Home 1 2 3

Walk The Tube 2016, the one where I complete.

I have been long overdue for another attempt at the Tube Challenge, but at short notice found myself with the opportunity to do so with 25 or so others as part of Geoff Marshall‘s now annual ‘Walk The Tube‘ event. I took the place of a drop out and, being away in Cambridgeshire at the time, announced the date to Twitter and Snapchat with the help from Cards Against Humanity.

Two weeks quickly pass, and 8th April arrives. Having decided to stay in bed until noon, then go out until 10pm on the 7th, I just about got myself up at 4.15am to make my way to Ealing Broadway for the 5.09 District Line (which was surprisingly busy) to Hammersmith. There I caught the 27 bus to Olympia, the starting point. Olympia was the start due to last year‘s group missing the connection to this train after coming up from Heathrow, and is more logical than it originally sounds. 

We start off on time heading to Earl’s Court, for our first connection, cross platform to a High Street Kensington train. It runs late, and we miss our next connection to a Circle line train up to Edgware Road, ending up back on the train we were on in the first place. One train down, we head down the Hammersmith and City line to, uh, Hammersmith, where I perform my first piece of Oyster trickery to avoid timing out. We make up the time lost, but find ourselves delayed again across the road, where the Heathrow Terminal 4 train we need fails to show up, ending up on the next Terminal 5 train instead. We soon work out it was running almost 20 minutes late, forming an unusual Terminal 1,2,3 reversing train.

Round Heathrow we go, and back up to Acton Town, which I’ll end up seeing 4 times that day, where we catch a District Line to Ealing Broadway. Here my great friend Sam Turner forced himself up at 7.15 to get everyone breakfast from McDonald’s, while someone also managed to get Pret marketing to give us free snacks and juice. We cause commuter mayhem by loading 25 of us on to an already pretty packed Central Line, and I get told off for continuously falling on to somebody (genuinely sorry!).

I must also take credit here for being first to suggest the route alteration to reverse at White City instead of East Acton, it allowed us to make a crucial connection.

Onwards to West Ruislip, where another friend, Samir Chadha, joins us at Hanger Lane. I spend time eating my McMuffin and convincing Sam that a bus from Finchley Road is the fastest way to Golders Green (I think he now gets buses), and a leisurely toilet stop at West Ruislip for a rare U1 bus (which didn’t save us any time).

Back towards town from Uxbridge, where we quickly do the Richmond branch (unlike last year), and another friend, Ruaridh Fraser-Campbell supplies coffee.


I think we all hit an early ‘low’ on the way through town all the way to Cockfosters, and I give my already dying phone a rest.

We manage to lose Geoff at Oakwood, having reversed too quickly at Cockfosters for him to buy 8 cups of tea. He catches up by taking an Uber to High Barnet, where another friend, Javanshir, joins us to see what Mill Hill East is like. Some changes in Central London, and it’s up to Walthamstow, where we manage half of us through the bus station toilets in a minute.

Over to Leyton by bus, where we sprint and hold the doors open on an every 20 mins Woodford via Hainault train. Things are looking good, we connect well at Woodfood and reverse quickly at Epping. Back through town we go, almost certainly irritating the driver by holding the doors and attempting to move 25 people from the back to first carriage, having already learnt that someone had been sick all over one carriage. We are forced to change at Leytonstone as they hold the train to be cleaned, and I snooze through town ready to make our tightest connection yet…

After crazy run across the road at Shepherd’s Bush, and at least a minute of door holding, we head to West Brompton and Wimbledon, where more friends, Hugo Cheema-Grubb provide 7 coffees and teas at East Putney. We catch a once a half hour Thameslink train to South Merton, having had half the group shouted at by a toilet attendant who had left the gate open at Wimbledon, admiring the trams alongside.

Cue another great bus driver on the 413, holding for 25 people to come up the stairs at South Merton, having almost been trapped on the train due to a premature door closing (South Merton has probably never seen so many people). Up the Northern Line to Kennington, where a failure of the ‘first train South’ indicator ends up costing a train when we reverse. In and out of Brixton in 30 seconds, and a run through Victoria at rush hour, we miss a Circle line by 1 minute at Sloane Square. This cost us dearly, as we happen to reach Aldgate just as the station closed for 15 minutes due to a ‘fire alert.’ We invoke the ‘pass through’ rule to go to Liverpool Street, as you can still visit a station by passing through if it is closed, where I’m the only one to make a Hammersmith and City line train to Aldgate East to catch those waiting…

10 minutes later, we’re joined by everyone else, and we distract ourselves with pizza at Whitechapel, thanks to Simon and Helen, while David and Jacob Brett from last year also join. This distracts us so much that we only vaguely realise there hasn’t been a District Line in almost 10 minutes, and when it eventually arrives we crush load onto it. For some reason, everyone gets off at East Ham, with the only logical explanation being it’s at the edge of zone 3.

