London Undergound: The Queen on the Tube

London Underground celebrates its 150th birthday today. It’s sometimes easy to skip over a factoid like that, but that means that it was the world’s first ever undergound train system and opened in 1863, which is pretty incredible to think about!

London Underground Vocabulary

the Tube
The name that Londoners use for the London Underground system
Here it means, Tube station
people who use buses, trains or planes i.e. public transport
daily commute
the journey every weekday to your workplace
the platform
the place where you stand when you are waiting for the train to arrive
the credit card ticket system in the London Underground
Mind the gap
the recorded warning that tells people to be careful when stepping on and off the tube
penalty fare
the fine you have to pay if you get caught using the Tube without a valid ticket
people playing music in public and trying to get money from passers-by

As you can see, the Tube is so famous that even Britain’s most famous resident has visited it: In 1969, HM The Queen visited in 1969 and even became a driver of one of the trains for a day… but I don’t think she got paid for it. Of course, The Queen made her visit for a special reason – she was opening the then brand new Victoria Line. She got on at Green Park (the closest stop to Buckingham Palace) and she got off at Oxford Circus… a very short walk from St George International in Central London. Even though SGI had opened 7 years before that in 1962, unfortunately we cannot confirm if she popped in to the school that day for a cup of tea with the SGI teachers or to meet the students!


Click on image to watch the video That meant that The Queen was basically alone on The Tube and didn’t have to deal with all the normal passengers in the rush hour on their daily commute. She wouldn’t have had any trouble walking down the platform and she certainly didn’t have to swipe her oystercard to get into the tube (because the oystercard system wasn’t even established until very recently in 2003). In fact, I would bet a lot of money that she didn’t pay for her journey, but no-one would have dared to ask to inspect her ticket… because she is The Queen – and also because the penalty fare system wasn’t introduced until 1994. One thing is for sure: like all tourists and people who go on the Tube for the first time, The Queen must have smiled when she heard the announcement to “Mind the gap“.   Some other famous firsts in The Tube were… 1933 – The world-famous underground map (designed by Harry Beck) was first introduced 2003 – Legal busking allowed for the first time

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