London fetes world's oldest underground railway at 150

Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:20am EST
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's capital began year-long celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the world's oldest underground passenger railway on Wednesday with reams of newsprint and plans for exhibitions, books, poetry and a commemorative steam train ride.

The rail service known affectionately as the "Tube", which began in Queen Victoria's reign, sheltered Londoners from Hitler's bombs and has been a familiar friend to millions heading home from work and the pub, celebrated by announcing new trains, increased capacity and more frequent service.

"The Tube annihilates distance, liquidates traffic and is the throbbing cardiovascular system of the greatest city on earth," London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement released on Wednesday by Transport for London (TfL), the authority that runs the British capital's buses, trains and the Underground.

Over the next 20 years London's population is expected to grow by well over a million people, underlining the importance of continuing to improve and upgrade the Tube network, TfL said.

It said a major upgrade program, one of the largest and most complex engineering projects in the world, was already providing tangible benefits for passengers and would deliver others such as air conditioned trains.

The Guardian newspaper devoted part of its G2 section to the Tube, revealing that U.S. talk show host Jerry Springer was born at Highgate station and that mosquitoes in the Tube differed genetically from their cousins above ground.

The Times newspaper devoted a two-page spread to the facts and figures of a service which launched on January 9, 1863 with a steam powered journey between Paddington and Farringdon Street and opened to the public the next day.

COMPLAINTS   Continued...

A woman waits for a tube train to depart at an underground station in London January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor