In a city of more than nine million people, London’s transport links have been renewed and redeveloped ad nauseam over the last 150 years, with tunnels, train tracks, and roads connecting and reconnecting different areas of the capital.
Speak to any native Londoner, and they will give you chapter and verse the best route for any destination.
London taxi drivers are famous for developing what is famously known as ‘the knowledge’ – an intimate acquaintance with every single road, lane, thoroughfare, and dead-end street throughout the capital, and the almost superhuman ability to connect points A and B in the shortest possible way.
To reduce pollution, and help combat climate change, the city has implemented an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), recently extended beyond its original central London boundary to cover 3.8 million people. The aim of ULEZ is to discourage diesel and petrol car use within the zone with the aim of reducing air pollution and improving the health of the city’s inhabitants.
The original scheme was introduced in 2017, and results show that the city has saved around 12,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions. So, unless you have a fully electric car, driving within the ULEZ zone could add a considerable chunk to your transport costs.
Instead, London has ample other modes of transport which are easier, cheaper, and will often get you closer to your destination than a car would.
On 10 January 1863, the London Tube was born with the opening of the underground Metropolitan Railway, which ran between Paddington and Farringdon Street. Over the next 50 or so years, a recognisable network of train lines started appearing, which were to become the blueprint for similar underground networks the world over. The Circle Line opened in 1884, followed by the Central Line in 1900. Piccadilly and Bakerloo were soon added.
These days there are annually in excess of one billion passenger journeys every year on the London Underground (except during the coronavirus outbreak in 2020/21, when this dipped to just 296 million.)
The London bus network is comprised of over 9000 buses, performing 2.09 billion passenger journeys across over 700 different routes.
Getting in the saddle is probably the cheapest, quickest, and, these days, safest way of navigating the city. Since the ULEZ scheme was implemented, congestion and traffic levels in the city have reduced drastically, and the city has invested significantly in cycle lanes to improve cyclist safety.
If you don’t have access to your own bike, there are several app-based schemes, such as Santander Cycles, where you can hire a bicycle for 24-hour periods for just £2, giving you up to 30 minutes of cycling time within that period. If you are using a bicycle to get to and from work, then you can apply for a discount through your employer. Students can also get a discount. All NHS workers get free access.
The iconic black London cab can trace its origins back to the 17th century when parliament mandated horse-drawn carriages also known as hackney carriages. The original horse-drawn hackney was expected to be tall enough to accommodate a person wearing a bowler hat. Although this is not such an overwhelming need in 21st-century London, the custom has been passed down over the years, which is why the black cab has a larger interior than standard taxis.
Despite a plethora of minicab and Uber-style systems springing up all across London, the black cab still remains popular, with over 25,000 operating daily across the city.
The black hackney cab is the only taxi you can hail from the side of the street. If you spot one with its orange light on, then that cab is available. Stand at the side of the road, and raise your arm. Once in the cab, your journey will be metered, with a current minimum starting fare of £3.20. (Minicabs need to be booked in advance and charge a pre-agreed fare based on your journey).
In this day and age, working out how to get to your destination is as simple as putting it into Google maps and pressing ‘find’. It will then give you all forms of transport from your current location to your destination, as well as the time it will take.
Once you’re en route, your journey will be able to follow your journey on your screen – a far cry from following the torn soggy pages of yesteryear’s A to Z of London’s streets.
So, if you have booked onto our Jack the Ripper tour, know that you need to get yourself to Aldgate East Underground Station by 7.30 pm at the very latest. Exit three of Aldgate East tube station is signposted as the Whitechapel Gallery within the station. This exit will lead you to the Whitechapel High Street – turn right outside the exit and stand outside Whitechapel Art Gallery where our guides will be waiting for you.
If you haven’t booked the tour yet, you can book it online here.