Mystery Of The London Underground Anniversary

January 10, 2013 by  

Mystery Of The London Underground Anniversary, Tomorrow, Thursday, January 10, the London Underground is 150 years old. It is a fantastic milestone, the anniversary of the world’s first underground railway and the only one ever to have been operated by steam.

The Underground’s amazing influence on London, its instant popularity, its rapid spread and its remarkable safety record are all to be celebrated.

However, there is one slightly irritating aspect of the celebrations. For some reason, Transport for London has hooked on the idea that today, January 9, is the key date.

There was, indeed, a train with MPs and dignitaries, and a banquet at Farringdon station, on January 9, 1863, but the official opening was the following day when more than 30,000 Londoners travelled, for free, on the railway that was just under five miles long.

Why TfL has chosen to celebrate a bigwigs booze-up rather than the real opening of the world’s first mass-transit system is something of a mystery. Is it, perhaps, reflective of these elitist times?

The blogger Diamond Geezer has charted in great detail how the emphasis shifted stealthily from January 10 to January 9, concluding thus:

“It seems that at some point in the past 50 years, more likely in the past five, someone at TfL has decided to switch the official Underground anniversary from January 10 to January 9.

A deliberate decision, an approved choice, a rolling back to the day before. And I wonder why. Clearly there are two possible anniversaries for the birth of the London Underground. One’s the day passengers were first allowed on board in their thousands, which is the day I’d pick as the launch date.

And the other’s the day the directors rode alone, which might technically be the start, but somehow feels wrong. How telling, and how sad, that TfL has shifted from the public to the private.

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