Tube talk: 23 fascinating London Underground facts

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If you’ve travelled on the London Underground (or the ‘Tube’), there’s a good chance you found the experience intriguing – and there’s a good chance that, if you’re yet to travel on it, you will when you come to London. Well, in preparation, here’s a slew of interesting, odd and amazing Tube facts…

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  1.  There are 270 different Tube stations.
  2. When fully totted up, the network’s 250 miles long.
  3. Oxford Circus is the busiest station – around 98 million passengers use it each year.
  4. The network’s busiest ever day was Friday 4th December 2015 – 4.82 million people passed through.
  5. The Underground’s average train speed is 20.5mph, but at one point on the Metropolitan line trains may exceed 60mph.
  6. The shortest gap between two stations (Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line) is 260 metres – that’s about 20 seconds.
  7. Tube trains originally ran on steam.
  8. Hampstead is the deepest station (58.5 metres).
  9. The farthest you can go on without changing is 34.1 miles (West Ruislip to Epping on the Central line).
  10. The longest escalator is at Angel (60 metres).
  11. Less than half the network (45%) is tunnel-based; the longest tunnel runs 17.3 miles (East Finchley to Morden on the Northern line via Bank).
  12. They may look slow, but each week Tube escalators travel the equivalent of twice around the world.
  13. The network’s earliest running trains go from Osterley to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line (4.45am), ensuring you’re well served by the Tube if you stay in one of the hotels near Osterley Tube station, such as the Park Grand London Heathrow Gateway.
  14. Around 10% of the capital’s green spaces are owned by London Underground – and feature wildlife including bats, grass snakes, sparrowhawks, woodpeckers and deer.
  15. Aldgate Station’s built over a huge plague pit – in which more than 1,000 bodies were buried.
  16. Stations doubled as air-raid shelters during the Second World War and the Central Line became a fighter-aircraft factory. Yes, really. It was so big it had its own railway (which makes sense).
  17. The first time a baby was born on the Tube occurred in 1924 (on a train at Elephant & Castle); legendary US talk show host Jerry Springer was born at East Finchley – his mother took shelter there during a WWII air-raid.
  18. Also during the war, a section of the Piccadilly line in the Holborn area was closed so some of the British Museum’s greatest artefacts could be safely stored down there.
  19. Mark Twain travelled on the first Central line train in the year 1900.
  20. Busking’s enormously common on the Tube – it’s said Paul McCartney and Sting have both done so in disguise.
  21. The warning ‘Mind the gap’ was first heard in 1968.
  22. Three stations feature on the Monopoly game board (Liverpool Street, King’s Cross and Marylebone).
  23. And, finally, like it or not; it’s believed up to half a million mice live on the Tube. Squeak!

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