Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Transport in LONDON




Like probably any urban rail enthusiast, I have been to London many times, so with this post, instead of trying to give an overview, I'm just writing down a few impressions I gained during my most recent visit a couple of weeks ago, from 11 to 17 July 2015.

- Fares
First of all, and most urgently, I need to discourage anybody wishing to explore London's rail systems to use an Oyster Card! This "smart" card is not really intelligent enough to understand rail enthusiasts' weird travel patterns! I got one the first day because I thought that with the daily capping it offers I might have to pay less compared to a traditional travelcard. But although I tried to check in and out as requested, the system gets completely confused when you do that too often, so in the end on one single day I had accumulated five or more "unresolved journeys"! And for each of them, they deduct 5.70 GBP. When I started wondering what had happened to all that money I had put on the card in the morning, I went to see a young lady who assisted passengers at North Greenwich station, and she was also quite surprised. But as I explained things in a plausible way, she refunded one of those misdeductions, but she said that they were only able to do one directly, for anything else, I'd have to ring the Oyster hotline. A local friend helped me with that in the evening, as I feared that it would ruin me even more if I called with my foreign phone, being kept in the waiting loop forever. We did get through quite quickly, though, but they said, I need to call back in the morning because they cannot deal with "unresolved journeys" before the day is over. So I did that using my phone the next morning, luckily no wait at all, and all pretty easy, apparently they are used to that kind of thing, maybe not to the extreme of my misdeductions. But to get the money back on the card, I would actually have to use it again, and I had to specify a Tube station where I would use it. As on the last day I was planning to take the Piccadilly Line anyway to Heathrow, I chose Earl's Court where I was staying. But to avoid any more trouble of that kind, on the following days, I purchased an old-fashioned One-Day Travelcard, just as I did 15 or 20 years ago, and had no more trouble walking in and out of stations whenever I wanted to. Theoretically, you could get the money on the Oyster Card back, if you fancy standing in the queue at Heathrow for half an hour. This way, I got credit for my next visit, some 26 GBP! But the sad thing about this issue is that I'm not the only one with this problem, in fact it seems to be very common - funnily, the Evening Standard, which is freely distributed on trains, had a story (I think it was on 14 July) that TfL actually makes millions of extra money because of this problem, as many people do not realise it or do not bother to claim the money back! So apparently it is part of the system. A real rip-off!
In many places, the Oyster Card system is indeed absurd and stupid. If such a system is implemented, then it should be done properly, i.e. anywhere you cross a fare border, you should be obliged to check your card by means of barriers, but in London there is an excessive number of situations where it is not really clear what you need to do, especially as not all railway stations have ticket gates, not even all Tube stations! Wimbledon is one of those weird stations, with tram, train and Tube within one station complex, ticket gates for people coming from outside, but quite unclear whether you need to check out when coming from the tram and changing to District Line etc...
So, all in all, I would classify the Oyster Card system as badly implemented, too complex, and if they want an electronic system, they should simply reduce the price of the day passes, so that you can load a travelcard for zones 1-2, for example, off-peak, for a reasonable price, say 6-7 GBP instead of 12 for the whole 6 zones normal visitors would not really need.

Well, London is generally completely overpriced, but fares are too. I don't really understand the point why very occasional Tube riders in zones 1 and 2 are punished with having to pay 4.80 GBP, which is 6.80 EUR!!, the price of a day pass in "normal" European cities. I think it is o.k. to charge a slightly higher price to encourage people to use passes, but not to that extreme! And I doubt that this policy helps to reduce overcrowding in zone 1! It just helps to get a negative opinion of a transport system.


- Tube Stations & Lines
This leads us to the next point: overcrowding! The London Underground is always a great means of transport to explore, but more than in any other city I'm always happy I don't have to use it on a daily basis. Sure, London invented urban underground trains, but I still think that building those small-profile deep level tube lines was the most erroneous decision ever taken in the history of urban rail in the last 150 years! (Maybe the tiny VAL trains in France are the second...) No doubt, this is history and can't be changed much now, although I also cannot understand why the Victoria Line was built to that same standard, and why they didn't finally break this tradition with the Jubilee Line?? The Victoria Line is, however, quite fascinating. The new trains are slightly better, I mean, in respect of room inside the train, but still not really a relief for a tall person and considering the overcrowding it suffers most of the day on the central section. It is, however, probably the most frequently running metro line in Western Europe, and probably the fastest! Often, you can already see the next train approaching while the previous is leaving the station. The Jubilee Line is also quite swift and frequent, in fact while "waiting" at North Greenwich in the evening, I actually thought that it runs too often! And most trains run through to Stanmore! Generally, I sometimes had the impression that on some sections trains run too frequently, like to Epping, way out of the city with the trains even travelling through open countryside, where a train every 15 minutes or so would probably be enough. So, all in all, I could imagine more trains on the central sections and fewer travelling through to the ends of a line during off-peak hours. Although the Tube generally feels safe, it feels a bit weird if you're the only passenger on such a branch.

- Circle Line
It's a pity the Circle Line is no longer a circular line! And what is quite surprising is that at Edgware Road the current set-up hasn't actually eliminated any track conflict as just west of that station, only two tracks are available, so a Circle Line train departing from Edgware Road via Victoria will run over the same section again after finishing a full loop and heading towards Hammersmith. So, I'm not quite sure I understand why the Circle Line ceased to be a ring line.... Anyway, although I prefer the subsurface lines to the deep-level tube lines for the extra space they offer, the interlaced service with all these flat junctions is not really what a typical modern metro should be like. But I guess there is not much that can be done to change the situation, possibly east of Earl's Court there would be room enough to rebuild the junction, which might allow trains to proceed much faster from Earl's Court whereas now they are often held there for several minutes queuing to pass that junction.


- Tube trains
I really enjoyed the new S stock now in service on most subsurface lines, except on the District where there are still some older D stock trains. The new trains are very spacious, have pleasant air-conditioning and overall offer a comfortable ride. So for me, they have even increased the gap in comfort between the subsurface lines and the deep-level tube lines. The only thing I'd dare to criticise is the type of pattern on the seats...

- Trams
Doing preparation work for my forthcoming Tram Atlas Britain & Ireland, I revisited, of course, the Croydon Tramlink. Well, now officially called London Tramlink, nothing has been achieved in creating a larger network, which is quite surprising as the tram is really popular and quite a good service. Using several old railway routes, it is one of the fastest tramways in Europe, I think, even the "Downtown Croydon" portion is travelled through at reasonable speed. Unlike some other British tramways, the track is properly laid, both on the street-running sections and the light-rail style routes, with no excessively slow segments in curves or at junctions. 


So it is really a pity that no other lines have been built since, and that not even the existing system has been extended as often proposed. Interestingly, Tramlink is the only tram system in the U.K. to use route numbers, but, very half-heartedly! Funnily, the number is visible on the front display of the trams, but not on maps! See official map here

- Docklands Light Railway
Always fun to ride those driverless trains, but again, typically British, a very confusing and entangled system of routes not properly depicted anywhere. Like on Overground and National Rail (see below) I consider the introduction of route numbers very urgent! Here they could be prefixed with a D (although the District Line could also do with some numbering!), e.g. D1 Bank - Lewisham, D2 Bank - Beckton (oh, this route doesn't exist? Well, how would one know from the current Tube map?? At least, the DLR-only map depicts different routings with separate strokes, altough no differentiated with line colours)


- London Overground
The London Overground is without doubt one of the greatest achievements in London transport history for many decades. Living in Berlin and close to the S-Bahn ring line, I had always missed something similar in London, where you had to make all trips via the overcrowded city centre. Although on many sections, the implementation of Overground was just a rebranding, I was sure from the start that this would be successful, and the fact that they keep extending the train length is the best sign that it has been successful. In fact, I did not really understand why they didn't start with long trains from the beginning! What I don't like, however, is this British obsession (sorry!) NOT to use line numbering. By now, the Overground system has developed into a large network of different services, but like on DLR, impossible to find out which routings trains normally take, although there seem to be more or less regular types of services which should really be distinguished by line numbers, preferably S1, S2, etc... (ha ha) and different colours at least on Overground exclusive maps. My conviction is that line numbers do not hurt those who don't like line numbers, but they help those who like them!


