This is a National Geographic video on the London Tube. Follow Richard Ambrose and Jonny Phillips on an underground journey as they explore the London Tube and learn how to drive a tube train
The London Underground is one of the largest urban rail services in the world. Its passengers make more than 1 billion journeys every year. Opening in 1863, it was the first underground system of its kind.
And it was a hit from the start. By 1880 the London Tube was carrying over 40 million passengers a year.
And surprisingly for something that's called the underground, 55% of today's network is actually above ground. But it's the tube-shaped tunnels that have made it famous. And their depth varies greatly. The oldest are just below street level, whereas newer sections are typically at least 20 metres below the surface. It operates 600 trains 7 days a week. So, what does it take to be a tube driver?
Unfortunately they wouldn't let me loose on a real train, but we've got the next best thing.
This million-pound state-of-the-art simulator is normally used to train London Underground's finest. But today they're letting Jonny loose behind the wheel. Except it isn't a wheel. His trainer is Matt Shelley.
Right, so just push this forward and I'll start moving.
And the train will go.
And back to break?
And back towards you to break.
Right. Oh, here we go.
And, as any tube driver will tell you, the secret to a smooth ride lies in the wrist action.
Are there speed limits?
There are, on the display in front of you.
You see the train speed in the yellow.
The red hand, as we all it, to the right hand side. That's your maximum speed.
And that'll tell you when you need to slow down.
Obviously I want to be concentrating on the track, not looking at that.
That's quite tough.
Once you're up and running on a clear stretch of track it's a bit of a doddle.
It's a lovely day.
On this simulator it's possible to drive anywhere on the London Underground network, under any weather conditions.
Look at that, the snow's settled. And what about the trees? And lightning and - [the plague].
Not yet. We haven't got lightning on the progs yet. Trees on the track we can do.
Trees are one thing. Just don't mention the wrong type of leaves. Right, now all Jonny has to master is stopping.
Right, so now you're going..
A 400 metre break, you need to be at zero.
OK. Just wait for that red hand to get closer and do a bit more breaking.
To help the driver stop accurately, every station has a board at the end of the platform. The trick is to land in the green. Miss it and you're in trouble, because these trains have no reverse. So will Jonny make the grade?
Not quite. A little bit more.
Sorry that was a little bit vigorous.
The system's telling us because you haven't stopped accurately enough.
You aren't allowed to open the doors.
Oh no! So I've got a lot of irate passengers.
Mind the gap