What's The Optimum Speed For London Underground Trains?

By Alphr Last edited 7 months ago
What's The Optimum Speed For London Underground Trains?

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The tube is far, far too fast. 61% faster than it needs to be, in fact. So, all those times you’ve been hunched on a tube train stuck in a tunnel, wondering how you’re going to explain to your boss why you’re late — well, the problem was that you were going too quickly.

Let us explain. It all comes down to some rather clever maths. According to a study conducted by Dr Marc Barthelemy, a statistical physicist at the CEA research centre in Saclay, the fact that our tube trains are travelling so quickly (an average of 21mph, in case you were wondering), is causing bottlenecks throughout other areas of London’s public transport system.

That’s fine if you’re the kind of commuter who hops on one tube, travels a few stops and hops off again, but if your journey is slightly more convoluted — for example, if you get a train into London before hopping on the tube — then this is where problems arise. As Dr Marc Barthelemy explains, “The fact is that these [transport] networks are coupled with each other. Optimising something on one network can bring bad things on another network.”

Movin’ too fast

The London Underground is guilty of doing exactly this. By moving passengers in and out of London so quickly, it decreases congestion in the centre of the capital, but causes congestion around the edges of the city by overloading the connecting transport networks, such as trains and buses. According to the research, the ideal speed for the Underground would be 13mph — approximately 1.2 times the average speed of road traffic in the capital. Slower, as it turns out, would be faster. Who would have thought it?

London is quite different to many other cities, though, and slowing down inner-city transport links wouldn’t work wonders for every city worldwide. Want to find out exactly why, and see how fast our underground is compared to Moscow, Paris, Berlin and New York? Then head on over to Alphr.com for a more detailed look at why the London Underground is just too darn fast.

Image: drivethrucafe used under Creative Commons

Last Updated 10 November 2017


Are you for real??? Faster tubes allows there to be more trains running and therefore more capacity on the network! Given that regardless of what time you get the tube now, its rammed, anything that enables more tubes is a good thing. Whoever wrote this has never been praying for the tube to go faster to catch a connecting train or being unable to access their station so that people further up the line can get on the trains. Another theory conceived in a vacuum!!!

Claire Hunt

Oh, great. So the 12 mile hot, crowded tube journey I take daily that takes 36 mins should take 50 mins. You will have to try harder than that to convince me.

Greg Tingey

Well, I wouldn't have thought it.
It's obvious that this clever-but-shortsighted mathematician has left out certain OTHER constrains & variables in his calculations.
Ignore it.


Reducing standards to those of the least capable element is never a good idea. You only have to look at comprehensive education to see why.

Andrew Gwilt

The maximum speed on the Underground ranges from 45mph to 50mph & even 62mph. The Metropolitan Line has different speed limits of 50mph-60mph including parts of the line that are semi-fast services that is 60mph whilst a stopping service is 45-50mph. District Line between Earls Court and Kensington Olympia is 35-40mph. As it’s a shuttle service. The deep level lines have speed restrictions that some trains can travel up to 50mph between stops. DLR also has speed restrictions which includes 30mph on the elevated section and 50mph underground and beneath the River Thames. Whilst it’s mainly between 30-50mph and 15-20mph at junctions. National Rail lines including London Overground has different speed restrictions. The slower lines are 40-50mph and the fast lines are 60-80mph but heading out of London some lines are 100mph including the WCML, ECML, MML & GWML that trains can accelerate up to 125mph outside of London. Whilst slow lines out of London are 60mph.