Thursday, 6 August 2015

Alternatives to the Tube

Really, Burton Dasset tells me on his way out to the station, you wonder why people take the Tube on Summer days at all. In a world with folding bicycles why would anyone want to spend 20 minutes in a crowded bean can, with your nose in some stranger's arm pit, and then another 20 minutes re-emerging to the surface? How many people in Zone 1  will walk to the office today and discover what a small place the centre of London actually is?

Burton's vision of a London of people in nylon shirts and Spandex shorts, gasping for breath as they try to climb Mount Highgate, no doubt has its attractions. But I think TfL may be missing a trick in their negotiations.

Surely they should be investing in large stables, and a fleet of proper Hansom Cabs and horse-drawn omnibuses. Then, when the people who drive tubes go on strike, cars could be banned within the Inner Ring completely. The gentle people of Highgate and Hampstead would be able to rattle, Pooter-esque, through Camden and Islington into Town.

Tourists would love it. London would be transformed into a smoke-free version of the days of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper - which is, apparently, what everybody wants.

The Low Emissions Zone definition might want some looking at, admittedly. There are some emissions a horse can't help but produce. But if it takes off, we could introduce less polluting creatures such as camels, hamsters and ibexes. On the Thames, dolphin-drawn river boats could ply their trade. At night, instead of a scary trip down echoing Tube tunnels, a fleet of robot-driven Night Gigs could ferry Londoners home with mock horn-lantern-effect LEDs on the front.

A gentler, more human London, echoing to the gentle clop of hooves. A London free of diesel particulates and Tube staff. A London fit for the 18th Century. When will Boris Johnson catch a real vision?


  1. Given the problems Boris appears to be having with pedicabs, a.k.a. rickshaws, I don't think he would warm to the idea. However, yesterday the BBC published a "walking map" of times between Tube stations, although for some journeys such as Paddington to Belgravia, I have always found that a walk across the parks is preferable.

  2. Horses don't only produce gaseous emissions, they produce solids - manure. Very good for the rose bushes, I am told, only I doubt there are many of those round Oxford Circus or The Angel, Islington, as I remember them.

    We could solve that problem, together with the problem of this year's entries to the ranks of the NEETS, by bringing back crossing-sweepers. Like Poor Jo in Bleak House, if IDS has anything to do with it.

    1. I'm sure the roses would grow well in Soho Square or in the little mini-gardens down the sides of the Regents Canal. .


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