Think: The (underground) grass isn’t always greener

I was in France recently, getting various trains all over the place and changing between stations in Paris, Lille and Lyon. While we were in Paris, it suddenly occurred to us how lucky we are to have the Tube. And how good it really is.

Shock horror (!!!), I know. But actually, it would do us some good to be realistic about things. The Metro in Paris is dirty as hell. It smells constantly of wee (or worse) everywhere. There are aggressive, scary ticket touts and tramps all over the stations and on most trains; and they are never monitored or moved on. There are lots and lots of deserted walkways and dark tunnels that are rife for pickpocketing or mugging. Staff are often non-existent, and when they are around they can be rude and confusing. Information is scant at best, obscure at worst and signage is terrible – I lost count of the amount of times I got lost.

The Tube in London, despite being old as hell, is really quite clean. It looks good too – not grand and space–agey, but classic and retro. Charing Cross for instance is such a cool station with some truly awesome murals, while Tottenham Court Road’s tiled stairways are a sight to behold. It doesn’t really ever smell bad and there are very few really dodgy or smelly tunnels (apart from maybe the ones at Hyde Park and Old Street). Signage is excellent. Even when I didn’t know this city, it was always easy to find my way around any tube station. Information is (mostly) forthcoming and clear. Staff are lovely. Nearly all of the TfL peeps I come across on the tube are smiling, friendly, informative and funny – at so many of the stations these days there’s classical music playing, thoughts for the day written on info boards, or handy tips for getting around. There’s personality. And it feels like they care. And, dare I say it, the service is really getting much more efficient recently – my morning commute takes me through the centre of town on two of the busiest lines and towards a hugely popular destination, but most days now, it runs very smoothly. And the staff at my local stations – Kentish Town and Chalk Farm – are always helpful and nice. I love the little picture they always draw for us when it’s windy, reminding us to ‘hold onto our hats’. It always makes me smile. And, with the introduction of so many new, cleaner, bigger trains, the continual improvement of the Overground, and various handy little iPhone apps helping us get around, I think there’s a lot less to complain about that there used to be.

There I’ve said it. I think the Tube is pretty darn good. Discuss.

*ducks and covers*

Main image courtesy of here.