Up to Upminster, where we’re over an hour later than planned, and we miss a C2C train back to town by seconds. Some doubts set in, as we really needed to be less than an hour late to guarantee connections to the last trains, but we plough on regardless.

Back to town, we head up to Edgware on the Northern Line, catching the one Bakerloo line train with new seats on the way, and cross to Stanmore to complete the Jubilee Line. More friends, Andrea and Jonathan Wong come to St. John’s Wood with the final drinks and we make our way up the Bakerloo to do the final bits of the Metropolitan Line. We catch an Overground train, where I totally don’t use the plugs they have on board, before a brisk walk the Northwick Park.

Up to Watford, where Ed Greer comes to say hi, and we get an amazing driver who recognises what we’re doing and guarantees our extremely unlikely connection at Moor Park by getting the signaller to hold the train up.

Moor Park to Amersham, Amersham to Chalfont and Latimer and Chalfont and Latimer to Chesham go by in a blur, despite being one of the slowest to complete sections of the network, taking almost 3 hours. With huge excitement, we reach the end. 270/270, in 18 Hours 56 Minutes, 58 Seconds.

Some left early as they had connections to make back in town, but the majority of us made it. I had a blast, as I’m sure we all did, and I met a bunch of awesome people along the way.

Finally, I used an Oyster Card for the whole day, mostly to take advantage of my 50% 16-18 discount, which resulted in an interesting journey history.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 16.21.30

The pricing explanation:
  • Ealing Broadway to Hammersmith is a 75p off peak Zone 3 to 2 journey.
  • Kensington Olympia to Hammersmith is a 75p off peak Zone 3 to 2 journey (the system assumes I didn’t go via Zone 1).
  • Hammersmith to Heathrow is a 75p off peak Zone 2 to 6 journey.
  • Heathrow to White City is a £1.40 peak Zone 6 to 2 journey.
  • White City to West Ruislip is a £1.40 peak Zone 2 to 6 journey.
  • Ickenham to West Harrow is a 85p peak Zone 6 to 5 journey.
  • At this point I hit the £5.90 Zone 1-6 anytime cap, so I wasn’t charged any more.
  • Northwick Park to Watford Zone 4-7 is 90p off peak journey, but the Zone 1-7 anytime cap is £6.40 so I was charged 50p to bring me to that cap.
  • Watford to Amersham Zone 7-9 is an 80p off peak journey, the Zone 1-9 cap is £8.45 so I was changed the full 80p.
  • Amersham to Chesham Zone 8-9 is an 75p off peak journey, I hadn’t hit the cap so I was charged the full 75p. I shouldn’t have touched in and out at Amersham as this would have saved me 75p.


Thanks to Geoff for organising the event, Vicki, Chris, Kirk and Matt as part of the core team, Simon and Helen for the lunch drop and pizza, Sam Turner for the McDonald’s breakfast, my friends Hugo, Jonathan, Andrea and Ruaridh for general snacks and drinks, plus Lana, Steve, Jon, James, Rachel, Emily, Javanshir, Samir, Omari and Simon’s Parents for other support during the day.

I stayed up 22 hours in all, returning home at 1.45am, thanks to a much appreciated lift from Geoff and Vicki. Geoff will be making a video soon, but for now, read some other posts here:

Young Enterprise: A Story

30th June 2014. The first request to join a Young Enterprise team arrives, and I am asked to be the website designer for a team that plans to be formed, Apollo.

1st December 2014. The date of registration for the spkruk.com domain, and the first major reflection of my work for my Young Enterprise team, Invictus.

8th May 2015. The end of an era for my new Young Enterprise team, Proteus with the ClickBoard app.

3 teams with stupid names over almost 10 months. A long and changing journey, but how did I get where I am now?

The truth is, Apollo was quick to be knocked out. 7 potential teams quickly reduced to 5, and 5 reduced to 3 within weeks. A lack of a clear product or plan, and a somewhat unconvincing team structure quickly left Apollo as a weak link. I had a ‘backup’ team, Payara, but they were knocked out early on as well, as they had absolutely no team management structure.

Weeks pass and I consider myself no longer involved, until I am approached by one of the 3 remaining teams, Invictus, to design their website. Now, as my friend Euan constantly mocks me about, I am hardly a hard core ‘coder’. In fact, I pretty much hate any kind of coding, although I do know enough HTML and CSS to get me by. Despite this, I believe (and have shown) that I can create quality results using various tools available, and I seem to have built enough reputation surrounding computers and the Internet to be one of the first to be chosen.

From October to late November, ideas fly around the team. As time passes, I wonder how the team got through this far, but by December, we are fully formed, with specific roles for all the team members, and had deciding upon marketing and selling a Bluetooth water resistant speaker imported from a supplier in China.


Whilst I could never reveal the profit margin on these speakers, I will say is that I believe the £14.99 that we sell them online is reasonable for their quality.

