Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Underground thoughts

Thoughts at the half way point of: Underground Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube  by Andrew Martin

One of the problems with history books, no matter how interesting the subject, is that facts have to be shared and as a result sometimes the narrative gets pulled back from heading off in other directions.

That problem does crop up here when there are moments when you want to get past the chronological timetable to explore just what happened in certain parts of the underground. Most of the time though the writing keeps you going with the promise that the delights of the future will come in time.

The attraction of this book was that as a regular user of the underground - my route to work includes North Greenwich to Bond Street on the Jubilee and then the Central Line to Oxford Circus - there is the desire to know more about it.

Despite the age of the network the tube is constantly evolving and it remains a constant source of conversation for its users. You just have to look at the excitement that the possible extension of the Bakerloo Line down to Catford is causing to get a glimpse into just what being on the network means.

Pick up an Evening Standard regularly and the tube, usually over crowding, will make its way onto the front pages, which it did recently with problems at Oxford Circus.

The Standard should know all about it because of its position as London's evening newspaper and as a journalist Andrew Martin brings a lot of that same style to this book. So far he has talked of the development of the rube and the mix of dreamers who wanted to improve the world to companies and individuals who hoped to make money.

Trying to make money out of it became a sought after mirage, which was largely popped by the experiences of the Circle Line, but thanks to those that tried the capital was left with a decent tube infrastructure.

There is still more of this book to consume but it is worth sharing thoughts at this stage for those looking for a history of the tube that is not too heavy and has enough additional anecdotes to make it come alive for the current underground user.

A full review will follow soon.

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