It is a pity, however, that what appears to be a circular line, is split into three different lines. So, to take a full circle, one would have to change trains twice. As it was new to me, I spent some time at Clapham Junction to observe the service there, but unfortunately passengers lose a lot of time there because the Overground trains from both direction enter and leave the station more or less simultaneously, but then stay in the station for some 10 minutes. So anybody using Overground to "circle" around the southwestern part of London, e.g. from Shepherd's Bush to Clapham High Street, will need to hang around Clapham Junction for a while. I'm aware that designing a perfect timetable in this complex rail system (after all, Overground mixes too much with other services, especially in South London), a staggered timetable would be the better option here, I mean that on a 15-minute headway, the trains should enter and leave the station with 7 1/2 minutes between them, this would be time enough to change trains with the necessary buffer in case of delays and make the rest of the waiting time much shorter. Talking about the South London service, there are really two stations missing, one at Brixton (or do they fear the Victoria Line may get even more overcrowded?) and one at the intersection with Thameslink at Loughborough Junction where you can see the Thameslink station right below the Overground route! No doubt, it would cost a lot, but the network effect would improve significantly.


The two new routes added to Overground in May, to Enfield/Chesthunt and Chingford have been restyled, both trains and stations. I only rode the line to Chingford and the train was not really busy, actually more so on the outer section with lots of people joining at Walthamstow Central coming from the Victoria Line. Contrary to the older Overground lines, the Chingford train skips some stations which are only served by the Enfield/Chesthunt trains. I think one of the characteristics of a good urban S-Bahn system should remain that trains stop at every station for simplicity's sake!


TfL Rail
The rebranded service to Shenfield is indeed very busy, and considering that large crowds join at Stratford changing from the Central Line, taking these trains, which already run every 10 minutes, directly into the city centre via Crossrail was a very good decision. Not only will this provide a direct one-seat ride for East Londoners, but also relieve the central part of the Central Line significantly. I'm looking forward to 2019 or so, when London will finally offer the first proper RER-style service! But they should do something about Shenfield station to bring it into the zonal system to avoid confusion. I don't know why, but Epping on the Central Line is in zone 6, lying beyond the M25, and Shenfield, just a few miles further out, would be in zone 10, and Brentford, almost the same distance from Central London as Epping is classified as zone 9! What kind of lobbying does Epping have and those places along TfL Rail don't?


- Thameslink
Talking of RER-style service, certainly Thameslink has some touch of RER, too, but a bit like Paris' line C, slow and difficult to understand. Again, very confusing which train stops where, although on their timetable leaflets, Thameslink actually uses line numbers!!! Hurrah! When I wanted to travel just from St. Pancras International to Kentish Town, however, there was no way to find out which train would stop there, so I just had to wait until Kentish Town appeared in the list of calling points (which is quite a good feature at British railway stations and should be copied in other countries!). But all in all, Thameslink feels more like a typical National Rail regional service which may also be helpful for journeys within London. Hopefully it will be perceived more of an urban service when some more northern routes are linked at St. Pancras, increasing the number of trains running across London. The new Blackfriars station looks quite nice and spacious!

