The London Underground
Otherwise known as the tube, this is the method of transport that you are most likely going to use for getting around London. The tube consists of 12 different lines, all of which are colour coded, and 275 different stations. It is the world’s largest underground transport network, and has been transporting Londoners since 1863. The London Underground consists of over 253 miles of track!
Unfortunately the tube does not run 24 hours a day. This is because, unlike other newer networks there are not express tracks, and so all maintenance must be done at night, when the tube system is shut down. Increasingly you will see “planned weekend engineering works” where certain lines or stations are shut over a weekend in order to allow work to take place. The tube is divided up into 9 different zones. The most central zone is zone 1, where most of the main tourist attractions are located. Heathrow is located in zone 6.
All AES housing is located in zones 1 or 2 of the transport system. You need to ensure that you purchase a ticket that covers you in all the zones in which you will be travelling. See below for more information on ticket types. When you are travelling on the tube you need to know in which direction you wish to travel. Platforms will be labelled North, South, East or West bound. The front of the train and the destination indicator board on the platform should show you where the train is going. The tube begins running at between 5.30am and 6.00am. The last trains leave most central London stations at around 12.15am. There are a number of different types of tickets that you can purchase. Some of these are below. However, for more information you should go to the Transport for London (TFL) website
Oyster cards are the tickets that have been introduced to the London transport system. They are electronic credit card sized tickets that you “touch” in and out with. Using an Oyster card is the cheapest way to use the transport system. You can load them with different types of tickets. Oyster cards are available at all London Underground Stations.
Prepay – If youare going to be making only a few journeys, and you are not sure how much you are going to be using the tube you should put some prepay on your Oyster card. Prepay is where you go to the station and put a certain amount of money on your Oyster card. You then touch in and out on the barriers when you enter the tube, and it automatically deducts the money from the card. If you use the tube a lot during the day it will automatically “cap” the amount of money that you spend, up to the value of a daily travelcard. All journeys are cheaper using prepay than if you pay cash.
Daily travelcard – You can either buy these as a paper ticket, or on your Oyster card. This allows you unlimited travel within certain zones on the buses, tubes, mainline train and trams. The riverboat attracts a small fee. Daily travelcards are valid until 4.00am the following morning, so you can use them on the Night buses as well.
Weekly travelcard – You can buy a weekly travelcard that will allow you unlimited access for a 7 day period. This allows you unlimited travel within certain zones on the buses, tubes, mainline train and trams. The riverboat attracts a small fee.
Monthly travelcards – You can buy a monthly travelcard that will allow you unlimited access for a 30 day period. This allows you unlimited travel within certain zones on the buses, tubes, mainline train and trams. The riverboat attracts a small fee.
The bus network
The Mayor of London is very keen to increase the number of people using the buses and so has introduced various incentives, and a better bus network. Buses do not have zones, and so your travelcard is valid on any bus within London. If you have an Oyster card then you should get on the bus and touch your card on the reader. If the bus only has front and back doors you should get on at the front and the driver will have an oyster card reader next to the ticket machine. If you are paying a cash fare, then you need to purchase your ticket from a machine before you board the bus. If you do not do this, the driver is entitled to refuse you entry to the bus. If the machine is not working then the driver is obliged to allow you to travel to the next stop, and wait for you whilst you use the machine there. Buses do take a lot longer than using the tube, but the advantage is that you get to see a lot of London.
Taking a bus in the rush hour however, can be slightly tedious, and many people prefer to use the tube. Many buses run 24 hours a day. Other ones stop at around 12.30pm, and start again at around 6.00am. You also have night buses that run throughout the night, returning revellers to more suburban areas. A lot of night buses start and terminate at Trafalgar Square. Day tickets are valid on the night buses.
Mainline trains are not operated by London Transport. Each area has their own individual company running the franchise. Your travelcard is valid on National Rail services within the zones that you have purchased. Beware! Some National Rail services do not allow you to use prepay, so you need to buy a ticket before you travel.
It is worth remembering a few of the following points:
The further in advance you buy your ticket, the cheaper it will be.
Peak times, such as Easter and Christmas get busy very quickly, especially for long distance journeys.
If you have a travelcard it is always worth telling the ticket office before you travel. You are entitled to a discount.
If you are planning to do a lot of travel within the UK using the rail network then you might want to purchase a Young Persons Railcard. This entitles you to up to a third off your journey.
It is substantially cheaper to travel after 9.30am on weekdays.
The DLR stands for The Docklands Light Railway. This is an overground service, running from Bank and Tower Gateway to Greenwich, City Airport and Lewisham. The DLR is electronic, and does not have a driver. On a nice day it is lovely to get the DLR from Bank to Greenwich. You will get the opportunity to see Canary Wharf and other sites such as The Dome.
Riverboat services have 2 purposes. Firstly, as commuter routes, and secondly as leisure services. If you have a travelcard then you can get a discounted rate on the riverboat. Riverboats do not run in bad weather. For more information on riverboats see www.tfl.gov.uk.
London transport has a comprehensive website. Information on all London transport services can be found there. There is also a very useful journey planner that students can use to find different route options around London, as well as a tube map. It is a good idea to get yourself a copy of a tube map to have on you. You can get these from any tube stations.