London Underground celebrates 150 years

Britain Oldest Subway by .
In this photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, a commuter walks at Baker Street underground station in London. The world’s first subway system marked its 150th anniversary Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, with reports showing that original travel conditions were much as they are today: busy, congested and stressful for passengers. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Londoners are celebrating 150 years since the inception of the Tube by looking back on a century and a half of London Underground history.

Much like the city of London itself, the London underground railway combines a rich historical past with modern innovation.

According to the Transport for London and London Transport Museum websites, the London Tube ran for the first time on Jan. 9, 1863, with a single line between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street. It was the world’s first passenger-carrying subway system. Today, with 270 stations and 249 miles of track, the Tube carries over one billion passengers per year and has provided a blueprint for underground railway systems around the world.

Although it is the oldest underground transport system on earth, the London subway system is by no means archaic or outdated. Transport for London works to keep its technology cutting-edge, its prices affordable for every Londoner and its maps easily navigable. In fact, many prefer the original London Tube to newer metro systems of other major world cities.

According to longtime London resident Julie Shaner, “After using the underground metros in cities like New York, San Francisco and Paris, one starts to appreciate the London Underground. It is so clean, calm and predictable — a shadow of the English citizens above.”

Madelyn Coleman, a 20-year-old American student living in London with Brigham Young University’s study abroad program, described the Tube as “much easier to navigate than the New York subway system.”

“I love how accessible and clearly marked everything is,” she said. “As a student here in London, I’d be pretty much trapped in the area I live without the Tube. I don’t have the money to pay for cabs all the time, and I most certainly don’t have the stamina to walk from one side of the city to the next.”

The London Underground can additionally serve as a venue for heartwarming encounters, according to the 150 individuals who shared their stories with London Evening Standard. In an article released to honor the 150-year milestone, the London Evening Standard released 150 accounts of uplifting personal experiences on the Tube.

A woman named Hayley Smart shared, “One night my horrible boss fired me for needing a toilet break; I tearfully fled and ended up in the Tube station. I ran inside and a lovely face greeted me, comforting and calming me down, even given me a cup of tea! I never got his name but will never forget how kind he was!”

Transport for London, in partnership with the London Transport Museum, plans to celebrate 150 years of the Tube with events and activities throughout the year of 2013. According to a statement on Transport for London’s website, “The events will explore the Tube’s history and look at the role it will play in the future.”

Included in these plans will be an effort to install contemporary art from renowned British artists in each and every underground railway station. Gifts and souvenirs will be released to commemorate the 150-year anniversary of the Tube, including cufflinks, ceramics engraved with the Underground blueprint, and limited edition prints and posters.

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