- National Rail
So while Crossrail was an excellent idea, not only Crossrail 2 should be built soon, but also Crossrail 3 and 4 and maybe 5! Well, Paris has 5 RER routes now (though line E is missing its western part, and lines B and D have to share their tracks between Châtelet and Gare du Nord) and London's major problem with overcrowding on the Tube lines certainly lies in the excessive number of passengers those National Rail services, whatever fancy colours their trains may currently be carrying, virtually spill into the Underground stations, most notably at Victoria and Waterloo, but at all the other termini, too. At Waterloo, a potential tunnel ramp with a low-level platform could actually be built where the International trains used to stop as this area has been lying idle for many years now! Trains could dive under the River Thames, provide interchange with Thameslink and several Tube lines at Blackfriars and St. Paul's before being connected, for example, at Moorgate and Liverpool Street to existing routes, at the latter ideally linking up with the new Overground services to Enfield/Chesthunt and Chingford. But given the extensive suburban and regional services in and around London, I guess there would be plenty of different options those consulting companies would be happy to study in detail. In the meantime, I would be happy if the existing services radiating from those termini were presented in a more structured way, again, introducing some sort of line numbering and proper maps, at least for each of those subnetworks. Starting with local services, all the "lines" departing from Waterloo, for example, could be labelled W1, W2, etc. with W1, for example, serving the Hounslow loop. And there should be a clear difference between trains serving Greater London and stopping at all stations, and trains going all the way down to the coast, which only serve major stations in Greater London. These stopping patterns may be quite clear for those passengers using the trains every day, but are completely confusing for anybody else. The most confusing are actually those shown in green and blue in the Southeast, well, those trains operated by Southeastern and Southern, an area also invaded by some Thameslink services. For the official London all-rail map click here

- Buses
As I labelled this post "Transport in London", I need to say a few words about the bus service too: without doubt the best in the U.K.! I know, many people in other British cities have tried to explain their bad bus services with deregulation etc., which luckily has not affected London (so wasn't it about time to discuss whether deregulation in the rest of Britain should be maintained?). Anyway, in London I always find it easy to catch a bus as there is sufficient information at the stops, and especially when exiting a Tube station, you will always find a map with all bus options, so I did use a few to ride between outer rail branches. 
Also, the new 'Boris' buses are quite nice, modern and at the same time iconic. And what also distinguishes London buses from the rest of the country is their second (or even third) door - I never really understood the concept of having just a single door next to the driver! Sure, a few more seats, better control of who's getting on, etc. But on busy lines, the change of passengers simply takes too long. What is a bit confusing in London, though, is to know on which buses you have to get on at the front and on which you can jump on at the rear, too. Also, the fact that you cannot buy a ticket on the bus makes it difficult for ocasional riders. I assume that they assume that by now every Londoner carries a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card with some credit on.

- Other fun rides
Besides the proper urban rail systems, I also got a chance to ride two more transport vehicles:


1) the Emirates Air Line, an aerial cable car in the Docklands area, special fare applies, but worth the fun as it offers a great view, including the DLR!


2) Ruislip Lido Railway: Andrew, a friend involved in the operation of this miniature railway, took me there and showed me around, located about 2 km north of Ruislip station on the Metropolitan Line. Find out more here!


So these were just a few thoughts that crossed my mind during my last visit. Feel free to clarify, contradict or confirm my statements, that's what the comment field below is for!

LINKS


London at UrbanRail.Net


17 comments:

