Home Living in the UK Transportation Five quirks of the London Underground
Last update on February 06, 2020
Written by Kelvin

‘Singaporean in London Kelvin’ singles out five peculiarities of the (in)famous London Tube, chuckle-worthy for Londoners and tourists alike. Mind the gap!

Before coming over to London, I was pondering over ‘Culture Shock! London’, which compiles the quirks of London that others might find interesting. Well, I figured that since I’m going to be in London for quite some time, I might as well plonk down SGD 20 for that read.

I didn’t manage to finish the book though and I conveniently left it on my bed when I was rushing to catch the plane to Heathrow. Tough.

After spending some time in this lovely city – some of you might beg to differ – I’ve realised that there are some more quirks that can be added to the book. I present to you the five quirks of the London Underground.

1. Reasons why trains are delayed

Every so often, Tube trains are delayed for a variety of reasons. Staff announcements are pretty candid about it and here are some of them.

“There is severe delays in the Central Line due to the lack of staff.” What the…

“There is a slight delay in the Northern Line due to a man under the train.” And the driver decided to run over him.

“Please note that Bank Station is closed as the escalators are not working.” Great.  Walking up the escalator is clearly not an option.

2. Recycling of newspapers

If you’re on the Tube during peak hours, you’ll be buried under the newspapers discarded by commuters. The newspapers are invariably Metro, City A.M., London Lite or The London News, which are all free of course. Though every now and then, you’ll strike jackpot and find Financial Times and The Guardian.

Don’t feel shy about picking them up. The trashy news will keep you occupied while the staff is extracting the man from under the train.

3. Entertaining train drivers

London Tube trains are more crammed than their European counterparts. That’s probably the reason why it is called the Tube rather than the Metro. But it helps that the train drivers are somewhat entertaining with their announcements.

“The aircon has broken down and I imagine it to be quite warm back in there. But hey, the weekend’s here and I’m looking forward to the barbecue this Sunday!” (Thanks to the driver who tried to lighten up passengers’ spirits during a hot summer day this year.)

4. Please stand on the right

Unlike most European countries, UK drivers drive on the left side of the road. That rule doesn’t seem to apply for the many escalators in the London Underground system: the ‘slow lane’ is on the right side (instead of the left) of the escalator. As a result, many tourists are befuddled. But then again, you would expect a country that produces Russell Brand and The Mighty Bosh to do things a little different.

5. Don’t miss the train!

Although the interval between most trains is only a couple of minutes (two minutes during peak hours), Londoners hate to miss their trains. I have seen a man kicking his leg through the door to prevent the train from leaving the station. Eventually, the passengers pried the door opened and hauled him in.

Message: When the train door is closing on you, stick a body part though it and your fellow passengers will do the rest. Perhaps I should try sticking my head through next time round.

Photo credit: London Underground sign by J-Cornelius; Tube train at high speed by Annie Mole; Escalator to Hype Park Corner Tube by U-g-g-B-o-y-(-Photograph-World-Sens e-) (all Flickr.com)