21 great tube hacks that change absolutely everything
21 great tube hacks that change absolutely everything
The tube is great but, let's face it, you want to minimise the amount of time you have to spend in its furnace-hot belly wherever possible.
It's a sprawling beast with twists, turns and a smorgasbord of possible routes and stations to choose from, so you don't always necessarily enjoy the speediest journey that's possible.
We've collected together 20 top hacks to set you aside from the other commuters; laugh in their face as you arrive at your destination way before them, then stride off into the sunset to use your bonus time for whatever the hell you like, you crazy cats.
As well as being the busiest station on the whole underground - peak hours see more than 57,000 people going through its barriers - it can also take an age - sometimes up to 15 minutes - to get from the surface down to one of the tube lines. There are often other, better stations to get off mainline services onto the tube (eg. Vauxhall). In addition, the Jubilee line is so far away from the Northern line there's actually an airport-style travelator to get between them (which is at least fun as you feel like you've got a power-up).
Never change from Monument to Bank
It might look like they're joined on the tube map, but the official interchange time between the Central Line at Bank and the District Line at Monument is a whopping 7 minutes (in tube world, that's an eternity). Even worse is going from the District line to the Waterloo & City Line - that's 10 minutes. And you're only going to end up at Waterloo...
The Map Doesn't Lie
There's a reason that Paddington station is given its own discrete stop on the Hammersmith & City Line - it's a full 15 minute walk to the Bakerloo line and 13 minutes to the Circle and District Lines. Don't be fooled by it being the same name. See also the Edgware Road Bakerloo line station.
Except it does
Obviously you should all know by now that the glorious tube map is not geographically accurate. Many stations can easily be walked between in minutes rather than going across and back via different lines. Check out this geographically-accurate map of the underground to see for yourself. Two quick tips: Paddington to Lancaster Gate is a five minute walk, and the Farringdon-Liverpool street Circle/H&C/Metropolitan line section, the Holborn-Bank central line section and Embankment-Monument district line section are all closer together than you think.
Avoid the Edgware Road Hell
We are firmly of the belief that no one at Edgware Road has a clue what on earth is going on. This train is going to Wimbledon. Hang on, no it's not, it's a Hammersmith & City Westbound now. No..no, we're going eastbound now everyone. "Change to platform 2 for southbound district". *Up over the bridge to platform 2* "Ah, no, no, it's actually platform 1" *Back up over the bridge to platform 1*. "No, no, as you were - it's platform 2." Give it a wide berth if you possibly can.
They keep banging on about it, but it's true: using your contactless credit card is exactly the same as using an Oyster card. And as people use their cards more regularly than their Oyster card, it should be quicker, and easier to find it, thus meaning fewer annoying people who spend five minutes at the barriers trying to retrieve it and faster journeys. You're facing the wrong way Boris, by the way.
Get on the right end of the tube
For years, a friend of ours clung to a dog-eared pamphlet which told you which end of the platform to stand on for minimum walking at the other end of your journey. Now you can join in on that knowledge in the digital age with the Tube Exits app, or the First Off The Tube Android alternative.
Get on the central line for a speedy journey
A great man named Michael McHugh calculated which tube line moved fastest, according to metres travelled per minute. The Central Line came out top, closely followed by the Victoria and Jubilee lines, while the District, H&C and Circle lines just embarrassed themselves. While this doesn't necessarily mean that going via these lines will be the quickest for your particular route, it's worth bearing in mind.
Use the great Green Park alternate route
When changing between lines, the routes provided to you are rarely the quickest. However, they make the most sense for the general flow of the station. One neat trick to save time which doesn't involve you going against the flow is the change from Jubilee to Piccadilly line at Green Park: go up the escalators following the 'Way Out' signs, then come back down to the Piccadilly line from the ticket lobby.
...and this King's Cross station one
Changing from the Victoria line to the overground at King's Cross? Don't follow the 'Trains' sign. Follow the sign for 'Way Out: Euston Road' and save yourself time and effort.
One step back, two steps forward
Faced with a packed platform with the queue ten deep to get on? Perhaps after a big sporting event? Either walk to the next stop away from Central London, or simply get on the tube going in the opposite direction for one stop, get off, cross over onto the other platform and bag yourself a seat on a nice empty train. Quicker, and more comfortable.
Don't waste time getting out at a station if you need to find a public toilet - consult this ultra-handy map that TfL provide, showing you where the nearest ones are. Bear in mind that some will charge though...
Mix up your route
A fascinating study taken during the February 2014 tube strike found that one in 20 people who were forced to change their route due to a line being out of service that day ended up sticking to it, as their forced alternative was actually quicker. Try every reasonably route out and see which one works best - it'll save you hours in the long run.
Try to avoid King's Cross St Pancras
King's Cross is a labyrinth these days since its redesign. It also boasts a Bank-level interchange time of 7 and a half minutes between the Circle/H&C/Metropolitan lines and the Northern Lines. The Victoria-Piccadilly lines and Northern-Piccadilly line interchanges are the only reasonable ones at the station (under 3 minutes).
You literally have to go across a main road at Hammersmith
The map makes it look like it's an easy change between the District and Piccadilly lines at Hammersmith. Not so: they're separated by a perennially-busy section of Hammersmith Broadway.
Be aware of the great interchanges
You know the ones: where you hop off one train, straight across the platform, onto another line. Oxford Circus (Victoria to Bakerloo, NB and SB), Stockwell (Northern to Victoria, NB and SB), Baker Street (Bakerloo to Jubilee, NB and SB), Euston (Northern Bank Branch to Victoria, NB and SB), Finsbury Park (Piccadilly to Victoria, NB and SB), Barons Court (District to Piccadilly, EB and WB), Finchley Road (Metropolitan to Jubilee, NB and SB), Kennington (Northern Bank to Northern CX, NB and SB), Mile End (Central to District, EB and WB), Wembley Park (Metropolitan to Jubilee, NB and SB), Acton Town (District to Piccadilly, EB and WB), Hammersmith (District to Piccadilly, EB and WB). There are more when you take into account national rail connections.
The Victoria Line Is Your Friend
It might look like six of one and half a dozen of the other on the map when contemplating which line - Victoria or Northern - to use to get from South to North London, but the Victoria line is comfortably quicker. Plus, the interchange between them at Stockwell and Euston is easy. Also, 10 of the Victoria line's 16 stops are stations with National Rail connections: it's the commuting lifeblood of the city.
Don't Change at Canary Wharf
It may look like it's linked on the map, but Canary Wharf DLR and Canary Wharf Jubilee stations are actually completely separate - Heron Quays DLR station is actually closer. Still, you do get a lovely station to look at while you're on the escalators. And the DLR one is (sort of) inside the tower, which is cool.
Don't be tempted by the Russell Square Stairs
Russell Square can be manically busy at times, with a small ticket hall, slow lifts and limited barriers often creating holdups. But don't be tempted to use the stairs in the name of time-keeping. They take absolutely ages and you'll be knackered at the end.
And the same goes for Covent Garden
A whopping 193-step staircase at Covent Garden. It's just not worth it. At least it's slightly nicer decor than Russell Square though.
Buy your season ticket on January 1st
Not strictly a speed tip, but you'll have an extra spring in your step if you're saving yourself a few quid. Fares normally go up (and usually above inflation) on January 2nd - get in just before and you can benefit from the inside knowledge.