  1. As a Londoner this posting leaves me bemused...

    - Oyster Cards: what is so difficult to understand about the system? You touch in as you start your journey, you touch out when you end it. And touch in and out at ticket barriers along the way. If you are trying to do circular journeys the system will penalise you for making an overly long journey. Simple. The objective of transport authorities is not to cater to whims of a bunch of trainspotters, but to transport people from one place to another.
    - Had you researched the history of the Jubilee line (I thought you are a webmaster of a website dedicated to metros...) you would have known that the portion of the route from Baker Street to Finchley Road was built originally for the Bakerloo Line in 1939 to the same loading gauge as the rest of the Bakerloo. That is what defines the gauge on the entire line, of which the extension is built to far more generous dimensions.
    - If you cared to study the working timetables (freely available on the TfL website) you would know that the Central Line and Victoria Line both operate 34 trains per hour (tph) in the peak, the Jubilee Line manages 30tph, the Northern 28tph per branch. Not many metro networks in Europe can boast similar frequencies.
    - Any circular line will suffer reliability problems due to a lack of a location where it could pause to recover from delays. This is especially true of the Circle Line which shares its tracks with other lines. Thus the decision taken to change its routeing. The same is true of the Overground, where a circular route would (a) suffer from performance issues; (b) would omit the rather important destination/interchange that is Clapham Junction; (c) would not be significantly more convenient than the current arrangement.
    - Any fare system crossing local authority boundaries is dependent on financial settlements between the authorities and the operator of the services. Essex County Council had long ago agreed to fund the inclusion of the north-eastern end of the Central line within zones 4-6. It apparently had no funding or appetite to do so with Brentford. Fares for Watford Junction and Shenfield are outside the control of TfL, and are therefore not integrated into the zonal system. TfL appears to have different priorities with regard to spending money than to subsidise these fares and include them into the zonal structure.

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    1. Dear Anonymous, (may I call you Boris?), thanks for reading the post, but generally, as you can imagine, we don't like sentences starting with "had you researched" or "if you cared to study"... because it takes me into the same defensive position you are taking and urges me to fight back...
      - Having said that, if you cared to read (sorry, I used your phrasing now...) the part about my Oyster Card experience properly, then you'd see that the problems exist, not just with me, so there is no point saying it is all that simple. It probably works fine in 90% of all cases, but apparently has many flaws!
      - Don't worry, I know the history of the London Underground pretty well, yes, did a book about it 10 years ago, so I will need to remind you that it was London who probably for the first time in history expanded the profile of the very first tube line because they realised it was too tiny. Madrid made a similar effort in the late 1990s and expanded the old section of line 10 and now they got a wonderful large-profile diameter line. So, yes, the Finchley Road - Green Park section should have been widened to large profile on the ocasion of the Jubilee Line extension, and that's my opinion and will be, although this is pretty irrelevant as now it is too late!
      - Had you looked a bit beyond the situation in London (sorry, got caught in your language again!), then you'd know that other cities have circular lines, too. Some have real ones, like Madrid or Moscow with endlessly running trains, but without interfering branches, but there are also other cities, like Seoul or Shanghai, where the ring line has branches. When the Berlin S-Bahn ring was finally rebuilt in 2002, they also had similar doubts and a very weird service was introduced, until they realised that noone likes it, and now it is a proper circular line with several branches, very much like the London Circle Line, and it works fine. A Circle Line should run in a circle, quite simple. As for the Overground circle, trains could still run via Clapham Junction, I wouldn't object to that, with a short overlay there and a change of drivers they could carry on immediately

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    2. Me again!

      - Regarding Oyster: as others have noted there are a few issues with it in, but the majority of 'problems' come down to people forgetting to touch in or out. For regular users, the system actually has an autocomplete function, matching incomplete journeys with ones made in the past as best as it can. Yes, I agree with you that it is a pain that you can only get refunds over the phone, but other than that it really is a properly SMART card.
      - Both the Jubilee and Victoria line were built to a more restrictive gauge to save money. In the UK the Treasury has a much tighter grip on transport spending than elsewhere - we can of course argue whether it is a good thing or not. Personally, I prefer slightly smaller tunnels than spending billions of DMarks on tunnels with trams running every 20-30 minutes on weekends as in certain cities in West Germany.
      - I am well aware that the Circle line was not the only metro line of that nature. The thing is, though, that no other line had the same operational complexity AND run such an intensive frequency of service at the same time - the S-Bahn ring has a train every 5 minutes or so, whereas Shanghai only has two lines sharing tracks (3 and 4). The de-coupling of the Circle line allowed for frequency increases, and the service now runs more reliably than before. The Overground, on the other hand, has no dedicated track for the most part, and shares tracks with other local and fast passenger services as well as freight trains.

