Tag Archive for TfL

My Tube Challenge

Canary Wharf Roundell with Guide Dog sat in front of it in her guide dog harness.

My alarm was set for 04:00 hours.

The first tube is set to leave Heathrow Terminal 4 at 05:03 hours.

I’m not sure if it was nerves, adrenaline, or lack of sleep; but I was feeling odd. It was January, yet I wasn’t needing to wear a coat. I was in London, yet I didn’t have my faithful guide dog with me. Oh and i was about to attempt completing the iconic, London Tube Challenge.

A challenge that sees it participants undertake travelling to and through each of the 270 London Underground Tube Stations in the fasted time possible. I wrote about back in December “Having previously gone up, it is now time to go down.”

I’m sure at this point you are asking yourself the simple question: “Why?”

And honestly at the unearthly dark hour on a January morning it is a question I asked myself continuously between waking and going down to the hotel lobby.

No backing out now; my sighted guide and Tube Challenge Guru Andi James was waiting for me. This challenge was all set on a series of ‘IF’s’.

All it took was a tube line to be closed or a signal failure and the whole thing could be off before we even got passed the first hurdle. Then there were the stations where how quickly we changed tubes would be important and then there was the matter of those ‘end of line’ tube stations that would require us to jog to enable us to make the next connection.

….. MANY many MANY hours LATER …..

After loosing my Oyster card on a tube somewhere towards Baker Street, several bus journeys and one rather eventful run that saw me go over the top of a concrete bollard, we had had Lady Luck with us.

Although at times it was tense, at times it was busy and at times it was frustrating.

….. WE FINISHED …..

And the hardest part of the day was ahead of us.

The walk from the final tube station to the hotel for the night.

It was probably less than 20 minutes, but it felt like I was wading through treacle. There was no rush and after 18 hours and 38 minutes my body was done! We finished the route with 268 stations completed. Because at 23.35 hours we had run out of time for the final little branch.

In addition to travelling on each of the London Underground’s Eleven lines, there had been numerous buses and a first for me of travelling on a London Tram.

2 stations short at the end; however I felt proud of what I had achieved. I also felt incredibly grateful to Andi as my guide. At points he completely re-routed us to work around time slips that had occurred.

He welcomed me into the secret society of Tube Challengers and it is out of respect for him that I have deliberately not included the route that we took.

And even though Guinness World Records had informed me just days before the challenge that it would not be able to counted as a challenge attempt, i am still buzzing to know that I did it.

Now……. What to do next?

Me shamelessly asking for donations for my Just Giving page, www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tinkobell270

Having previously gone up. Now it’s time to go down!

Canary Wharf Roundell with Guide Dog sat in front of it in her guide dog harness.

With my faithful-guide dog Fizz by my side (and guide-gal Vicky before her) I am able to travel to and around London with ease, the London Underground network is vast and with audio announcements and fantastic friendly staff (TfL) along with the odd app or 3 I have found I can stay largely independent in a network that often confuses those without additional needs.

I was first made aware of ‘The Tube Challenge’ in September 2018.  The challenge is to visit all 270 stations on the London Underground Tube network (not including dlr or overground) in the fastest time possible.

The current Guinness world record is held by Andi James, who completes the challenge in the fasted recorded time of 15 hours 45 minutes 38 seconds.

So when I asked if the challenge could be done with a disability, he took it onboard and now we are here.

On Friday 11th January 2019, along with Andi James as my sighted guide I will be aiming to complete The Tube Challenge.

Given the nature of the challenge, the endurance aspect and the travel, the public and the timings.  This is one day of tube travel where I will not have my guide dog with me.  Fizz will be enjoying the rest with her paws up, while I achieve my goal.

This in itself adds additional elements to completing the challenge with my cane and sighted guide.

We shall be starting early on the Friday morning, traveling through rush hour, navigating the tube network, swapping between lines that will see us travel above ground in addition to under it, traveling around some of the networks busiest station, heading through evening rush hour and the weekend get-away to achieve this.  All parts of which will hold its own challenges.

The gauntlet has been laid down, the planning has begun.  And now is where I ask for your support.

In addition to achieving this I wish to raise awareness of the freedom my guide dogs have given me.  It is in memory of my first guide dog Vicky that I wish to do this.  She sadly passed over the rainbow bridge on 2nd January 2018; having hung up her harness on 19th January 2015 when Fizz stepped into her paws.

And in raising awareness, I wish to raise money to name a guide dog puppy, a name that will mark the occasion.  A few names have been put forward once they are agreed I shall update this page accordingly.

Please can I ask you to dig deep, show your support.  Just-Giving-TinkOBell270

London just got A WHOLE LOT Easier!

Today I made my first trip of the year into London.  After all, have dog; will travel still stands.

Even more so when a return ticket costs just over £10!

So, 2 hours on a direct train to London Victoria and then to get the tube to meet friends.

Something in the past that I have dreaded a little from London Victoria, but not anymore.

Why?

Because as THE busiest tube station on the entire underground network, Victoria is now ACCESSIBLE.

So, it’s not quite so straightforward, and it isn’t the easiest of ways to navigate.  But all the same, Victoria now has a new North Entrance; which offers step free access (via lift) from street level to tube.

I say it isn’t straightforward because the entrance to the accessible part of the underground isn’t within London Victoria Railway Station, rather it is up the road on the outside by a fairly new shopping area on Victoria Street.

And then once you find the street level lift area, it is then a series of lifts to get down to the deep level of the district/central line, before changing to a 3rd lift to go even further under to reach the Victoria Line.

