Living in London I’ve had to come to terms with catching public transport to get around, not so bad I hear you say they have those cool double-decker buses. I’ll agree I was excited for my first ride aboard one but for someone who has spent his entire life (almost) owning some form of car or ute that I could drive myself it has been a big shift. A vehicle allowed me the freedom of leaving when I’m ready and not having to deal with people all up in my face.
For the most part the public transport system works as long as it’s not peak hour, there is a sporting event on, you are in a hurry or you are out past midnight. As you can imagine if that’s my impression from just standard day-to-day use then you don’t want to know what I think will happen during the Olympics in 2012.
So here’s the good. Getting yourself an Oyster card should be the first thing you do on arrival in London. This little baby gets me access to the tube and buses without having to worry about money or tickets, my job is to just keep it in credit. The card costs 3 quid and any old ticket office should be able to have you on your way (you get the 3 quid back if you give the card back). So that’s the good bit out of the way now for the stuff you won’t enjoy so much.
The Tube serves it’s purpose sure but when you hear warnings during the summer period about reminding you to travel with water to help prevent dehydration and fainting you have to worry right? I thought my train ride to Italy was bad when the heater was stuck on but no it was nothing. Riding the tube to work last summer I would get on and within a 20 minute ride felt like I needed a shower again. It gets stupidly hot both on the tube and even down in the stations, would it really hurt them in this day and age to install air con?
Adding to the heat problem is the people. Getting on the tube during peak hour is like trying to pack too many sardines into a tin and god help you if you are first one in as you are never getting out till the tins empty. For that reason people are reluctant to move down inside the train for fear of not being able to get off on their stop. Oh and with everyone packed in that tight you are bound to get a face full of either smelly armpit, sweaty back or someones boobs (not always from a girl either *cue nightmares*).
That is just a fraction of the pain you can suffer as it is also prone to break downs (especially the District Line), closed over weekends for maintenance and my favourite the quickly let’s get on the train before the people get off in case we miss it situation.
The bus system while generally offering a slightly less sardine like experience will never be on time when you need it. It is however the only means of transport once you hit midnight when the tube network shuts down. The choices left are either decide to party on till 6am to catch the first one home or seek out one of the few night buses that hopefully run in your direction.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve missed buses or the tube by mere seconds or stood for what seemed like hours in central London waiting for that elusive red box to take me in the direction of home.
Now I’m sure every one of you that has enjoyed London’s public transport in your travels will have a story to tell so I’d love to hear it. Have you had an experience like no other or has it just left you in the middle of nowhere? Leave a comment below so we can share the pain together.
A small edit to the post that after seeing it, I knew it had to be included. Many thanks to Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps for pointing it out. For anyone living in London this video is so much funnier to you because you have witnessed it for yourself.