Side Tracked: Tube Challenge Record Broken

For most of us the Tube is a mere means to an end to get us to and from work and/or the pub. But for some, namely Geoff Marshall and Anthony Smith, the Tube is a means to set world records.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 21.42.45

For those not in the know, here are the rules:

  • The Tube Challenge‘ requires the competitor to visit all 270* stations on the network in one 24 hour period as quickly as possible.
  • The competitor isn’t required to get out at every station, nor does he or she have to use every line – just as long as you pass through every station.
    For example: If you pass through Bank on the Central Line; and Waterloo on the Northern; there’d be in theory no need to use the Waterloo & City Line.That unless strategy dictate it necessary!
  • You don’t have to stick to the network for the entirety of the task but you cannot use private transport.
    For example: You could complete the Eastern section of the Central Line and then get a bus from Woodford to Walthamstow to rejoin the Victoria Line at it’s terminus. You could also walk/run between Bayswater and Queensway should you so desire but at no point can you use a car. 
  • Multiple stations with the same name must be visited individually.
    For example: Hammersmith has two stations that share the same name and are not physically connected.

270 stations in a day. Sounds easy right?…

Not when you consider that the London Underground has 250 route miles to it’s name, and the longest journey you can make on a single train (Epping – West Ruislip on The Central Line) takes a whopping 90 minutes on its own. Next up is that it’s not actually open for 24 hours, more like 20, 21 at a push. Then you have to take into account the parts of the network that have infrequent services – Chesham and Kensington Olympia for example, as well as making sure you don’t get stuck in rush hour black spots. You’d also have to pray to The Tube Gods that there’d be no delays on your challenge day! Naturally you can’t do the challenge when there’s engineering works or if a station is closed. All these things add up and suddenly it’s a pretty daunting task!

Challengers often have several attempts at the record and will have undertook weeks, if not months, of studying timetables, maps and meticulously planning a route. (So consider that next time you use the Journey Planner on the TfL website!). In fact Marshall and Smith had a programmer on board making sure they were taking the best route on the day.

The previous record holders, Andi James and Steve Wilson, achieved the challenge in 16 hours 29 minutes and 13 seconds in May 2011.

Marshall and Smith broke this 2 year old record by nearly 9 minutes, completing in 16 hours 20 minutes and 27 seconds. They completed it in August this year and it has recently been verified by Guinness World Records.

You can read a full interview with the Record Holders here on Commuting Expert.

An example route can be played out here on Art on the Underground.

Image by Geoff Marshall

*270 stations is the current number required to complete the challenge. Obviously this has varied over history. The 270 doesn’t include The Overground or the DLR as this would make the task near impossible. Or in the case of the ambling DLR – not possible to achieve in 48 hours let alone 24! Previously the number of stations stood at 275 before The East London Line was amalgamated into The Overground.

– Andy Carter

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