London's latest attraction to go down the tubes

Defenders say that the Tube brought prosperity toa neglected part of London. The part under the ground.
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"It has made London the laughing stock of the world," says Lord Clampit. "It is costing us millions just to keep open. We think it should be shut down at once."

"It has made London the laughing stock of the world," says Lord Clampit. "It is costing us millions just to keep open. We think it should be shut down at once."

He is referring, of course, to the London Tube.

Opponents of the troubled London Tube are increasingly demanding that it should be closed down now, before it loses any more money. It has not, they say, become the pride of Britain it was meant to be, but a flop. Very few people actually enjoy a day out on the London Tube. And the opponents have now uncovered a document that seems to prove that the original Tube planners were told that it would not be a success, right from the start.

"Way back in the 1800s," says arch-opponent Lord Clampit, "when the London Tube was first mooted as a glory ride under London's streets, there was opposition on all sorts of grounds. Now, at that time the opposition was based on a lot of fears that were peculiar to the Victorian era, and which we wouldn't entertain now. They said that it was against God's will... it might create a big hole into which buildings would fall... smoke from the trains would come up through holes in the ground and make customers in Fortnum and Mason cough... but all this was ignored. The legislators were so determined to press ahead and build the London Tube, that they brushed aside all these objections and went ahead and built it.

"But we have now learnt that other, more serious objections were raised at the time and totally ignored. Because now this has come to light."

The piece of paper he waves in the air is a report that was submitted to the London Tube Experience commissioners 150 years ago, forecasting that the crowds of visitors to the London Tube would be either so poor that money would be lost, or so numerous that the system couldn't cope. Either way, a no-win situation.

"Not only that," says Lord Clampit, waving the bit of paper in the air so fast that we can't get a proper sight of it, "not only that, but it forecasts all the troubles that have come to pass. The report says that great confusion will be caused by people getting on the trains not letting other passengers off before they get on. It says that there will be gaps between the train and platform. It says that people will have to wait hours at Gloucester Road for a Wimbledon train. It says that in the 20th century people may well start carrying luggage on their backs and that these backpacks, as they may well be called, may well be a bloody nuisance to other passengers, especially when worn by large, muscular Swedish students."

It actually says that in a 19th-century report?

"Well, words to that effect," says Lord Clampit. "I am paraphrasing a little. The point is that even in those early days the organisers had a clear warning that the London Tube would get out of hand, a warning which they totally ignored. Just how badly things have gone wrong, you have only to go down the Tube steps in peak hour to find out."

The defenders of the Tube say that although many visitors to the Tube Experience may have had a negative experience, 90 per cent of them have said they will come again. Opponents say that it's not quite like that; 90 per cent say they had a rotten day on the Tube and would never come again, were it not that there is no other realistic way of getting round London.

The defenders say defiantly that it's a smashing day out, if you choose the right time of day to avoid the queues and if you like escalators and film posters. They also say, in the Tube's defence, that its building made sure that prosperity and redevelopment came to a part of London that was sinking into neglect.

"The part under the ground?" says Lord Clampit, looking scornful. "Who wants to bring prosperity to the bit of London 50 or 100 feet below the ground? What kind of fun life is there 200 feet down? The only fun bit of the London Tube I ever came across was the bar on the platform at Sloane Square, and even that seems to have been closed down now. Close the whole thing down now, that's what I say. The thing was built in haste and should be closed in haste."

Either way, it is a severe embarrassment for Mr Blair's government, which already ( continued elsewhere in the paper)