Honestly, I felt that the idea was a poor one at first, but, over time, I do feel that I was somewhat wrong and that the speakers were not a bad choice from a sales and marketing perspective. They also gave me, and a few others, an excellent opportunity to showcase design skills, with the online sales aspect of the product providing much of this opportunity. Whilst I must admit that Squarespace and Stripe provide a beautiful online store and payments system, it is still difficult to ensure that your site remains well laid out and that the content is good.


As we continued over the next few months, various connections are developed by myself and others, including one with a premiership football club who took a great interest in our product as merchandise in their store, and another with a major UK online and catalogue order company. These were very promising deals, but disappointingly the team was very fragmented and tasks were completely incredibly slowly.

Whilst there were major issues with some aspects of the company, several members, particularly the ‘senior management team’ (which included myself, I must add) were committed and without which the company could never have reached the point it did.

By March, we had launched our online store, and my role had expanded from social media and the website to also include logistics. As a frequent eBay seller (and one-time ranter), dispatching products is something that I am incredibly efficient at and knowledgeable about.


Coming to the competition’s judgement stages, we made it through to the Richmond & Kingston area finals, along with the 3 other teams. However, this was where the real competition started, with 8 teams competing for 2 spots in the South London area final. Unfortunately, the team did not make it through.

However, there was one major victory, which was winning the Best Website Design & Social Media award.

Whilst this was not the determining factor for my progression into Team Proteus, it definitely helped. Joining just two weeks before the next round of the competition, the South London area finals, Team Proteus seemed a far more organised and clear operation. The team worked to promote ClickBoard, an app which turns your smartphone into a wireless mouse by using the accelerometer, with a vast array of additional functions.

I joined as Director of Online Presence, with the overall aim of improving the somewhat bland and boring website. However, in the short term there was a much greater task, which was ensuring that we had a high quality trade stand in time for the finals. I ended up providing my TV and laptop, along a great degree of IT support to ensure that the technical aspects behind the stand would function.

The presentation that we delivered was great, but unfortunately there could only be one team to progress from this point, and we narrowly lost out to Team Alpha, with their security conscious rucksack. We did, however, win the Innovation award and had a judge and several other advisors approach us to mention how impressed that they were. I must also give a mention to (another) Team Invictus and their app Uni Tensil, which took a drastically different, but similarly exciting direction to ClickBoard.

So, here are my final thoughts.

I do not want to reflect on the reasons for Team Invictus and SPKR not going further, but our imported product with limited innovation, along with our lack of secured deals seemed to be major setbacks. I think this is important to note for Young Enterprise, with simple imported products unlikely to result in much success without a drastically different sales strategy.

With Proteus, I must say that I was incredibly impressed with how active the team was, with several Facebook group posts per day, and despite only being a member for a couple of weeks, I quickly felt that I was a member of the team.

I was incredibly honoured to be ‘head hunted’ following the Web Design and Social Media award, especially given the frequent problem of ‘free riders’ in teams (and Young Enterprise was no exception) and others not meeting deadlines and targets.

I must comment on organisation, with the South London event being incredibly disorganised with no proper food (appalling given that it occurred from 5-9pm), mistakes in the presentation slides and technical problems with microphones and audio.


Arrived here from tubechallenge.co.uk? This is my latest tube-related venture, however you can read about my tube challenge attempt which occurred on Thursday, 17th July 2014 by clicking here.

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything here, so I thought I would post some thoughts about the most recent (and major?) tube related venture I have been involved in, which was ‘Walk the Tube,’ a yearly (well, since 2014) charity based Tube Challenge organised by Geoff Marshall.

Geoff came out to join us during my last tube challenge attempt in 2014. I decided to return the favour by heading out to meet the many people who were attempting the challenge to help act as a points person (helping at key connection points), go ahead to get food and also to generally join the fun/tiredness.

We started with some initial confusion at Ealing Broadway about whether I was getting pizza at Morden or not, where the group were changing off the Central onto the (delayed) District Line. We did get the opportunity for the unique view from the walkway to Platform 9 though.

I did not join at the best of times, as soon the decision was made to skip the Richmond branch due to a 14 minute wait in order to ensure a completion of the rest of the network…

I managed to head towards Wimbledon via Morden whilst the rest of the group headed round the Hammersmith and City line to Edgware Road, and back down to Wimbledon, however the delays from earlier meant it took me far longer than it should have to get there.

Still, I managed to get there with about 30 minutes to spare, waiting for a (late) Domino’s Pizza delivery that Olwin had ordered to be delivered, and running into Iceland for way too much Coke that I ended up carrying around in a Tesco bag for life for the rest of the day…

We had to wait at Morden for the same train to leave which was a setback, and were further delayed reversing at Brixton due to a points failure we heard about way before the public on a radio connected to the line control. We still got a swift 10 second reverse, heading round the Circle Line to Aldgate and onwards towards Upminster.

