Things you may not know about the London Underground


Nov 13, 2014 by British Blog

For many people in and around the capital, in fact perhaps throughout the UK, the London Underground - also known as the tube - is an institution. It has been running for just over 150 years, and now transports over a billion passengers each year; many Londoners would not know what to do without it.

However, there are many little-known facts about the Underground. How many of the following are news to you?



Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone was one of the first people to travel on the tube, so it is perhaps fitting that it was also the means by which his coffin was transported to his funeral in 1898. Dr Thomas Barnado, founder of the children's homes, also made his final journey by tube. Gladstone and Barnado are the only two people to have had funeral corteges on the Underground.

When London was bombed during World War 2, around 150,000 people sheltered in tube stations at night. Concerts, dances and even theatre productions were held to keep everybody entertained. In fact, people were not the only things sheltering in the stations at that time - treasures from the British Museum were also stored in the Underground during the Blitz.

Three babies are known to have been born on Underground trains, the most recent in 2009.



Around half a million mice live in the Underground, along with an awful lot of rats. In 1998, scientists discovered a previously unknown species of mosquito living in the London Underground's tunnels, feeding off that very supply of rodents.

Given that a large chunk of 'Underground' actually runs above ground, it is hardly surprising that it is home to a wide range of wildlife. Other tube residents include bats, snakes and deer.



The average speed on the Underground is just over 20 miles per hour, but on the Metropolitan Line, large sections of which run over land, speeds can reach 60 miles per hour.

The shortest distance between two tube stations is 260 metres (Leicester Square to Covent Garden); the longest is just less than four miles (Chesham to Chalfont and Latimer).


Random Facts


Perhaps in light of the discovery that the air quality in London's tube network is vastly less good than that of the air above ground, in 2001, the air in three stations was 'freshened' with fragrance. However, this stopped very quickly when large numbers of passengers complained that it made them feel ill.

Much of the soil and rubble that was excavated when the Piccadilly Line was built ended up being used in the construction of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea FC's home ground.

Chelsea FC does not have a tube station named after it. Arsenal, however, does - the Gillespie Road station was re-named Arsenal in 1932, largely thanks to the efforts of the then Arsenal manager, Herbert Chapman.

Several stations on the London Underground network, including Aldgate, are built on or close to plague pits, which are still filled with human remains. As the tube network has developed over the years, several planned tunnels and routes have had to be altered to avoid them.