My daily journey starts at Chorleywood station awaiting a southbound Metropolitan line train. Because of a bend in the track, passengers on the northbound platform can see southbound trains approaching before those of us on the southbound side can. But as the car park is on the northbound side we know the train is about to arrive when people in suits or smart dresses and high heels start running along the northbound side and into the subway to get across in time.
Once on the train I choose a seat at the front of a carriage. This is important because without air conditioning it’s better to be at the end of the carriage where some fresh air can get in. By getting the same train every day I see many of the same people. As we’re British, we never talk to each other, or even acknowledge the presence of anyone else if we can help it. I try and avoid the seat opposite the man who always puts his briefcase behind his legs so that his feet stick out too far.
Met line trains through Chorleywood run to a set timetable every 17 minutes, and in the mornings are usually on time. However, the trains are old and the track is older, so it’s always a relief to get past Harrow on the Hill, 15 minutes down the line. There are often problems in the area, with all passengers frequently being turfed off trains without warning.
Trains on the Amersham branch of the Met line (which includes Chorleywood) are designated as ‘fast’. In practice this means they don’t stop at all stations, though they are known to crawl along at a pace that allows passengers to watch flowers grow in neighbouring fields. Assuming it’s a good day, we rattle along at 35 miles per hour, passing slower trains and disgruntled passengers at non-stopping stations. On a very good day the disgruntled passengers are also getting wet.
After 25-30 minutes we reach Finchley Road, where many passengers disembark and change to the Jubilee line. Many others get on, and by this time it’s standing room only, if that. At last we enter a tunnel and the tube can live up to its name. About ten minutes later we emerge into the light at Baker St. Again many get off but more get on. From here the Met Line joins the same track as both the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines to run from Baker St to Aldgate. No one would describe this section of track as ‘fast’. There are too many trains and too many people.
Those of us in seats can look smugly out as we pull into platforms and see the crowds at each station. Fortunately we’re back in the open air after three stations, so not only is it lighter and brighter but there’s fresh air available – very pleasant when the train’s underseat heating is still on in July and the backs of my legs are nicely toasted.
Finally, after one hour and thirteen stops we pull into Aldgate. If we’re lucky the driver will make comical announcements such as, “This train terminates here; please leave your valuables on the train and I will collect them at the end of my shift.” If we’re unlucky there’s no announcement and the few people who’ve fallen asleep remain slumped in their seats. We leave the train strewn with discarded free newspapers and emerge onto the street, thankful it’s over but knowing that eight hours later we’ll have to do it all again in reverse.