I headed up to Upminster to grab some food and act as a points person, where a C2C train back to town was missed by under a minute. Back to West Ham, where we managed to grab a photo at Southwark.

Up the Bakerloo, where we narrowly avoided being delayed by a trespass incident at Harlesden, and where I had planned to leave the group.

I ended up staying until the end, but not before some of the group split off to do Preston Road. Instead, a few of us caught it on the way back towards town and home.

Whilst the majority of the group finished at Amersham, the #GunnersburySeven managed to drive down to Gunnersbury (some via Preston Road) in less than 45 minutes, to catch the last District Line train at 00.59 to Richmond, completing all 270 stations.

After Amersham, I headed home on the last train to Wembley Park, catching a rare ‘rusty rail’ move at Amersham, after which I shared an Uber with Geoff and Vicki back home to Ealing.

Overall, I had a blast, met some awesome people and firmly prepared myself to undertake the challenge again in the near future. Although maybe I should have touched in and out at Amersham…

Tube Challenge: Some Final Thoughts

Read the full write-up first.

Having attempted the tube challenge on Thursday, 17th July and written up the whole day, I think that it is appropriate for me to make some final musings.

Firstly, some thank you messages:

  • My parents, for their support, and for dropping us off at Rickmansworth at 6am, and picking us up after midnight.
  • Ben’s grandparents, for driving up to North Greenwich, the huge selection of food and for riding with us up to West Ham.
  • Ben’s father, for coming out from work to Canary Wharf with food and water.
  • Nicolas Weninger, for coming out and joining us for one of the longest stretches, the support and being great company. I really appreciated having another person to talk to for a significant time. 
  • Varun Jeyachandran, for waiting over 30 minutes, joining and chatting with us between Golders Green and Edgware, and for the water.
  • Sam Turner, for listening to me rabbit on about trains all the time, getting up and meeting us at Ealing Broadway, and for giving us some sweets and crisps. Although you should have stayed for longer… and not run off without saying goodbye?
  • Geoff Marshall, the Tube Challenge World Record Holder who has attempted the challenge 26 times, and from whom I gained some valuable tips, knowledge and advice. I have been talking to Geoff on twitter around two years now, and I’m sure we’ll meet again sometime, most likely on the platform at Acton Town. He makes an awesome app for tube challengers and commuters alike, called Station Master. I seem to spot all the mistakes, so I think I should be made a beta tester. Please?
  • Yuki, for waiting and giving us the water at St. John’s Wood. I know you had other things to do.
  • The man on the 6.46am train to Amersham from Chalfont & Latimer who gave his email for a witness statement and got chatting to us.
  • The woman on the 7.25am train from Watford towards London who gave her email for a witness statement.
  • The man on the 8.32am Central Line train from West Ruislip towards London. I couldn’t quite read your email address, but what luck if you’ve found this.
  • The man on the 8.07am Metropolitan Line arrival into Uxbridge, who recognised what we were doing.
  • The male LU staff member who was an apprentice on the A Stock who was on the Circle Line and got off at Tower Hill. Thanks for chatting to us. Good old proper trains 🙂
  • The man on the Northern Line Bank Branch heading to Watford Junction from Euston with London Midland, who recognised what we were doing and got chatting to me.
  • The male driver of Metropolitan Line Train 405, which left Rickmansworth at 6:00am and left Chesham at 6.31am. We might have given you a shock heading north.
  • The male Central Line driver who changed ends so quickly at Epping at around 4:30pm

Wow… Now, what did I think?

  • Don’t choose such a hot day. It was the hottest day of the year so far on the 17th.
  • Having people come out to greet us was amazing, and kept me sane.
  • Get some business cards or print outs to hand to people who talk to you during the day. Mainly so they can find your site 🙂
  • Know your toilets! Station Master really helps so you know where they are, while the back of a Tube Map is good for the initial check. Loose change helps if they charge (annoying).
  • TFL Bus Arrivals was amazing. I used Citymapper to access this information. Favourite the stops you might be using.
  • Tube Tracker was even more amazing. It works at most stations even the TFL boards do not work at, and provides train numbers.
  • The working timetables are better than any other TFL timetables.
  • Highs and lows. I was ultra paranoid at the beginning of the day.
  • Door positions are important. Despite what Ben might say.
  • Run. Don’t miss a connection somewhere where you’re going to have to wait 10 minutes+ because you think the train will leave on time to the quarter second (Central Line).
  • Backup battery chargers are a godsend. I needed two, I borrowed one from my dad.
  • Virgin Media Wifi. Use someone else’s login if you need, or I would seriously consider buying the day pass if you do this. Getting arrival information, tweeting, and messaging people ahead while underground was incredibly helpful. 
  • S Stock / London Overground / c2c Air Conditioning is amazing.
  • Airplane Mode. Keep your phone in it while Underground, otherwise it’s constantly trying to search for a network and draining the battery. Obviously turn wifi on. I also find it reconnects faster when you return above ground.
  • I hate Mill Hill East. We would have finished if it were not for that.
  • Prepare your connections. Morden to Wimbledon has a lot of different options, but I lucked out with one I knew. 
  • Be very careful with buses. I should have got off the bus a stop earlier at South Wimbledon and Canons Park as we hit bad traffic within sight of the stations…

The tube challenge not only requires ultra commitment and the ability to literally sit on trains for ages (and ages and ages), but also to run and to get in the right places all through the day. It certainly is not for everyone, and it is an achievement, despite what some might think.

