Your Transport Options in London
It's hard to imagine a British cup of tea without a delicious scone. Now imagine Great Britain without the London Underground, red double-decker buses, or its London Black Cabs. Getting around one of the most famous cities in the world is impossible without taking these types of public transport. Now that you're moving to the capital of the UK, hop on and get to know your transport options in London!
London's Big City Problems
London IS as a big city. With a population of nearly 8 million in the City of London alone and over 13 million in Greater London, it requires a sophisticated and efficient public transport network to navigate it.
However, being a global city does come with its own share of problems regarding traffic congestion and public transport difficulties. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), transport expenses took up the biggest chunk of households' weekly budget in 2017 at around GBP 79.70 weekly.
Driving in London? Leave the Car at Home
London has 213 cars for every 1,000 persons, according to a June 2018 urban transportation report by global management consulting firm McKinsey.Most vehicle owners live in the outskirts of London or have young families that make it difficult to take public transport. Otherwise, the majority of Londoners find it easier to take public transport, ride a bike or walk than to take the car for several reasons.
Parking is notoriously expensive in London, and car parks fill up immediately. Many streets in London are considered Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ), which are areas reserved for residents who pay an annual fee to park in front of their own homes. Other areas have parking meters by the roadside, which can also be expensive.
In August 2018, the City of London Corporation also began charging fees for street parking based on an "emissions charge." The goal is to reduce nitrogen oxide and other pollutants in the air and to encourage drivers to use "cleaner" vehicles. Diesel vehicles and gasoline-fed vehicles pay more, with GBP 1.30 for 15 minutes, and GBP 5.20 for one hour. Electric and hybrid vehicles pay less at only GBP 1.00 per 15 minutes and GBP 4.00 per hour.
The Congestion Charge and the T-Charge
To prevent streets from clogging up with vehicles during peak hours, London implements a Congestion Charge. The charge is GBP 11.50 daily for driving within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the T-Charge or Toxicity Charge in October 2017 to curb vehicle pollution. Older vehicles that don't meet Euro 4 standards have to pay an additional GBP 10.00 charge on top of the Congestion Charge to enter Central London within the Congestion Charge Zone. The charge applies to diesel and gasoline vehicles registered before 2006.
By April 2019, the T-Charge will be replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which covers the same area as the T-Charge. The difference is that the ULEZ is applicable 24/7, 365 days a year, and will cost GBP 12.50 per day for cars, vans and motorcycles, and GBP 100 a day for trucks, buses, and coaches.
Choosing Public Transport
London is cited in the McKinsey Urban Transport Systems report for the external connectivity and ecological sustainability of its public transport system. Accessibility and public transport efficiency gave London high scores, as its trains, trams, and commuter rail network are complemented by buses, taxi, river services, and even cable cars to bring next-level urban mobility to its residents.
The London Underground, Overground and Other Rail Services
The London Underground carried 109.2 million passengers in the month of October 2018 alone over 402 kilometers of track spread via its 11 lines traversing all through London. The Tube is the most popular mode of transport in London and has been operating since 1863. Set to open in the autumn of 2019 is the Crossrail line. It spans 118 kilometers between London and the home counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Essex, and will be called the Elizabeth line in honor of Queen Elizabeth II.
On the other hand, the London Overground provides rail services to connect the Greater London suburbs and Hertfordshire. Waterloo Station is the busiest railway station and passes through Wimbledon, Portsmouth Harbor, and Hampton Court, among others.
Another popular rail option is the Heathrow Express. The service operates between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington Terminus in Central London. Meanwhile, the Southern trains service commuters coming from the Central London terminus at London Bridge and London Victoria up to South London and Sussex.
Docklands Light Railway
Part of the London Rail division of Transport for London, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves East London via a computerized, driverless system. The automated system opened in 1985 to serve the redeveloped Docklands area and has racked up 9 million passengers on average in 2018 alone.
London's red double-decker buses are a familiar sight on the roads. There are now 2,500 hybrid electric buses out of the 9,300 currently plying the streets of London to help reduce air pollution. There are night bus services available, with certain 24-hour routes in operation both day and night. Passengers can now get bus arrival information down to the minute through their smartphones or online.
The London Trams averaged 2.2 million passengers so far in 2018 and is known for its blue and green livery. The light rail tram system primarily serves Croydon and its surrounding areas in South London along 27 kilometers of track dotted with 39 stops.
London River Services
In the past, travel on the River Thames was popular until the construction of numerous bridges and tunnels hampered river service. The London River Services was reborn as part of the Millennium Celebrations in London and is now a popular option to travel.
The Emirates Air-Line
You can now commute through London using the Emirates Air-Line, an urban cable car system that crosses the River Thames between Greenwich and the Royal Docks in 10 minutes. The shorter journey time makes for a less stressful commute. The service maintains 38 cable cars, with 36 in constant operation to carry passengers, including wheelchair users and cyclists.
London Black Cabs
London's black taxicabs are famous for requiring its drivers to pass a test called The Knowledge, which involves remembering very detailed information about London streets, buildings and more. The minimum fare for black taxis is GBP 3.00, but there's no extra charge for additional passengers, luggage or service dogs.
Walking and Cycling
London's plan to encourage a healthier lifestyle and create a greener city is to improve street environments to make walking and cycling more convenient. The goal also includes creating housing estates within easy walking distance of transport hubs and stations, to make it easier for residents to use public transport.
The Oyster card and Travel Card
Thanks to Mayor Sadiq Khan's goal of making public transport more affordable, fares remain at their 2016 levels until the year 2020. If you have an Oyster card, make sure to take advantage of the Hopper fares. If your travel requires riding a second bus or tram, that ride is free if you finish it within one hour of your commute.
Having a Travelcard and Oyster card in your wallet at all times makes commuting in London a lot easier. The Oyster card the most commonly used travel pass by Londoners to pay fares on just about all the public transport services. Payment using contactless cards or through mobile payment facilities like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay are also accepted. Visitors to London may buy an Oyster card or London Pass for sight-seeing.
For more information about London's transport system, visit the Transport for London (TfL) website at https://tfl.gov.uk/.