Transport in London

5 May 2011

There are many options in getting around London. Typically we think of using a taxi or bus, or the world famous Tube. One can also use rail service, and even that provides for options. National Rail is used for travel throughout England, Scotland and Wales but it can also be used between London stations. London Overground and the Docklands Light Rail provide additional rail service in London. For transport information see
Transport for London.

Types of Transport

This section of the Good London Guide has the following chapters:
Black Cab (urban car service)
Crossrail (urban rail service)
Dockland Light Railway (urban rail service)
London Overground (urban rail service)
National Rail & Thameslink (national rail service)
(Eurostar is in the Transport to London section)
Red Bus (urban bus service)
Underground (urban rail service)
How to Pay
Each chapter has how-to-pay information, but the separate chapter has additional information. All of the transport types come under the auspices of Transport for London (TfL) except for National Rail.

Journey Planner

Transport for London publishes a map in paper form and as a PDF that shows the routes stations of the tube system. The paper map is what is usually fond printed in books, magazines and other documents. It can be picked up at any tube station. This is commonly referred to as a journey planner. TfL also has a page on their site entitled Journey Planner (in Getting Around) so you can find how to get from one station to anther and the cost.


With a little bit of planning no area of London is inaccessible from public transport. One may have to hop a bus after a tube ride or take a train but the network is easily connected.

Luggage in Transit

Luggage or other packages left unattended may be subject to security seizure and destroyed. The fear of parcel bombs has been a concern in London for a long time. Items can be denied transport and subject to police search. Police in England have very broad stop and search authority.

People Having Special Concerns
(Students, Families, Children, Disabled & Elderly)

Transport for London has maps showing tube and rail stations that are step free for wheelchair users as well as for others with mobility issues.
Black Cab (urban car service)

Students, Families & Children

Allowances are made for children and young adults to travel at discount, but the rules vary with the different forms of public transport. As indicated, some schemes are not for tourists. See Transport for London for more details.

Children under 5 travel free on the Underground, Overground, Bus, Tram and National Rail if traveling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Photo cards not required for the children.

Up to 4 children (from 5 to 10) per adult who has a valid ticket, can travel free

Children from 5 to 10 can travel free on the Bus and Tram if:
They are travelling with an adult having a valid ticket. Photo cards for the children not required.

The 5 to 10 scheme is not for tourists if you are not travelling with an adult.

The 11 to 15 scheme is not for tourists.

The 16 and 17 scheme is not for tourists.

The 18+ scheme is not for tourists.

One needs to apply for a photo card with TfL
here. Do so at least three weeks prior to arriving. If you are not a resident of London you are required to pay a non-refundable £10 charge. That’s 50p if you make 2 trips a day for 10 days.

Disabled & Elderly

Transport for London, on their Getting Around page has a link to Transport Accessibility, which give full details on navigating the network should have mobility issues. Be forewarned that London and its transport network are old and the designers never gave the thought to make it easy for everyone as well do today. They are working at it but it takes time.

The tube has steps and in as much there are lifts there are still steps. Some stations have wheelchair access but the tube in general is problematic.

Buses allow for wheelchairs and baby carriages. Please be advised that they have space near the rear doors and should they or the elderly come your way you should make way for them. Wheelchair users ride free on buses.

National Rail and London Overground can be difficult for people with mobility issues as getting on or off a train is not an easy endeavor.

The Docklands Light Railway is pretty much free of obstacles.

How to Pay

There are a number of ways to pay for public transport in London and by far cash is the most expensive way. Each chapter in this section lists methods of payment and the How to Pay chapter gives additional information.

One can buy a Bus Pass, Oyster Card (pay-as-you-go) or a Travel Card (paper or on an Oyster Card) from a Transport for London station (machine or agent) or from a third-party vendor. These are good for all modes of public transport except the taxis and mini-cabs.

Free Public Transport in London

Students and children may be able to travel on public transport for reduced fares or for free. Transport for London has information on this starting on their ticket page, and as I outlined above.

Seeking Assistance

Please be aware that TfL is trying to eliminate staff positions at stations and move people to use the ticket machines in a cost savings plan. This may save money but it can cause those of us not familiar with the machines to baffled at times when we need to make a selection after given several options.

Transport for London Website Issues

Transport for London (TfL) is the best source of information in getting around the city and beyond. They print a lot of the information in paper form and although I have found minor mistakes over the years (who doesn’t have something slip through?) they are very god. BUT, they seem to have problems with their website. Many of the links they provide do not open correctly. Some of the links I provide (to TfL) in my Guide may not open correctly.

Drinking & Smoking Ban

It is illegal to smoke or drink alcohol on any form of public transportation, including taxis and private hire cars. It is also illegal to or carry an open container of alcohol on any form of public transportation, including taxis and private hire cars.

Photographing Public Transport

You cannot take photographs (with flash) in the underground and in general you are not permitted to take photos without a permit from the London Underground Film Office. Flash is restricted to protect the train drivers, which is a safety issue. Taking photos could also cause safety concerns with passenger movement, which is a liability issue with LU.

London 2012

This third-part site, has great information on the up-coming London Olympics and for getting to and fro go to their making it happen, transport page.

Luggage in Transit

Black Cab (urban car service)
There is plenty of room in a taxi for your luggage and room in the trunk, if needed. Two people travelling on holiday should not have luggage issues.

Crossrail (urban rail service)
Not currently in service.

Dockland Light Railway (urban rail service)
Trains do not have dedicated space for luggage or large packages. The DLR is a commuter service to get people with personal items such as laptop, handbags, etc., from one place to another. Should you take large items on board please keep them nearby and keep your eye on them.

London Overground (urban rail service)
Unlike national rail trains, London Overgrond does not dedicated space for luggage or large packages.

National Rail & Thameslink (national rail service)
Most carriages have luggage racks above the seats. Also, look for open compartments near the doors.

Red Bus (urban bus service)
There is space for some luggage and large items near the front door. One should exit using the rear door but it is ok to get off with your luggage in front. Please say to the driver (when he stops) that you would like to get off in front. It is simply a courtesy to the driver and other passengers. You may not be able to stand or sit next to your bags but they are generally safe. Hauling luggage or large items during peak travel times may pose a problem for you and others so try and think of this ahead of time.

Sorry to say that there are no stowage areas on trams for luggage or large packages. One must keep belongings close at hand and off other seats.

Underground (urban rail service)
There is little to no room on a carriage for luggage. Unlike some rail cars there are no overhead racks. The only space is near the doors and one cannot be assured to be near ones bags. Just deal with this and keep an eye on yours but they will be ok. One would think that since the Piccadilly line serves 5 terminals at Heathrow luggage space would be a consideration.