11 rich and famous people who took the Tube (because they're actually just like us)

Duhcesses commute too, OK? Image: Getty.

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his son, Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, were in London this week. The pair are known for their opulent lifestyles, and the prince's Twitter feed is a reliable source of photos of the family playing polo, attending important meetings and wearing fancy suits.

So when he posted a picture of their London trip, I assumed it would be pretty swish: inside Buckingham Palace, say, or on that funny moving walkway in front of the jewels at the Tower of London. 

But no: it was a casual shot of the two taken aboard the London Underground.

Yes, the Tube is a great way to bypass London's gridlock, but as a world leader the Sheikh must know it's harder to stay safe in a tube carriage than an armoured car, or even a taxi. It's also, as you may have noticed, extremely hot on the Tube at the moment. So why did they do it? Because the Tube has somehow become an actual tourist attraction? Or were they hoping it would make them look like men of the people?

Whatever the reason, they aren't the only ones. Below are a whole load of celebrities for whom travelling by Tube can't be entirely practical, but who decided to do so anyway. 

Jay-Z, Chris Martin, and Timbaland

...travelled to a gig at the O2 by Tube in 2013. Given the trio were apparently surrounded by an entourage of 10, this was probably not an off-the-cuff visit. (The photo evidence sadly disappeared from this tweet, but the BBC has a copy of it here.) 

Eddie Redmayne

Oscar-winning actor Eddie actually takes the Tube all the time, implying it's not just a bid for good PR. Unlike most of the other entries on the list, he does not seem to bring his own photographer along. 

Kate Middleton 

K-Mid visited Baker Street station to mark the London Underground's 150th birthday with the Queen, Prince Philip, and approximately no normal passengers. She looked incredibly out-of-place the whole time:

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Just a normal gal, hanging out on the Tube with a small bouquet and a fascinator. 

Rihanna

Rihanna travelled to a 2011 London gig by Tube, with minimal fuss. No, really – there were only a few news crews there, filming the whole thing. 

David Cameron

Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron is often officially photographed on the Tube. and no one around him ever seems to notice or care. Perhaps frustrated that he wasn't being adequately praised for his brave descent to the level of us normal folk, in 2015 he had a go at driving one instead.

George Osborne looks on stonily and then comments: "This is a great bit of kit." 

Harry Styles

Image: via Twitter.

Harry seems to have ditched his usual array of bodyguards for this picture. Is it a lookalike? Or is his entourage lurking just out of shot? 

Kendall Jenner

Image: Kendallj.com.


Kim K's younger sister showed her authentic, Kendall-from-the-block side when she visited the Underground on a recent London trip. You can just how down-to-earth she is by viewing the full video of her journey, "Moves on the Tube", available if you pay her website's very reasonable $2.99 monthly subscription fee.

 
 
 
 

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Seoul Metro System but were too afraid to ask

Gwanghwamoon subway station on line 5 in Seoul, 2010. Image: Getty.

Seoul’s metro system carries 7m passengers a day across 1,000 miles of track. The system is as much a regional commuter railway as an urban subway system. Without technically leaving the network, one can travel from Asan over 50 miles to the south of central Seoul, all the way up to the North Korean border 20 miles north of the city.

Fares are incredibly low for a developed country. A basic fare of 1,250 won (about £1) will allow you to travel 10km; it’s only an extra 100 won (about 7p) to travel every additional 5km on most lines.

The trains are reasonably quick: maximum speeds of 62mph and average operating speeds of around 20mph make them comparable to London Underground. But the trains are much more spacious, air conditioned and have wi-fi access. Every station also has protective fences, between platform and track, to prevent suicides and accidents.

The network

The  service has a complex system of ownership and operation. The Seoul Metro Company (owned by Seoul City council) operates lines 5-8 on its own, but lines 1-4 are operated jointly with Korail, the state-owned national rail company. Meanwhile, Line 9 is operated jointly between Trans-Dev (a French company which operates many buses in northern England) and RATP (The Parisian version of TfL).

Then there’s Neotrans, owned by the Korean conglomerate Doosan, which owns and operates the driverless Sinbundang line. The Incheon city government, which borders Seoul to the west, owns and operates Incheon Line 1 and Line 2.

The Airport Express was originally built and owned by a corporation jointly owned by 11 large Korean firms, but is now mostly owned by Korail. The Uijeongbu light railway is currently being taken over by the Uijeongbu city council (that one’s north of Seoul) after the operating company went bankrupt. And the Everline people mover is operated by a joint venture owned by Bombardier and a variety of Korean companies.

Seoul’s subway map. Click to expand. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The rest of the lines are operated by the national rail operator Korail. The fare structure is either identical or very similar for all of these lines. All buses and trains in the region are accessible with a T-money card, similar to London’s Oyster card. Fares are collected centrally and then distributed back to operators based on levels of usage.

Funding

The Korean government spends around £27bn on transport every year: that works out at 10 per cent more per person than the British government spends.  The Seoul subway’s annual loss of around £200m is covered by this budget.

The main reason the loss is much lower than TfL’s £458m is that, despite Seoul’s lower fares, it also has much lower maintenance costs. The oldest line, Line 1 is only 44 years old.


Higher levels of automation and lower crime rates also mean there are fewer staff. Workers pay is also lower: a newly qualified driver will be paid around £27,000 a year compared to £49,000 in London.

New infrastructure is paid for by central government. However, investment in the capital does not cause the same regional rivalries as it does in the UK for a variety of reasons. Firstly, investment is not so heavily concentrated in the capital. Five other cities have subways; the second city of Busan has an extensive five-line network.

What’s more, while investment is still skewed towards Seoul, it’s a much bigger city than London, and South Korea is physically a much smaller country than the UK (about the size of Scotland and Wales combined). Some 40 per cent of the national population lives on the Seoul network – and everyone else who lives on the mainland can be in Seoul within 3 hours.

Finally, politically the biggest divide in South Korea is between the south-west and the south-east (the recently ousted President Park Geun-Hye won just 11 per cent of the vote in the south west, while winning 69 per cent in the south-east). Seoul is seen as neutral territory.  

Problems

A driverless train on the Shinbundang Line. Image: Wikicommons.

The system is far from perfect. Seoul’s network is highly radial. It’s incredibly cheap and easy to travel from outer lying areas to the centre, and around the centre itself. But travelling from one of Seoul’s satellite cities to another by public transport is often difficult. A journey from central Goyang (population: 1m) to central Incheon (population: 3m) is around 30 minutes by car. By public transport, it takes around 2 hours. There is no real equivalent of the London Overground.

There is also a lack of fast commuter services. The four-track Seoul Line 1 offers express services to Incheon and Cheonan, and some commuter towns south of the city are covered by intercity services. But most large cities of hundreds of thousands of people within commuting distance (places comparable to Reading or Milton Keynes) are reliant on the subway network, and do not have a fast rail link that takes commuters directly to the city centre.

This is changing however with the construction of a system modelled on the Paris RER and London’s Crossrail. The GTX will operate at maximum speed of 110Mph. The first line (of three planned) is scheduled to open in 2023, and will extend from the new town of Ilsan on the North Korean border to the new town of Dongtan about 25km south of the city centre.

The system will stop much less regularly than Crossrail or the RER resulting in drastic cuts in journey times. For example, the time from llsan to Gangnam (of Gangnam Style fame) will be cut from around 1hr30 to just 17 minutes. When the three-line network is complete most of the major cities in the region will have a direct fast link to Seoul Station, the focal point of the GTX as well as the national rail network. A very good public transport network is going to get even better.