      It would be good if you could research the reasons behind things being the way they are a bit more. Although I have to say I do agree with some of your conclusions - e.g. the lack of numbering of services is indeed annoying.

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    3. >>>spending billions of DMarks on tunnels with trams running every 20-30 minutes on weekends as in certain cities in West Germany.<<<
      I do agree with you that some of these would deserve a place in the Top 5 of wrong decisions in transport history! And some of them are in serious trouble now as they can't afford maintenance!

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  2. I really appreciate your insights into urban rail in London and elsewhere. One big issue in London is that transport options on the South bank of the Thames have failed completely to keep up with the very rapid redevelopment. Many areas have Overground or regular rail viaducts overhead but no convenient stations. Buses are frequent but snarled in increasingly gridlocked traffic. Unfortunately there don't seem to be any plans to address the situation even though adding station platforms to viaduct would seem to be a cost effective option, if less convenient than a new tube line.

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  4. While London certainly needs more Crossrail routes, it has, for 150 years, been serving the RER function (as well as the Metro function) with the Underground. It's not playing catch up to Paris (which is playing catch up to London), but to it's own population growth.

    Paris' Metro was designed to serve the core area very well, though is useless for journeys from the suburbs, and across the centre it is slow (the DLR and Tramlink, have fewer stops per kilometre than Paris' line 4, for instance). The Underground, from day 1 (not to mention the 1868 Alexandra Palace (at the Palace) - Kings Cross - Blackfriars - Crystal Palace High Level rail service), had the thoughts of suburban commuters and cross-centre speed. Then you have things in the 20s like the Met line to Verney Junction, District services to Windsor and Southend. The New Works plan of the 30s removed a lot of inner suburban rail services from termini and put them onto tube lines. Paris, in the RER, was aiming to duplicate the New Works plan of 40 years before, but needed new tunnels in the centre for speed.


    And the Circle line was an anachronism that needed cutting a long time ago. Yes, I know, the name is confusing now it doesn't do a circle, but at least now it is the quickest way from Liverpool Street to Tower Hill - not having to wait nearly 10 minutes at Aldgate for recovery purposes (and often another 5 between High Street Ken and Gloucester Rd)! The unique segments now have utility beyond "I don't want to change", the service is more reliable, and the frequency from Edgware Road to Hammersmith is nearly double. It might annoy the purists, and the few people who now need to change trains, but it was something that the Underground has wanted and needed for decades.

    The Clapham Junction change is bad because it is, as you would like it, roughly 7.5 minutes wait (7 minutes anti-clockwise, though somehow 24 minutes clockwise - something must be up at the moment). It's a level interchange where you just walk along the platform (touching the pink reader on your Oyster), so you twiddle thumbs for 5 minutes because it takes just 2 minutes to change, if that.

    Circular lines work best with overlapping tangents, unless fully segregated. You need to remove the change penalty for it to be worth it if you are going to suffer the lower-frequency and (often) longer distance penalties of avoiding the centre. The Overground Circle gets it right, save, perhaps, in that SW corner (though journey times are much improved there). Routes that go round and round, as London has known for over 130 years, are irritating and serve no traffic purpose.

    The lack of station on the South London Line at Brixton is to do with the elevated nature of the line, the buildings around it, the low potential for interchange traffic, and cost. There used to be East Brixton which was decently close enough to both Brixton and Loughborough Junction for a walking 'outerchange', in about the only place where you can physically build a cheap station on the SLL, but it closed due to disuse really early on. There's plans to look into it.


    Oyster has issues (especially if doing rail-fanning routes - you have to remember to leave the system every two hours to avoid the penalty. As well as always touching out), but the queue at Heathrow is long because it is full of tourists handing back their Oyster card and getting the money on it back (and, of course, lots of tourists who ignore the cardinal rules of touching in and out and wonder what has gone wrong). Wimbledon is a well known mess.

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  5. You should see this site if you haven't:
    http://www.londonreconnections.com/
    It has VERY detailed and interesting discussions of the technical aspects of London rail transport.

