Saying, “I’m probably under 30 minutes away” and being able to mean it

Sure! I’d love to catch up – I’m probably 30 minutes away… Where should I meet you?

Amazingly, in London, you’re going to be right around 95% of the time if you say this, unless you’re headed out of town.  Coming from a city like Melbourne which doesn’t have a fully fledged Metro system that weaves and intertwines throughout the city – being able to say that you’ll be across town in around 20 minutes is amazing!

So how is this possible?  How could you possibly get away with flippantly promising that you’ll be practically anywhere in 30 minutes?  The answer, my friends, is of course – The Tube!

My love affair with the Underground

I’m not afraid to admit it.  I love transport infrastructure!  There, I said it! (I think I’ve said it before actually, come to think of it)

When you think of London, you think of those red busses, beefeater guards with those fluffy helmets and of course, the Underground.  I would sincerely hope that every visitor to London has caught the tube at least once – if not simply to get somewhere, but just to experience it.

My word, it’s a horrible place – but it’s also an amazing place.  Just think, thousands if not millions of people flitting across town underneath the surface in tunnels which (in some cases) were dug over 100 years ago.  Kind of amazing.

Why is it so beneficial to London?

London is spread out – and I mean… spread out.  I’ve been asked by numerous people “Oh, so are you living near the CBD?”.  Of course, I just laugh, because, really – what is the CBD when it comes to London?  The City? Canary Wharf?  Piccadilly? Mayfair? Westminster? You get the point.

Unlike many cities that I’m used to – London has many areas, all which contain major businesses.  I haven’t figured out what drove the locations, but it’s safe to say that it’s very dangerous to assume where a company will be located by the nature of its business.  Assuming that all finance companies are based in the City or Canary Wharf?  Don’t think so.

Now, because London is so spread out and it’s not uncommon to have to flit from one place to the next – having infrastructure like the Tube is amazing.  There’s an Underground station fairly close to anywhere in London (I.e. within a 10 – 20 minute walk) and when you figure out that it’s a pretty well-integrated network – you can get almost anywhere in under 20 – 30 minutes.

How does it all work?

Well, over the years various underground lines were developed.  These were private enterprises all driven to make a pound or two shuffling people around this big place.  Over time, more and more lines were developed with their own agendas to get people from underserved parts of London to other parts of London.  So, really, when you look at a map, there’s hardly and rhyme nor reason for the direction that some of these lines head – aside from filling in the blank spaces.

tube map

Filling in the blank spaces is where the magic happens.  It’s because of this that London is so well served – but it’s hardly any good having tens of lines going from point A to point B without any way of connecting – so the magic occurs when stations are interconnected!

Becoming a tube expert

When I arrived, i had zero clue about how to get from one end of town to the other – enter, a little magic app called CityMapper.  This beautiful innovation plans out your journey and does the complex work of connecting your current location with where you wan to go.  This is so invaluable to a newcomer because it does all the hard work and knows what you don’t – how all of these magical tubes connect.

Over time, you certainly get a feel for where the major connections are.  You know that if you live on the Jubilee line out east, you’re able to get to major connections like Westminster, London Bridge or Bond St to change to the major lines.  If you’re out north, you can swap to practically anywhere at Baker St.

This skill develops in time and with many journeys on the tube.  You also start becoming a bit of a master in prioritising comfort over speed – meaning that you know MULTIPLE ways to the same destination using different lines.

line status

I myself, have been guilty of adding 10 minutes to my short trip, because I want to ride in air-conditioned comfort and be practically guaranteed a seat.  Pretty soon, you’re able to recite off the top of your head which lines go to where and for some reason, you know the end of each line due to the repeated “This train goes to…” narrated by a fabulously British voice (in the Queen’s English, of course).

How can you get anywhere in 30 minutes?

If you’re within Zone’s 1 – 2 of the tube map – it’s very, very likely you’re going to be able to get anywhere in 30 minutes.  It just works out that way.  Get a bit of practice and know which lines go where and what connects with who – and you’re all set. (Just be ever vigilent of the dreaded “Part Closure” or “Severe Delays” status that will make the blood drain from your face if you need to be somewhere important)

A little bit of trust in a well oiled machine goes a long way – so be blasé  and say, “I’ll be there in 30 minutes”.  Then, make your plans.

Have you been able to get from one end of town to the other like a pro?  Let me know by leaving me a reply below.


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