Parochialism of London Underground


altMy wife, who is presently training to become a nurse with the NHS, was recently scheduled for her first weekend shift. She was supposed to start work before 7 am in North East London. Turning up shortly after 6 am at Baker street station she was in for a surprise.

The first train on the Bakerloo line was leaving at 7:24 am on a Sunday in the sleepy Roman village Londonium. The officer of Transport for London could not see my wife's point of view, telling her: "after all, tube transport staff have families". But who is supposed to help these families when they are in trouble out-of-hours? If you can’t afford a car, how can you supposed to get around in London?

Now consider the often belittled and much smaller continental rival capitals. They also resort to night buses for a short period after midnight. But in Berlin you certainly can catch a tube in Spandau at 3:15 am and any time later on a Sunday morning and travel all the way to Pankow at the eastern end of town.

In Paris you have no problem catching a train at Gare du Nord at 3:22 am and any time later on a Sunday and travel wherever you like. In London you are depending on the night buses until 5 or 6 AM during the week and later at weekends.

Germany and France have a reputation of being even more unionized than Britain but they manage to get their transport running at times necessary for maintaining essential services in a world capital. Given the money TfL takes in fares and the government subsidies, I am at a loss why we can’t do the same.