Will I do it again? Maybe. Ben will not, however, and in the meantime I need a new travelling companion. However, I have some great friends who will almost certainly come out again, and that will help in the future. Maybe I will do Walk the Tube next year, maybe not. 

However… I have now been through every single London Underground station, and that is interesting in itself, to me at least.

Tube Challenge: The Write-up

Something I have been interested in doing for the last year or so is the tube challenge. Having failed to find an appropriate date (or challenging companion) for most of the period, Ben Wormsley and I agreed to attempt the challenge at some point this summer. Between holidays, trips and work experience, we managed to agree on Thursday, 17th July 2014. Ben did it for charity too.

First train of the day was the 6.00am Metropolitan Line from Rickmansworth to Chesham. The driver seemed a little surprised that someone was actually getting on, but we left on time and arrived at Chesham early with the whole train to ourselves.

The train left Chesham slightly late, although we had a generous connection time at Amersham so this was not an issue.

Up to Amersham where we talk to a friendly man to collect a witness statement (we stopped soon after), and down to Moor Park for a Watford train which was running almost 5 minutes late. Another statement was collected here from a woman. Thanks to both of you!

We made our connection out of Watford, and exited the network at North Harrow to make our way to Rayners Lane. There, I saw an H10 bus labelled as ‘Harrow,’ forgetting the fact the H9 and H10 are a pair running in a circle, although luckily I checked with the driver. Onto an H9 within 1 minute, and off to Rayners Lane.

I then realised I had not left enough connection time to get our train to Uxbridge, so instead we ended up on the train behind. A man recognised what we were doing at this point, so a shout out to you! At Uxbridge, we ran across to a Piccadilly Line and had a slick 40 second turnaround. Back to Ickenham, for the popular, 15 minute walk/5 minute run to West Ruislip. But we were slightly too slow…

Down the Central Line with the commuter crowd to White City instead of the originally planned East Acton for a reverse, which would save us a bit of time later. We collected our last witness statement on this journey from a male with a government email address, but unfortunately I can’t read it… Thanks anyway! In the meantime, I texted away with my good friend Sam Turner who would be waiting at Ealing Broadway, my home stop. 

We nearly miss Sam who is not paying attention whilst sitting on a bench, and leave on a slightly late District Line. Off to Ealing Common, where the Tube Challenge World Record holder, Geoff Marshall who I had been tweeting all morning said he would be waiting.

Ealing Common, and a slick 1 minute turn around onto a Piccadilly Line back to Rayners Lane, where Geoff gave us a few secrets about his world record run, although (unfortunately?) no hints on the route. Discussing various tube/life related things, we crossed over at Rayners Lane (with our first toilet stop) onto a Metropolitan Line. But…

Me: Wait a minute… semi-fast????

Geoff: It can’t be semi-fast, it’s from Uxbridge

Me: It said semi-fast… look it says semi-fast. Oh darn hopefully driver has made a mistake…

Arriving at Harrow-on-the-Hill, I discover we’re on a very late running train which is indeed running semi-fast (not stopping at Northwick Park or Preston Road), forcing us to change onto another train. 4 minutes later, we end up on another train which had come from Uxbridge.

Geoff leaves us to go to over to Kenton at Northwick Park while we reverse back at Preston Road, and we get some useful updates from him over the progress of a London Overground train up to Harrow & Wealdstone. A 3 minute run later, and crossing to the wrong side of the road (stupid sign) we make a slightly late running Overground, rejoining Geoff. Crossing over, we board a lazy Bakerloo Line which left 2 minutes late, and say our goodbyes to Geoff at Kenton. (If you’re reading Geoff, thanks so much for coming out!)

Heading through Canary Wharf, Ben’s dad comes to meet us with some food and water, while his grandparents joined us from North Greenwich to West Ham with even more food and drink. Unfortunately, we just could not carry most of it so had return much of it…

We luck out at Upminster, catching a District Line within 5 minutes despite some severe delays earlier, although re-route at Mile End due to a possible long wait for a Circle Line train at Aldgate.

We crossed London, and catch the Overground south. Having planned to ‘cheat’ Olympia anyway, it was even more of a pain to see that, due to the earlier delays:

Train: I mean a District Line one… Click here to see the Olympia District Line story if you do not understand why this bothered me so much…

We waste time at West Brompton while I attempted to work out if we could get back and catch it (we couldn’t) and headed down to Wimbledon, meeting Nicolas Weninger on route who joined us for the next few hours. Ben also met two representatives from the charity he was supporting, Back Up Trust, at East Putney.

