The London Underground today is one of the world’s largest and busiest urban metros. Exactly 150 years ago, on 9 January 1863, when the inaugural train left Paddington for Farringdon with invited guests, the Metropolitan Railway was hailed as an amazing pioneer. A public service began on the following day and the Daily News announced dramatically that ‘for the first time in the history of the world, men can ride in pleasant carriages, and with considerable comfort, lower down than gas pipes and water pipes…lower than the graveyards’.
The Victorian steam underground, less than four miles long with just six stations, has developed into a modern electric system covering more than 250 route miles and serving 270 stations. Last year there were over one billion passenger journeys on the Tube, more than the total for the entire UK national rail network, and the numbers keep growing. Londoners have always grumbled about it, but they could not do without it. The Underground keeps London going.
This talk looks at how this has happened and why the Underground is now the city’s greatest asset, underpinning everything else. Our Tube has shaped the capital and its development over 150 years, and rail transport will be the key to London’s future.