Tube 24 - The One That Was Mostly Solid

Mainly, we just wanted to do better than last time. When the nice man (Dan) from the BBC came out to film us last time out, I wondered if it would somehow jinx the attempt - and quite early on - as soon as 08.30 in the morning, the day had indeed been scuppered with a major signal failure at Queensway which brought the Central Line to a halt, and our attempt effectively over just three hours in.

Keep CalmSo this time it was a mini-watershed moment to get to the same point on the Central Line as last time, and find there was no such failure, just a speedy Central Line train taking us to our next destination, and a friendly looking female Train Op (driver) to sign our logbook too.

"Could you possibly sign our log book please?" I ask her nicely. She looks unsure, but after I explain what we're doing I think she detects we're not crazy and so goes for it. "So are you on your way to start a shift, or have you just finished one?", I ask and before we know it we're having a bit of a geeky chat about the Central Line.

It gets to the point where we have to dash off and leave her behind - ""Thanks", I say - "... and may all your signals be auto and not coded!" I chirpily add on the end. She looks at us with a little bewilderment."Wow, you guys really know a lot about tube trains!" she says! "Yes, yes we do!" we all laugh back.

The day had started as per normal up in the top left, and we worked out way through the same route used on Tube 23, and we're a few hours in and were happy with the way it was going. "Quite a solid day" noted Richard. "Mostly solid" quipped Anthony. "The one that was solid then", I appended - noting the title in the logbook.

We missed an earlier connection we hoped to have made with harder running, but made it back by actually running harder at the next on-foot section down the line, and next were annoyed to find we had an 8 minute wait for the next train on the Bakerloo Line.

But the day ticked on, nothing major went wrong, and out mood were noticeably high. It got to a point where there was a real buzz on the train - no one was talking about tubes. No one was asking where we're changing next, or what time it is, because no one wants to mention it, and we all know why - the last change was brilliant, and six hours in, we're bang on time and things are running perfectly.

A late running Central Line train by two minutes almost costs us a connection, but then doesn't and we position ourselves on the next train to be at the right positions for where we know we're getting out next.

At that moment, we have a small hiccup - our train dwells in a platform for longer than you'd expect and just at the point when I'd noticed it, the drivers comes on the PA to tells us their is a faulty train ahead, and although we'll be moving, we might be moving slowly. Minor panic! Which instantly turns into a constructive conversation, and then - quite radically - we decide to bail at the station that we're at, and run quite a long way to make a tight connection at another station.

It was minor hell .. I've run a lot the last two years, but I sweated like crazy as Anthony steamed ahead and Richard paced me as we got to the platform - exactly - as the train pulled in and opened it door - I'd made it, but collapse onto the carriage floor, desperate to breath well again.

And on we went, scoring an 18 minute platform-to-platform time between High Barnet and Cockfosters which is up there in my three fastest times that I've ever done it. And although back in the middle of a town a late running Northern cost us a connection at a Zone 1 station, we were able to pull it back, and still be in shout of the record time.

But then, the tube does what it tends to do best on days that you really do want it to - it breaks. Just as we were heading for it already meaning that there was no avoiding. We're south of the river, on the District and there is #tubefail.

We haven't moved for about four minutes. No one says anything - except for the driver who chirpily informs us "It may be quicker to get off here and take a bus", which some people indeed do by immediately hopping over in search of other forms of transport. This creates a bit of room in the carriage, and allows us to all get some personal space back.

We debate about where else we can go - but it's one of those nasty points where there is nothing we can do except suck it up and hope the delay doesn't last too long. Eventually the train does one move down the line one stop, where it sits and waits again, and eventually crawls into Wimbledon - where we calculate that we've lost about 10 minutes of time.

We plod on. Back on the Northern Line, and we can't be sure but a train turned up two minutes out of sync to what we were expecting. Trains off-peak on the Northern are ever four minutes, so it was either running two minutes early or two minutes late, but we didn't get its number so we don't know which.

And plod on, strangely adhering to our 'Plan A' route, and not rerouting on the fly like we tend to do, and eventually getting to the major crunch part of the day - hitting one of the two Olympia evening services, from which we will then know our final time if everything else runs smoothly. I know that Chris will have been working it out above ground online since I last saw him, and so when I do catch up with him in person on the Jubilee Line, he pulls me to one side and he talks me through the options.

It's a little crazy, but there's an option that might just work. It would involve doing a run that we've never done before in the Kensington/Shepherd's Bush area. Why is it that just when I think I've done Olympia every way possible, the day transpires into giving me an alternative way of doing it. And if this run works? I ask Chris - we're on for a record beating time, no doubt. It it doesn't (as it's a gamble) and we miss the train and we get the next one, we'll be on the 'same train' as the record, which might beat it, it might not.

By hook and crook we get to Olympia. And then onto the tricky part which involves getting a westbound train out of Earl's Court first with a 30 second connection - no problem. But wait! What's this? Oh fuck ... the train out of Olympia leaves exactly a whole minute late according to my watch, and the westbound service at Earl's Court (a Richmond train) is already on the platform as we approach - and there's nothing Chris can do as I see its door close and leaves before we've even pulled in. It transpires that it's left 30 seconds early as well.

We stand on the platform at Earl's Court and look to the board for the next train - it should be five minutes away and it should be an Ealing Broadway. But it's not there. There are Wimbledon trains shows, but that isn't where we want to go, we need to head out through West Kensington and beyond, but the District isn't playing ball - today's #tubefail courtesy of the District with a signal failure at Putney, late Olympia train, early Richmond train, and now a cancelled (yet 'Good Service') Ealing Broadway train.

With the record slowing slipping out of grasp, we take an gamble that involves using the Piccadilly Line from Earl's Court instead, going to Barons Court, and then taking an eastbound train back to West Kensington instead. That's a new one on me. And after that, more unorthodox on-street runs, connections made in directions that I have never done before, and finally, we're onto the T4 train at Acton Town and we know what our finish time is going to be.

Frustratingly, it's going to be another day when the majority of it has worked well, but then we've hit an incident which has put us a train or two back, and although we're gonna have a sub-17 time, it's not going to be a record beating one.

At T5, the final time is drawn up - it's 16 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds. Just about a minute out from my personal best (but in effect the 'same train' as it), and the third time now that I've come in under 16 hours, 44 minutes - which was for over a year, the long standing record in modern tube challenging era which many found hard to beat, and we've beaten is three time now - just not with a record to show for it.

It's also and a whole train/10 minutes out from being on the same train as the record time. And yet up until a couple of hours ago we were on for beating that record by twenty minutes. I tell people this a lot, and it sounds like a broken record but it's true - you really can go all day, and then fifteen hours in - it all falls apart around you at the end. Galling.

Tube 24 stats

Stations visited: 270/270 [Completion]
Start time: 05:58.00 Finish time: 22:37.38
Time taken: 16 hours, 39 minutes, 38 seconds
Number of people: 3
Support team: 4

Previous 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 | Tube 24 | Tube 25 (Second World Record)


Tube 24

31st May 2013

The Tube Challenge

The challenge is to travel round all the stations on the London Underground (currently 270 of them) in the fastest time possible. This is a recognised and established world record, that has proper rules and regulations laid down by Guinness World Records. People have been competing for this since 1959.

I'm a two-times World Record Holder for completing this challenge the first time held between 2004-2006, and then again between 2013-2015.

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