We catch a perfect, late running 93 bus outside Wimbledon station, and head to South Wimbledon. We turn at Morden, accidentally running onto the unused side platform having ducked under a barrier, although luckily still make it out within 2 minutes. 

We head back to town, with a slick 30 second Brixton turnaround, and head to Aldgate. Thanks to the delays, while we just missed a Circle Line train by 2 minutes at our turnaround station, another was 4 minutes behind. At Tower Hill, I was busy discussing S stock train differences with Nick when a passionate member of LU staff, who was apprentice on the A Stock and seemed very fond of it got chatting to us. Thanks for talking to us! We do the short run to Aldgate East and catch the District Line back to Mile End.

We get a quick connection onto a Central Line terminating at Newbury Park, but we then get held at Leyton for nearly 10 minutes due to driver problems at Leytonstone. 

However, we don’t have long to wait for the once-every-20-minutes Hainault loop, and pass through Roding Valley, the least used Underground station. 

At Woodford, we have a 5 minute wait for an Epping train, although when there we turn around in an amazing 3 minutes on the very same train due to the delays and a very speedy driver.

At this point I read of the tragic air disaster of MH17 in Ukraine, and take a moment to worry about the fact I am travelling on Malaysian Airlines in 3 weeks time…

Across to Leytonstone High Road on the Overground, and we catch a train just 15 minutes behind schedule. Another slick Victoria Line ‘in-and-out’ at Walthamstow in just 45 seconds, and down to Warren Street, where we say goodbye to Nick. We reverse at Goodge Street within a minute, and catch a direct Edgware train.

We meet another friend, Varun Jeyachandran at Golders Green, who greets us with two much appreciated bottles of water and joins us up to Edgware.  

We get stuck in traffic near Canons Park, which cost us a train (or maybe even two) and I was not quite bold enough to plead with the driver to let us off as I have done in the past…

In and out of Stanmore in a rather poor 2.5 minutes, and whilst we head back to town. Another friend, Yuki, quickly says hello and drops us a bottle of water at St. John’s Wood (much appreciated, once again).

At Baker Street we have to play ‘guess the first train East.’ I think we caught the right one, but I do not think it would have made a difference anyway.

Doubts are beginning to sink in, and we sit relatively silently on the S8 stock enjoying the air conditioned train… 

Down to the Northern Line, where we are greeted by a busy platform and had to wait 7 minutes for a train. Which was heading to Edgware.

We headed up to Camden Town where another man heading to Euston for a London Midland service to Watford recognised what were doing and got chatting to me. 

We dashed up to the High Barnet platform, where we had another 3 minute wait. At this point, I was seriously doubtful about our ability to finish, but was still hopeful and so did not say anything to my travelling companion…

At a low, we headed up to High Barnet and managed to catch a late running 307 bus. But the doubts continued, and we stopped at the toilets at Oakwood where I checked working timetables on my phone. Over 5 minutes later, a train for Cockfosters finally arrives…

This put us down even more, meaning we were now running over half an hour late once again… We trudged back through town, luckily with very few other people on the train.

At Earl’s Court, we catch a train up to Edgware Road within a few minutes. Strangely, it had been described as Mansion House, even though the longer S Stock trains would not fit in the bay ‘terminating’ platform there…

We get a good Hammersmith and City Line connection at Edgware Road. But at this point, it fully dawned on me that we had a serious problem…

At Hammersmith, we miss an Ealing train, even if we might not have got on it. If I had been thinking straight (it was 11pm…) I probably would have gone to Chiswick Park and run to Gunnersbury…

We catch a supposed Richmond train, running a little late. However, on departure from Hammersmith, I realise something strange is happening…

Had this been a normal day, I probably would have filmed this unusual occurrence for my train videos channel. But I was tired, and had realised we could not finish, so I broke the news to Ben…

By this point, we could not face the 10 minute wait for another train to Richmond, and so we headed back to Turnham Green. We then decided that it would be pointless to head to Heathrow Terminal 5, not being able to get back and having not completed. And so, we bailed out, catching a late night District Line train to Ealing, and home, completing two more stations, on route passing the last train out of Ealing to run all the way through to Upminster. It was late, we were very tired, and I got my mum to pick us up from Ealing Broadway.

Stations visited: 257/270
Start time: 06:32.21
Finish time: around 23:40

Click here to read my thoughts about the day and some thank you messages.

eBay Feedback

Warning: this is basically a rant. Don’t like, don’t read.

Recently I started to sell stuff on eBay and have managed to make a pretty reasonable amount of money by doing so. It is usually a good idea to start by buying some items since people are more likely to sell to newcomers as opposed to buy from them, and therefore that is what I did.

