Party animals came out in force to celebrate the launch of London's Night Tube, the first 24-hour subway service in London Underground's 153-year history.
It was a long time coming, but London finally entered the realm of up-all-night cities on August 20, 2016, as London Underground's Central and Victoria lines became round-the-clock services. Platforms of the two lines took on a festive atmosphere as thousands of travelers and most of the London media turned out to witness the historic launch of the Night Tube - at least 50,000 travelers were reported to have passed through Oxford Circus station alone.
Breaking News: As of Friday October 7, the Jubilee Line joins London's through the night, weekend Underground services. Trains will run every 10 minutes from Friday through to the last train on Sunday night. The Jubilee Line will make a big difference to Londoners and visitors alike. It's route from Stanmore to Stratford connects dozens of entertainment and cultural venues including the South Bank, the O2 and Wembley Stadium.
The service, first scheduled for a September 2015 launch, was delayed almost a year because the then mayor, Boris Johnson, Transport for London (TfL) and the various unions were unable to see eye to eye on pay and conditions. Once that was ironed out, London's current mayor, Sadiq Khan, joined in the party spirit, riding the trains and posing for selfies with hundreds of passengers.
A Lot to Celebrate for Both Visitors and Londoners
The impact on London's night-time economy is expected to be enormous, adding 500,000 jobs and £6.4 billion in the next 15 years.
But it's the immediate impact that has both visitors and Londoners cheering.
New Yorkers, who boast that theirs is the city that never sleeps, often felt that London was under a wartime curfew. Instead of going for a civilized drink or a late night supper after the theater or a concert, the London scene usually involved an unseemly scramble for taxis when the theaters let out.
And anyone who dawdled could be out of luck.
Though there are late night entertainments - some restaurants, and clubs have always been open into the wee small hours - visitors trying to return to their accommodations have faced complications and confusion.
- London's licensed black taxis are expensive and become scarce once the Tube closes.
- Accepting a mini-cab ride you have not booked with a known company can be dangerous.
- And, especially for women on their own, late night Uber rides can be dicey as well.
- There are night buses but the waits are long and their routes are confusing for visitors.
Getting home is not much easier for locals but at least they know how to get around a bit better.
The Night Tube will go a long way to solving these inconveniences, making traveling in and out of London's West End and other entertainment districts a lot easier and safer (the same number of transit authority police who monitor the daytime Underground are on hand for the Night Tube too). And the new service could hasten the demise of the poor "designated driver" -- the saddo who has to stay stone cold sober all night while his companions whoop it up.
Where Can You Go?
- On the Victoria Line - Trains run every ten minutes for the entire length of this line, from Walthamstow Central in Northeast London to Brixton in South London. Stations that are popular for restaurants, nightclubs, theater, and nightlife include:
- Highbury & Islington, close to the famous Almeida Theater, as well as several pub theaters, popular restaurants, and bars.
- Kings Cross St Pancras, Euston, Warren Street and Oxford Circus - key for the northern part of the West End with access to clubs, restaurants and lots of hotels. At Oxford Circus, you can change for the other Night Tube, the Central Line.
- Green Park for the Ritz hotel, the tonier restaurants of Mayfair and Piccadilly and for late night access to Soho and Chinatown (about a 10-minute walk).
- Brixton, for through the nightclubbing and dancing. Check out concerts at Brixton Academy, cocktails, and tapas at Seven, or Dogstar, London's first and oldest DJ bar where the weekend partying goes on until 4 a.m.
- On the Central Line - Trains run every ten minutes between White City in the west and Leytonstone in the east. Trains to the east and west suburban stations (from White City to Ealing Broadway and from Leytonstone to Loughton/Hainault) run every 20 minutes. Stations of particular interest to visitors are:
- Shepherds Bush for music venue the Shepherds Bush Empire, as well as bars, restaurants, and clubs.
- Notting Hill Gate or Queensway for upmarket bars like Beach Blanket Babylon and dance clubs such as The Gate and Notting Hill Arts Club.
- Marble Arch and Lancaster Gate for tourist hotel territory
- Bond Street for access to the northern end of Soho
- Oxford Circus, restaurants, walking distance to theaters and clubs and access to the Victoria Line.
More Lines to Be Added
Several additional Underground lines are scheduled to be added before the end of 2016.
These include The Jubilee Line, the Northern Line, and the Piccadilly Line. Parts of the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith&City lines will be added as soon as modernization work is completed on those parts of the system.London Overground services could be added to the Night Tube in 2017 and the Docklands Light Railway in 2021.
Standard off-peak fares apply to the Night Tube. If you are using an Oyster card, the daily maximum fee cap applies to each 24-hour period. If you buy a Day Travelcard it can be used throughout the day printed on it as well as before 4:30 a.m. the next day. A travelcard purchased for Friday can be used until 4:29 Saturday morning.
A Weekend Only Service
Unlike New York City's subway system and Chicago's Red and Blue Lines, London's Night Tube only operates weekends, making claims about the service helping night and shift workers seem a bit exaggerated. At the moment, there's no word when services will be expanded to other nights of the week since regular maintenance is done during weeknight line closures.
But for clubbers, theater-goers, diners and people having too good a time to worry about the clock, the Night Tube is a real boon. Trains operate through Friday and Saturday nights to normal closing time on Sunday night. To find out when that is - as well as other closing times during the week - check TfL's "First&Last Tube" downloadable tables.