I've now made twenty-three journeys around the entire London Underground tube system, in world record attempts to go to all the stations in the fastest time possible.
The first time I did this was in May of 2002, but it took me until my seventh attempt two years later in May 2004 to set a new record time of 18 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds. My ninth attempt was part of the Tube Relief 'We are not afraid' charity attempt.
In 2011 on Tube 14 we go the second fastest time ever in the current configuration, before changes to Kensington (Olympia) made the challenge harder than ever. We do though currently hold the unofficial fastest time for completion on Tube 21 for a non-exhibition day Olympia service.
In March 2013, BBC News Online came out and filmed our latest attempt around the network.
Write ups of attempts: Tube 1 : Tube 2 : Tube 3 : Tube 4 : Tube 5 : Tube 6 : Tube 7 (World Record)
Tube 8 : Tube 9 (Tube Relief) : Tube 10 : Tube 11 : Tube 12 : Tube 13 : Tube 14 : Tube 15 : Tube 16 : Tube 17 : Tube 18: Tube 19 : Tube 20 : Tube 21 : Tube 22 : Tube 23
In the Media
My third and fourth attempts were both featured on TV. My third attempt was featured as part of the ITV programme 'The Tube' - a general documentary about the London Underground. We appeared in an episode called '24 hours', which was later sold to Sky Travel and often gets repeated on TV this to day.
My next attempt was the also on TV - this time, an entire half an hour documentary featured solely on us and our attempt to get round in the fastest time. The programme was part of the series of 'Metroland' documentaries for ITV, and was called 'Race Around the Underground'. To my knowledge this has never been repeated on TV, which is a shame because I think it's the better programme out of the two.
In 2013 when London Underground was celebrating 150 years of the Tube, the BBC got in touch to know if I'd do an attempt as part of a series of videos they were making about the Underground, and so they came out and filmed attempt number twenty three.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the tube in London on July 7th 2005, I organised a mass-participation tube challenge event with over 60 people taking part from all over the world. It was not a proper record attempt, but an act of solidarity and defiance to say and show that we were not afraid. We called it Tube Relief (It had its own website at www.tuberelief.co.uk) and we raised several thousands of pounds towards the official charity for the victims and families of those affected in the tragedy.
I held the record for two years until 2006 when another team beat it by just a few seconds. Since then, several groups of people have got the record time as the tube network has changed (every time a new station appears, or a station if removed from the map the record is 'reset' and is up for grabs all over again). A full list of all the other world-record holding challengers and how the number of stations has changed over the years can be found here.
Zone 1 Only
From the main challenge of doing all the stations on the network, a lot of smaller less-intensive alternative challenges have sprung up and are competed my people on a regular basis. They often involve doing a smaller number of stations so that the challenge can be completed in just a few hours - not all day.
BBC news made a short film of us doing the Zone 1 challenge in 2004, and I made a short-video myself when I attempted it in 2008, both on the Zone 1 page here.
We made nine attempts prior to 2006when I had three years of not-challenging, and many attempts from 2010 onwards. Here's a list of if a Tube Failure cost us the record or not. The percentage that the tube system has held up the entire day is staggeringly low ...
Tube 1 - Tube Fail. The Richmond branch was down when we got there.
Tube 2 - Tube OK. No major problem, just not a good route.
Tube 3 - Tube OK. Still the same not-very-good route as last time.
Tube 4 - Tube Fail. Northern Line stuck at Golders Green and de-training at Camden Town, Northern Line delays.
Tube 5 - Tube Fail. The Central Line broke, stuck at Debden with no explanation. Massive wait for Hainault train.
Tube 6 - Tube Fail. Points failure East Finchley, High Barnet branch broken.
Tube 7 -Tube OK. Got the Record! Good route, despite one cancelled train, still made it round. Could have been quicker.
Tube 8 - Tube Fail. Points failure at Marylebone. Bakerloo line crawled, delayed. No joy.
Tube 9 - Tube OK. No major problems, but was Tube Relief effort. May have beaten time had we of been going for it.
4 out of 9 attempts the tube held up, just 44% of the time.
Tube 10 - Tube OK. Just not the best route - a 13 minute wait at Hainault for example.
Tube 11 - Tube Fail. The Circle/H&C broke in the evening, and then there was no Olympia train - ever, cancelled. Would have got world record at 16:18 otherwise.
Tube 12 - Tube Fail. The Watford train was late, then the Piccadilly up to Cockfosters crawled/dreadfully slow.
Tube 13 - Tube Fail. District line SPAD/Signal Failure at 9am cocks everything up.
Tube 14 - Tube OK. It all worked! Was only a delayed C2c train that let us down, for our best time yet (16:38)
Tube 15 - Tube Fail. Piccadilly Line on Heathrow branch right at end messed up, we were on for a 16:28 until then.
Tube 16 - Tube Fail. Picaddilly broke in the morning, crawled and so bailed at Park Royal to Hanger Lane.
Tube 17 - Tube Fail. Actually a Chiltern Train fail, but rest of the Met was mucked up all morning, making a re-start impossible.
Tube 18 - Tube Fail. "The worst day for tube service I have ever known". No Mets past Harrow-on-the Hill at the start.
Tube 19 - Tube Fail. Moor Park connection late, then Richmond branch went down and had to re-route.
Tube 20 - Tube Fail. Moor Park points broke, District all over the place, H&C/Circle iffy, broken Central line train at SheBu
Tube 21 - Tube Fail. A cancelled Wimbledon train, and withdrawn Upmister train due to vomit, still made 16:43 though..
Tube 22 - Tube Fail. Not the best route, but Olympia not running when it said it would be.
Tube 23 - Tube Fail. Central Line broke, Queensway signal failure, put us terribly behind and never recovered.
2 out of 14 times did it work as it should, just 14% of the time.