calling (2023)

30 Interesting Facts About The London Underground - London City Calling (1)


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Brushing up on your London Underground trivia? With over 150 years of history, there’s certainly no shortage of fascinating London Underground facts and stories. These are a few of my favourite facts about the London Underground…

30 Interesting Facts About The London Underground

London has the Oldest Underground System in the World

Opened on 10th January 1863, the London Underground is the oldest transport system of its kind in the world.

It was originally called the Metropolitan Railway.

The first trains ran between Paddington and Farringdon, with 6 stops in between.

The First London Underground Trains were Powered by Steam

When it first opened, the only trains running on the London underground were steam-powered. Despite special pipes to condense the exhaust steam, smoke was a big problem within the tunnels and stations.

In 1890, the London underground began its move to electric trains.

Steam locomotives still ran on the Metropolitan line right up until 1961.

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‘The Tube’ is short for ‘The Twopenny Tube’

One of my personal favourite facts about the London Underground is that ‘The Tube’ is an abbreviation of ‘The Twopenny Tube’. This was a nickname given to the Central Line by the press in the early 1900s because all fares cost a tuppence (two pennies).

There’s Cockney Rhyming Slang for the Underground

In Cockney Rhyming Slang, the London Underground is known as the Oxo Cube (Tube).

There are 272 Stations on the London Underground

The London Underground has 272 stations, 11 lines and 250 miles (400km) of track.

More than 50% of the Underground Runs Overground

Despite being an underground network, over half of London Underground stations are overground and only 45% of the network is actually in tunnels.

The Victoria and Waterloo and City are the only lines that are wholly underground.

The Central Line has the most tube stations with no surface buildings.

Fewer than 10% of Underground Stations are South of the River Thames

There are 241 stations north of theRiverThames but only 31 to thesouth. So why is this?

When the network was first being built, there was far more opportunity for development north of the river. At this time, suburban railways were already providing adequate transport routes south of the river, meaning there would be more competition for these first private tube companies.

The Map Design was Based on a Circuit Board

Harry Beck, the designer of the London underground map, based his design on an electrical circuit diagram. It was originally deemed too radical as it wasn’t geographically accurate, but went on to become the iconic symbol of London still used today. In fact, the underground map was voted a national design icon in 2006.

1.35 Billion Passengers Ride the Underground Every Year

Over 1.35 billion use the London Underground every year. That’s around 3.5 million people per day.

While it may not feel like it for those who have ever been stuck on the tube at rush hour, London doesn’t even make it into the top 10 busiest metro systems in the world. Cities including Shanghai, Tokyo, and Moscow see roughly twice the annual footfall that London does.

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30 Interesting Facts About The London Underground - London City Calling (2)

Waterloo is the Busiest Underground Station

Waterloo Station sees over 100 million passengers pass through it every year, making it the busiest station on the London Underground.

Kings Cross, Oxford Circus, and Victoria stations follow closely behind.

Canary Wharf is the busiest single line station.

The Least Used Station isRoding Valley

Roding Valley on the Central Line is the least used station on the London Underground network, with around 360,000passengers per year.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Stations is 0.3km

The distance between Covent Garden and Leicester Square on the Picadilly Line is a mere 0.3km. This is around a 3-minute walk above ground.

A mistake that many first time visitors to London make is jumping on the underground for every journey when it’s actually quicker to walk many shorter routes.

The Furthest Distance Between Two Stations is 6.3km

Chesham to Chalfont & Latimer on Metropolitan Line sit 6.3km apart. That’s is the furthest distance between two stations on the London Underground network. You won’t want to walk that one!

Five Underground Stations are Named after Pubs

Angel, Royal Oak, Elephant & Castle, Manor House and Swiss Cottage stations were all named after popular pubs nearby, not the other way around. Londoners really love their pubs after all.

Many Stations are Built on Top of Mass Graves From the Plague

Yep, you read that correctly. Many sections of the London Underground network had to be built above or around plague pits.

There are believed to be over 1,000 corpses underneath Aldgate Station. And in 2015, over three thousand skeletons were unearthed under Liverpool Street Station. Try not to think about that one when you’re travelling on the tube late at night.

Many London Underground Stations are Haunted

With its 150+ year history, it’s no surprise that the London Underground has its fair share of ghost stories. Many creepy and unexplainable goings-on have been reported by both staff and passengers on the network.