Unfortunately (although understandably), new sellers have various limits imposed on them including the overall number/value of items that can be sold, and specific quotas per capita as well. To have these restrictions lifted, you have to have received at least 10 positive feedback as a seller.

Theoretically this should be pretty easy: you can sell 10 items per month and if everything goes smoothly for all of them, you should get 10 positive feedback…

However this is not quite what happens. Unfortunately there is a group who does not seem value the importance of leaving feedback and despite you taking a little bit of effort to leave feedback for them they do not do the same back.

Why is there not a solution to this? Surely an obvious way to ensure accurate feedback is to hold feedback from being posted until both parties have written some for each other?

Maybe I’m just not patient enough? I will have to see if any comes in the next few weeks…

London by Bus: the cheap way to sightsee – Part 3

Make sure you read parts 1 and 2 first!

Having left the busy London Bridge station and its promises of improvement, we headed towards More London. We turn left into the modern shopping parade which I believe is called the Rill, while some children enjoy the water features a little too much by deciding to paddle along them.

File:MoreLondon 01 by Townshend Landscape Architects.jpg

We didn’t quite make it this far along, but you can see the previously mentioned water feature. Image: Wikipedia

We stop at Caffe Nero for a rest, where I complete my loyalty card stamps in order to get a free drink in the future. We continue and skirt left past Southwark Crown Court, recently used to convict and sentence Chris Huhne and his wife, before continuing towards HMS Belfast, which I completely forgot was there. We walked past numerous other locations including Hay’s Galleria, London Bridge City Pier and the newly refurbished Cotton’s Centre.

Bus 7: 40 Aldgate to Dulwich Library

Our first bus to get home is to take us to Elephant & Castle, which although is in the wrong direction takes us to an important bus interchange. Upon arriving at the bus stop, I confusingly stare at the bus map since Citymapper had suggested a different bus route that was 10 minutes away. Still I knew which route would be correct so I just found one which followed the same roads. After a number of buses terminating at London Bridge and two of the one other route which goes in a different direction, a bus to Elephant & Castle comes, the number 40.

The bus is now full of the ‘commuter crowd’ who are quieter and usually buried in their phones, and we make slow progress. 

We get off a little way past the enormous roundabout with about 4 lanes of traffic, and backtrack to try to cross the road… Although, we could not since someone had put railings all the way down the middle to prevent that. Deciding not to pressure my grandma into literally running across a 4-lane roundabout with traffic coming 4 different ways we attempt to find the subway.

Once inside we walk the very long way around anticlockwise instead of the short walk clockwise, and eventually get our way to the correct exit and stop, where the next bus we needed was just approaching.

Bus 8: 148 Camberwell Green to White City

We boarded this long route with several others, and headed upstairs with a load of people hoarding there bags across several seats. We headed up towards Lambeth and Southwark, before crossing the river via Westminster Bridge, getting a great view of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye in the process.

Next we headed around Parliament Square, along Victoria Street to Victoria station, where we could see inside the major construction works outside. We head around Buckingham Palace Gardens to Hyde Park Corner, and head all the around the top of the park via Marble Arch, joining the number 7 and 70 routes used earlier for brief periods. 

We made relatively quick process along Notting Hill Gate, slowing on the approach to Shepherd’s Bush, where most people left, and we headed around the South of the green where we along with most of the others disembarked. A few people were continuing along to the bus station and the west of Westfield, zince unlike most terminating routes from the South side of the shopping centre, which go via the station and on a relatively long detour, this bus uses the most direct route.

Bus 9: 607 White City to Uxbridge

We hopped off the bus and walked along the road for around 25 m to the stop just ahead of us, where we could catch the 607. The countdown screens informed us the bus was 3 minutes away, so I guessed it would be about 6 minutes before arriving, which was quite accurate. 

Upon the arrival of the first bus, the driver sailed right past since it was rammed full. Luckily, the next bus was showing 3 minutes, so we sat down to wait for another 5. This time, the bus stopped, but the front, ‘boarding,’ door stayed closed. Instead, one person got off the back, while another rather cheekily hopped on. His intentions were not bad, since he did get his Oyster Card passed all the way along the bus to be scanned on the reader. 

But why so busy? The truth is that people really like the 607. It’s one of only three ‘express’ TFL routes in London, alongside the X26, from Heathrow to Croydon, which is currently the longest London bus route at 38.2 km, and the X68, a peak time only bus that runs between the City and West Croydon. There’s two reasons why people like express buses. Firstly, they’re faster, not having to stop at every stop to let one or two people off. Secondly, they’re longer routes. This means that a single £1.40 bus fare can take you the whole way from Shepherd’s Bush to Uxbridge, without needing to change buses and pay again. They’re also more comparable to the tube, with the journey between Shepherd’s Bush and Ealing only taking around 5 minutes longer than the tube on a good day, at less cost.

