London’s Underground (The Tube)

7 July 2014

Tottenham Court Road Station Alert

Work on the tube station should be completed in 2016 and Crossrail service (a new service) should begin in 2018.

The Tube

The Tube may not suitable for many people with disabilities. Although many stations have lifts and escalators, many do not. Even those that have such, access to portions of the station and platforms may require stairs. Please check with TfL for details.

Service Routes

There are 12 underground lines serving London: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo & City. The Docklands Light rail (DLR) and London Overground lines are published on most tube maps. There are 9 travel zones starting with zone 1 in central London and moving outwards. Most tourists typically can see it all in zones 1 & 2.

The Tube

The tube is, in a word, exciting. Thousands of people scurrying down escalators hundreds of feet below the street and running through metal tubes to catch a train to places afar. The tube works best for you if you need to get across town but it is not bad for short hops either. If you are lucky you can reach your destination using one line. Sometimes you may need to switch lines and this can be an event in itself. Some stations require a bit of a walk (escalators too) between lines. This can be breathtaking at rush hour.

How to Find Your Way

It is best to start with your trip with a Journey Planner or other map with a tube map included. This will display the lines and stations. The nice thing about the tube map is that all lines are color-coded. To plan your journey look at the station you are near and find the one you want to go to. This will show the line or station that you need to change for. When you walk through a station you will see a display of the line with all of the stations. Typically there will be one for eastbound and westbound travel. Just look for your station and follow the signs.

A Journey Planner is a small foldable underground system map. It shows all the routes and stations along with other important information such as which stations are wheelchair accessible. The Jubilee line is the newest and it and the Dockland Light Railway should be fully accessible. The problem with many of the older stations is that they have stairs with or without escalators but no lifts.

Some words about the mind the gap saying, if you please. Some stations have a curved platform that does not allow the train to fit right next to the platform. A gap can exist between the car and the platform at the door. This can be dangerous as one can fall between the crack. Transport for London staff is on hand to remind us to mind the gap.

Service Area

This is on hold right now.

Luggage in Transit

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.


The tube is a vast network and they connect to all rail stations in central London. Check your journey planner or the information at the stations.

Heathrow Airport

The Piccadilly line serves all five terminals at Heathrow. Expect a journey time of 1 to 1½ hours from central London in the afternoon. The carriages have limited space near the doors for luggage and don’t expect to sit next to yours. You can buy your ticket near the platforms at Heathrow.

A Travel Card or Visitor Travel Card can be used for service to/from Heathrow but only if it is valid for the zone 6. If you are going to central London (Zone 1) your card needs to be valid for Zones 1 – 6. It would be cheaper to buy your card for the zones you expect to be in, such as zone 1 or 1 & 2 and pay the fare from the airport separately.

Should engineering work during your travel, service could be delayed or disrupted. Announcements will be made on the platforms.

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

See the Transport for London page in this guide for information.

Tube Specific

Wheelchairs: The underground system is very old and although many stations have lifts, stairs are often encountered. More and more stations are becoming wheelchair assessable but plan your journey before embarking. Some platforms may require users to help to getting on or off trains.

Baby Trolleys: There is no dedicated space for trolleys and they should be collapsed when on the trail.

Older or disabled: All carriages (as well as other modes of transport) have priority seats near the doors for older and disabled people. The Freedom Pass allows free rides on the tube but for permanent residents only.

How to Pay

If you do not have an Oyster Card or a Travel Card you can buy a ticket from a machine or agent. Be aware of your destination zone and have a valid ticket for that zone or any zone you will pass thru. Should your Travel Card not allow for travel to a different zone you can buy an extension ticket.

Ticket In & Out

When you enter you will pass a turnstile in which you insert a paper ticket or touch your Oyster on the pad. Agents are there to watch and to help if you have large luggage or baby carriages. Security is everywhere and so are the cameras. Yes, you are being watched. But so are the pickpockets and hooligans.

Once you get in do not discard your paper ticket, even if you are not planning another journey. When you exit a station you will need to insert or touch out just as you did when you entered. Keep tabs on you paper ticket and card, as thieving hands can be too close for comfort.

Getting Help

You can buy tickets and get information from the window agent. Information including tube maps and local area maps are on the wall for taking. You can but a ticket quickly by using a dispensing machine too. Also, don’t forget to look at the message board near the turnstiles, as they will tell of disruptions or other problems in the system. Staff members are very nice and are there for your safety. They will help you if you need shoved in the right direction too.

Valid Ticket


As you travel through the underground system you will musicians performing off to the side. You will also see their bag on the ground to collect whatever money you wish to give. Do not be alarmed as they are legitimate. Transport for London has a program where Buskers audition and pay a license fee for the opportunity to make your day a little bit pleasant. They are not paid for this and only collect what you desire.

Wrong Stop

If you think that you went too far just get off and come back. Trains run parallel to one another and you can get off an eastbound and walk right onto a westbound. It’s just too easy. You do not need to exit a platform and re-enter the other one to go the other way.

Feel the Force

The tube is no larger than needs be to allow a train to pass through. Getting back to school physics you will see how the train acts as a piston and compresses the air in the tube as it races ahead. The air has no place to go but out towards the platform you are standing on. When a train approaches you can feel the gust of wind blowing in. Keep a hand on your skirt, hat or toupee.


If you look down in the tracks next to the platform you can see the church mice scurrying about. Just like the people, they have someplace to go in a hurry. They will flee once they sense an oncoming train.


The web for Transport for London is Actually, if you go to you will be at the beginning of all things for transport in London.

If you mistakenly type in, you will be at the wrong site. This site is Time for Looking (for best deals of the day). It’s safe and not bad looking. So is