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Some of the most haunted underground stations in London include:

  • Liverpool Street – strange happenings and figures believed to be the ghosts of plague victims from the mass grave
  • Bethnal Green – screaming women and crying children, thought to be the ghosts of the many who died in stampede when the station was doubling as an air raid shelter during WW11
  • Bank – bad smells, sense of dread and sighting of a sinister black figure known as the Black Nun, who walks the tunnels mourning her executed brother who worked at the old bank
  • Covent Garden – a tall man in a hat and a cloak wandering the corridors of the station at night, beleieved to be actor William Terriss who was murdered in 1897

There are 49 Disused ‘Ghost’ Stations in London

Talking of ghosts, there are 49 disused ‘ghost’ underground stations in London. The majority of these stations were closed due to low passenger numbers or re-routes.

Many stations were fully abandoned and remain completely derelict today. However, some have been given new purposes. Historic Aldwych station is now used as a filming location for many TV shows and movies, and on occasion can be visited by the public on an organised Hidden London tour. There’s also a unique Mission Breakout escape room in the abandoned South Kentish Town station in Camden.

Only 5 Babies Have Been Bornon the Tube

With billions of people using the tube each year, it’s a rather surprising London Underground fact that only five babies have ever officially been born on the tube network.

The first-ever London Underground birth happened at Elephant and Castle in 1924, while the other four took place a lot more recently in the 2000s.

Although, former chat show host Jerry Springer also claims that his mother gave birth to him at Highgate tube station in 1944 when many stations were being used as air-raid shelters during the Blitz. So there could in fact be many more undocumented tube births during this time.

The London Underground was the First Public Transport Network to Introduce Contactless Payment

Contactless bank card payments were introduced on the London Underground in 2014. It was the first public transport system in the world to do so.

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London City Calling

Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the south west. She has a masters degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works as a freelance travel writer, digital marketer and VA, splitting her life between London and travelling the world.

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What are some key facts about the London Underground? ›

The London Underground has a staggering 270 stations. The longest possible single journey on one train is 34 miles, between West Ruislip and Epping on the Central Line. During the Second World War, part of the Piccadilly line was used to store British Museum treasures.

How old is the London Underground What do people call it? ›

Opened in 1863, The Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon was the first, urban, underground railway in the world.

What do locals call the London Underground? ›

London Underground, also called the Tube, underground railway system that services the London metropolitan area.

What is the most popular nickname of the London Underground? ›

The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground or by its nickname the Tube) is a rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent home counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in England.

Why is it called London Underground? ›

The famous 'Underground' sign was first used

The world-renowned underground sign (known as the Roundel) and name 'Underground' were first used. This was also the year that the underground introduced the first electronic ticket machine to stations.

What is the youngest underground line? ›

Opening in 1979 the Jubilee line today began life as a branch of the Metropolitan Railway in 1932, before being transferred to the Bakerloo line in the 1930s. The Jubilee line is the youngest line on the Underground network, before the opening of the Elizabeth line in 2018.

Why do they call it the Tube? ›

The "Tube" is a slang name for the London Underground, because the tunnels for some of the lines are round tubes running through the ground. The Underground serves 270 stations and over 408 km of track.

What is the longest underground line? ›

The Central line is a London Underground line that runs through central London, from Epping, Essex, in the north-east to Ealing Broadway and West Ruislip in west London. Printed in red on the Tube map, the line serves 49 stations over 46 miles (74 km), making it the longest line on the Underground.

How fast does the London Underground go? ›

For safety reasons, our Underground trains have a maximum speed of 60MPH. We often run trains in central London at a slower speed, as this allows us to have more trains on the network moving more passengers overall.

What is good about the London Underground? ›

It's a Cheap Way to Get Around London

There are cheaper ways to get around London (buses are much cheaper) but the Tube is a surprisingly affordable way to travel around London when you're on a budget. When we visited during our college days, it was indispensable for poor college students.

What is the top speed of a London Underground train? ›

On average, trains on the London Underground travel at 20.5mph or 33kph. However, Tube trains have been known to reach speeds of over 60mph on some lines.

Is the London Underground the oldest in the world? ›

The London Underground is the oldest metro system in the world, with services operating from 1890.


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