Since I expected the second bus to be less busy, we hadn’t boarded the two 207, ‘all stops’ buses that passed us in between. I now had to decide whether to board the next 207 in 3 minutes, or risk 4 minutes for a possibly overcrowded 607. I took the risk, and luckily for us it paid off and we soon overtook the 207 I considered getting on.

The route is relatively boring, simply following the Uxbridge Road. There was not much to see along the way, although the bus did quickly fill up and all the seats on the top deck were taken. 

And so, we headed home. For the journey back, we actually used the E10 bus, which I wrote about in the first part.

The next day, after checking my Oyster Card records, the number of routes in the list is quite surprising, and I have to wonder how many other people have been on that many in a day as well…

Thanks for reading! I have more to blog about, I’ve just been a bit slow recently. Don’t forget to follow me if you’re in to Tumblr, otherwise just follow me on Twitter and get the same thing, more often. There’s always RSS and email alerts too.

London by Bus: the cheap way to sightsee – Part 2

Make sure you read Part 1 first!

Bus 5: 13 Golders Green to Aldwych

We crossed Oxford Street at a crossing with brand new countdown timers, which although seems helpful are in fact very annoying due to the fact that there are about 5 seconds following the counter reaching zero before the traffic is signalled to pass, and headed a few metres down Regent Street. From there, we planned to catch the number 6 bus towards Covent Garden, because that is the route Citymapper suggested. However, although Citymapper is probably the best public transport navigation tool around, it has one major flaw: it only lists one route even if several would take you the same way. Luckily, I checked the map on the bus stop which showed that both routes headed in the same direction, so after a quick tap on the door and we managed to board that bus.

We headed down Regent’s Street, moving incredibly slowly and watching the hordes of people go by. We were joined by a family who seemed to also be heading to Covent Garden, although decided to head up to the top deck. Next we passed by Trafalgar Square, noting the current adornment of the forth plinth, a giant blue cockerel, and Piccadilly Circus with masses of tourists and building works surrounding the giant LED signs. Later on, we turned off onto Southampton Street while iBus informs us that the stop is ‘for Covent Garden,’ where most of the bus alights.

Approaching from the south side, we avoided the masses of confused tourists emerging out of London’s no-go tube station: Covent Garden and the multitude of street performers who seem to stretch out their act for ever. We look for somewhere to grab a light lunch, choosing ‘Shake Shack’ in the centre which served mainly burgers and hot dogs.

Bus 6: RV1 Covent Garden to Tower Gateway

Heading out of the East side of Covent Garden, we head down the quieter back streets to hop on to the RV1 bus, which unfortunately was not a rather more interesting hydrogen variant as many are. Luckily, I have already taken a ride on the hydrogen version, at the other end of the route. 

Within a few minutes of setting off, we crossed the river using Waterloo Bridge, getting a great view of the river and immediately go around a massive loop to access Waterloo and the London Eye. At the London Eye the bus fills with tourists, who honestly, ‘didn’t have a clue,’ first rushing on without showing their travelcard to the driver, prompting me to tell a man far too busy talking to his girlfriend that he needs a ticket, and then the rest swarm on after and decide to position themselves blocking up the bus, despite the available space at the back.

We continued along at a reasonable pace, leaving at the stop for the Hop Exchange. From there, we headed walked through Borough Market, somewhere I have repeatedly forgot about when in the area, and after a quick glance at The Golden Hinde, we went into Southwark Cathedral, another place I have repeatedly walked past unaware. I was mostly interested by the impressive organ, the links that the cathedral has with community projects in Zimbabwe and the fact that John Harvard was born and baptised in the parish. 

We next headed along the less popular Tooley Street, passing under London Bridge where tourists wait to go in to, ’The London Bridge Experience.’ I then attempt to take us to look at the Shard, although the £30 ticket meant that I would not even consider going up to the top. 

The alternative tour involved heading to London Bridge station, through the viaduct providing access to the tube and the through lines to Charing Cross, Cannon Street, and Blackfriars for the Thameslink route, which is no where near big enough and is a nightmare to change using. Next, we headed through towards St. Thomas Street, where along route it is very hard to miss the massive posters telling us how the station will improve… in 2018. Until then, users are going to have to put up with masses of diversions, including non-stopping more trains and diverting them ’round the houses’ through Elephant & Castle and South London. Next we passed the unattractively placed entrance for the View from the Shard. If you have enough money to burn you can always chose the £100 ‘walk up and go ticket,’ otherwise you’ll have to pay £25-30 and wait for a slot.

I’m not the one who came up with this alternative tour of The Shard, it’s Diamond Geezer, a pretty great London blogger who wrote about his trip here.

Next we headed up some new escalators to the new outdoor concourse linking to the bus station, and Southern railway’s terminating services. Off to the side are the entrance to various restaurants and the Shangri-La Hotel located part way up, while within the station are a Cafe Nero and M&S Simply Food, both technically inside the Shard itself. We then headed down another set of escalators back into the viaduct to head towards More London.

Stay tuned for Part 3 including the South of the Thames and the journey home.