    My preferred London transit improvement would be to extend the Metropolitan Line through a new tunnel under the Thames, between Liverpool St and South Bermondsey (with a Tower Hill transfer), and then take over a National Rail track pair to continue southward. This would improve access to south London, make the Metropolitan Line useful for passengers in both directions, make the Circle Line unnecessary, and significantly simplify the network (removing interlining).

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  6. I read your blog with interest and would agree there are many ways in which the London network could be improved – not least by getting on with Crossrail 2 etc. etc.

    Re the Circle Line – my understanding is that the change was made for the following reasons:
    - to improve the poor reliability of Circle Line services by converting the circle into an out-and-back operation with layover time at each end.
    - to increase (almost double) the service frequency between the Hammersmith branch and the northern side of the Circle Line. Due to capacity constraints this had to be done without increasing the number of trains running between Baker Street and the City, thus the decision to divert the existing Circle Line trains to Hammersmith.
    - to concentrate all City-bound services at Paddington H&C Station to provide a single high frequency service from one rather than two stations.

    The downside is that some passengers travelling around the western side of the Circle now have to change trains but, from my observations at Baker Street before the change, Circle Line trains were usually noticeably less crowded than H&C trains and thus I assume the change has been introduced for the greater good. I imagine the Westfield shopping centre at Wood Lane will have been one of the factors increasing demand on the Hammersmith branch.

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  7. I have the impression that you are not a regular user of Berlin circle line. The line is not performing very good in service quality. If there is any problem in the morning which leads to a delay of let's say 10 minutes it worsens over the day and S-Bahn doesn't get it fixed for hours. Together with alle the incoming and outgoing lines this is a really vicious system that does not perform good for years now.

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  8. Having used extensively the Tube I agree with most of what has been said here. What I disliked the most about it was its horrendous cost. This is something I never understood in the UK: why does something that is being used as massively as the Tube have to cost such a fortune (even with the oyster cards or monthly passes) ? It's supposed to be mass-transit, not selective transit ! Public transportation nearly everywhere in the world is supposed to be as cheap as possible, but in the UK it's the exact opposite. NYC's subway and Paris metro are a bargain compared to the Tube. Add to that the frequent cancellations (especially for the overground, nearly every time I go there it doesn't work). In the UK public transit (especially outside London) is all about making the most profit, and not giving a damn about regular users who will pay a fortune to use crappy services (Stagecoach is an expert in that matter).

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  9. Hello, I like the post also, since I visited London in 2009, I may say you are over critical, man. :) That was not an affront. I just say. It is, indeed, expensive, but transport in London is quite decent if you compare to subway, tram and buses in other EU capitals. And you are right about the buses. I have never waited for more than 4 minutes sharp for a bus. That was, indeed, something amazing for me since in Bucharest one might wait for a bus more than 15 minutes especially in winter. Thanx for tips and best regards. J.L.

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  10. with regards to the comment about oyster cards: "the fact that you cannot buy a ticket on the bus makes it difficult for occasional riders. I assume that they assume that by now every Londoner carries a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card with some credit on."

    oyster cards are not the only form of payment: any contactless credit/debit card will work as if it was an oyster card and also mobile devices like apple pay, android pay. So there's not actually any reason to get an oyster card when visiting london. It's not limited to UK issued cards either,foreign contactless cards will work.

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    1. Thanks Richard for your comment, but here in Germany we are very reluctant in using all these plastic cards. I think our banks don't even issue contactless cards yet. People don't like the idea of using such cards for such services as it would be too easy to trace where they have been going. People would only accept an anonymous electronic means of payment, but we actually prefer paper tickets, at least you have some proof of payment, as with those rechargeable cards you never know what has been deducted or whether it's working fine. Too much mistrust in technology... Younger people, of course, use smartphone tickets on Deutsche Bahn now a lot, as I could only recently observe on the train back from Prague.

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