Clapham is a hole, and other curiosities of the London Underground

I never lived in London, but my Gran was born within sound of the Bow Bells and I’ve spent enough time there to know how important the London Underground network is. The distance as the crow flies is far less important than how accessible the start and destination of any journey are by Tube. I’ve always wondered how the city would look if you could see how far everywhere was from a station, so I grabbed a list of the locations (compiled by OpenStreetMap volunteers) and uploaded them to OpenHeatMap. A few surprises leapt out at me:

Clapham is a hole

Claphamhole2

Clapham Junction is one of the busiest above-ground stations in the world, but it’s nearly a mile and a half to the nearest Underground line. The whole area is a big, gaping hole in the coverage of the network, and you have to wonder if some nameless Tube planner had it in for the place?

It’s Grim Down South

Southunderground

There’s a lot more lines north of the river than in South London. I have no idea why, but I know I want a direct line to Chessington for when I’m visiting my Grandad (and no, he’s not in the World of Adventure!)

Tubes-end

Chesham

Though the map of the Underground has all the elegance of a fly on a windshield, I was intrigued by a few of the feelers shooting out across the landscape. Chesham is the furthest ‘underground’ station from central London, though it doesn’t appear very subterranean to me. On the far north-west of the map, in the wild, howling wasteland of Buckinghamshire, it has the fewest visitors of any station in the network, but does have the distinction of being the most popular starting point for the Tube Challenge. Thanks to Wikipedia, I’ve learned that this involves trying to beat the Guinness World Record for visiting all 270 Tube stations in the shortest possible time. Apparently this has been going on for decades (1979 to 2000 was the ‘Bob Robinson Era’) but recently advanced computing techniques have been used to find more and more optimal routes.

I really do miss Britain sometimes, no other nation comes close to our skill at finding wonderfully creative ways to waste time. Now I need to get back to my game of Mornington Crescent…

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