To improve the Tube requires imagination, determination, and thinking outside the box. Luckily, this is something us Londoners have in spades!
Earlier this week, we posed a much-debated question in an Instagram story, and left it up to the good people of London to answer it: “How would you make the London Underground more exciting?”. No restrictions, no rules, and no idea was too big or wacky to be considered – really, you were free to let your imagination run wild. And boy, did you lot deliver some incredible responses.
Whether it was making Tube stations prettier, or zhushing them up with fun activities and shortcuts, there were some truly inspired responses. (Honestly, pat yourself on the back if you took part.) And whilst there were a fair few requests for the Tube to run more regularly, for no more strikes, and for air conditioning on the Central line (it’s coming!), we thought it would be best to spotlight our favourite ideas – ones which would truly transform the Tube from drab to fab.
1. “Slides instead of escalators”
This inspired an almost childlike glee amongst the editorial team upon reading it, a sure sign that it needs to happen. Saves precious time when you’re dashing for the last Tube home, too.
2. “I’d love a Northern Lights inspired station”
Candidly, we were inspired to set this question after discovering the beauty of Stockholm‘s incredible metro stations, plenty of which have been given artsy looks to improve the mood of commuters. It’s only fair that London’s stations get an equally gorgeous makeover, and taking the splendour of the Northern Lights is a brilliant starting point.
3. “With a maze”
This person has obviously never been to Bank.
4. “Anime theme station”
If you love Studio Ghibli films as much as we do, then you’re definitely going to want to see this happen.
5. “Get University of Arts students in to design it”
A call to arms! Arts brethren, gather ye paintbrushes and descend on the Tube en masse, transforming our dreary Underground stations into works of spectacular beauty! If you need inspiration for a grand redesign, look no further than this place.
6. “With my favourite flowers and lots of plants”
Seriously, how haven’t more Tube stations done this yet? Simple, effective, beautiful, and absolute catnip to our plant-obsessed millennials – this is a slam dunk for sure.
7. “By applying different seasonal images and animal photos”
Taking the idea of dogs on the Underground and just running with it. You simply love to see it!
8. “Station bars – with themed cocktails!”
Ok, fine, this was actually my suggestion. But come on, are you really going to say no to this? First, we challenge London’s best bartenders to create cocktails which capture the spirit of each Tube station – Secret London’s own Georgie suggests “A Paddington with extra marmalade”, whilst I imagine the Wimbledon would evoke the flavours of strawberries and cream – and then find space in the ticket halls or down in the lower levels for a cosy bar. Turns rush hour into happy hour, problem solved.
9. “Walls that change colour based on how busy the Tube is”
Bonus points for something which is both practical and cool. One assumes it would work as a traffic light system, in which the soft green glow of a near-empty Tube would be a much looked-for blessing come rush hour.
10. “Goats, goats everywhere”
Well, I did say no idea was too wacky. The idea has some mileage, considering the fact that London has an annual Goat Race, but I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for mucking out the platforms afterwards…
11. “Turn it all into a paintballing venue”
Perhaps the quickest, most chaotic redesign possible, but TfL could definitely raise some much-needed cash by charging extra for entry. Art connoisseurs will love the Jackson Pollock vibes, too.
12. “A ghost ride theme”
We might have a few of those already, if tales of London’s haunted Tube stations are anything to go by…
13. “Go karts for long tunnels between stations”
TfL’s health and safety team would have a nightmare, but for anyone who’s switched lines at Green Park before, this is a godsend.
14. “Get iconic celebs to voice the announcements”
This respondent suggested Sir David Attenborough, and we’re certainly not going to argue with that. You could have famous Londoners voicing the announcements for the stations they were born by or live close to, and when Christmas rolls around, it’s time to bring back the festive announcements from Mariah Carey.
15. “Artwork that shows the history of the station or area of London”
A lovely idea, and one which a handful of Tube stations are already doing – Charing Cross is a notable example, whilst every Victoria line station has a mosaic that references the heritage of the local area.
16. “Lazy rivers”
A game changer. Messy, but immensely fun!
17. “Aquariums with real sealife”
Missed the Northern line by a matter of seconds? Running late for a very important date? Simply turn around, walk to the tanks, and gaze at tropical fish until you feel calm once more. Nobody can be mad whilst they’re looking at clownfish, that’s a scientific fact.
18. “Cheese dispenser”
For a city that already has a cheese conveyor belt restaurant and is about to get a floating cheese barge, this feels like a no-brainer. Give The Cheese Bar a year and enough funds, and I reckon they’ll get it done.
19. “Ski lifts instead of escalators”
Again, the lazy amongst us rejoice, for we are delivered from climbing sweatily towards the open air. Would be especially useful at Hampstead station (and all 320(!) of its steps), or at Covent Garden when the lifts break down.
We’ll keep dreaming and scheming about these, but in the meantime, London is full of little pleasures that make our city a downright brilliant place to be!
Also published on Medium.