This multi-lift approach is very similar to the confusion that is Kings Cross, however (thankfully) the lifts have really clear white on blue signage indicating which lift to take to which level.

And as always, helpful and friendly TFL staff more than happy to help.

So, no more dreading this particular tube station and a whole world of possibilities opening up to me without the need to walk on switched off escalators (which isn’t actually always possible when it’s peak time!) with their steeper treads and length distances.

To some this may not seem much, but to others this will help reduce some of the ‘additional’ stresses that London can pose.

The day we caught the train

Hang on, isn’t that the title to an Ocean Colour Scene song?

Well, for me and Fizz it was a journey home from a fantastic conference and social; with The Molly Watt Trust which saw us take a rather different diversion to one I would have expected.

Friday 15th September saw a terror attack on a London tube train at Parsons Green in South West London.  One that yet again reminded us as a country that there are those among us who wish to hurt, mame and distroy the lives of innocent people.

This was a reminder that being vigilant and staying safe (especially when travelling) was very important.  It was why I had questioned if I should travel to the event this weekend in Maidenhead.

But I decided Maidenhead was far enough away from London not to allow it to affect my plans.  I had planned and double checked all of my travel arrangements and the walk from the station to the hotel several times over (nothing different in that, I do it each time)

So, Fizz and I packed our case and off we went.  The train journey saw us change at Reading.  A station that has undergone lots of work to give it one central walkway, which is up above the train platforms and access is gained to the platforms by escalators and lifts.  The central concorse is home to shops and a verse open space.

This gave to it a very ’empty’ feel.   It also made it hard for me to find assistance to help me negotiate to the correct platform to travel from Reading onto Maidenhead.  So having finally found assistance, we were able to continue with our journey.

It was at this point the staff member that helped us let me know that for the weekend most of Reading railway station would be closed for routine work, with buses replacing trains.

That wasn’t an issue, it would simply just delay or trip home.  Not one I was concerned about.

Well, returning to Maidenhead railway station on Saturday saw me and Fizz greated by friendly GWR train staff,  they asked me where I was heading and gave me a diversion that I was not expecting.

Given the bus replacement services, I could get a bus to Reading, where I would then transfer to another bus and travel onto Basingstoke.  Where I would then get a train to Southampton before the final leg of the journey on a train to fareham.

Or……..

I could go to London!

A direct train would see us arrive at London Paddington in just over half an hour.  Where we could get a tube on the Bakerloo lint to Oxford Circus before transferring to the Victoria Line Tube, to London Victoria from where I would be able to get a direct train to Fareham.

Given the events of Friday in London I was anxious, but at the thought of saving over an hour on the journey home, I had to put my anxieties to one side and just go with it and know, that if anything given Fridays’ incident, people would be more alert and hopefully helpful.

We soon arrived at London Paddington, not long had I stepped off the train with Fizz and stood to the side to gain my bearings than i was approached by a Policeman.  He introduced himself to me, explained who he was and asked me how he could help.

I explained  I was trying to get to the tube station to get across London, so he took me to a member of staff who worked for transport for London (TfL) who kindly walked me and Fizz through the crowds and straight to the right tube train.  He put us in the front carriage and radio’d through to a colleague at Oxford Circus.

And sure enough a lovely TfL staff member was waiting for me and Fizz.  She walked us through to the Victoria Line, where again she placed me and Fizz in the front carriage and radio’d ahead.

All of these journey’s were taking place late afternoon early evening on a Saturday, a day that is by its very nature a busy day.  But everyone I came into contact with was chatty, friendly and happy to offer help.

Maybe it was because of Friday’s attack, but everyone in London and especially on the Tube on Saturday seemed to be much more ‘together’ much less rushed and more friendly to those around them that weren’t ‘natives’ to this vast city.

Arriving at Victoria tube station, me and Fizz were greated by a fantastic TfL member of staff.  He not only guided us through the tube station, he also allowed us to ‘cut through’ locked gates and closed escalators to enable us to get through to the main Victoria Train station, where he was all ready to take me to my platform to get my train, before I said I would be having a break at the station, take Fizz out for some grass and get a much needed coffee.  He kindly walked us to the exit for the park and wished us safe travels.

The TfL staff and both police and transport police get a lot of ‘stick’ for just doing their jobs, they are not always praised for it.  I wanted to write this blog to show my appreciation.

I have always received great support from staff and police while travelling.  But Saturday was over and above what I had ever expected.  London police were out in force and clearly had a job to do.

The initial police office did not HAVE TO offer his help, but he did.

The TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead for assistance to wait for me, but he did.

The second TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead to Victoria, but again….. She did.

And just as the last member of TfL staff didn’t have to take me on a ‘shortcut’ or guide me right to my train platform….. He did (or rather would have had we not detoured to a grass spot!)

So, a journey that sounded horrendous was made so much more bearable by kindness and friendliness of strangers.  Because the support didn’t stop there.  Several times as Victoria train station I was asked by both staff and fellow travellers if I needed any help.

And even on our train home, one that due to my own mistake would see me and Fizz needing to change just one last time (I got on the Portsmouth train, instead of the Southampton train)  But with a simple step off one train and Havant and then almost straight back on another train (without the need to change platforms) I received so much support and offers of help.

I think it sometimes takes a horrible event, like that of Friday for people to come together and support those around them that may not find the journey as easy as them.

I would like to extend my thanks to all the men and women who helped me and others in and around London over the last few days.

 

…….. THANK YOU …….

 

 

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