Tube Challenge

Tube Challenge

The Tube Challenge is the accepted name for the Guinness World Record ('GWR') for visiting all London Underground stations in the shortest time possible, of which there are currently [] Partakers who attempt to break the record are known as Tube Challengers.

GWR lay down numerous rules and conditions under which challenges must be completed in order to be eligible for consideration as a Guinness World Record. The main stipulation is that all stations must be visited by either arriving or leaving on a London Underground train (or a National Rail train which runs on the same tracks as the Underground, e.g. on the Richmond branch of the District Line) "in normal public service" [ [ |The Rules of The Challenge] ] . It is permitted to travel between stations by other means (e.g. between two termini), but this can only be done by foot or by using public transport.

Generally, the length of time required to visit all stations on the network is around 18-19 hours, only slightly shorter than the daily operating hours of the system. Completing the challenge in a single day is therefore difficult, particularly considering some stations are not open at all times of day. Depending on the route used, there can be a fine margin between completing the challenge in a record time and failing to visit all stations (this contrasts with the New York Subway Challenge, where the Subway operates through the night, but the larger network takes around 24-25 hours to visit).

The current official Guinness World Record stands at 17 hours, 56 minutes and 28 seconds, as set on 18 April 2008 by Antony, Kevin, Jamie, Phillip & Ryan Brown, John Stark and Rachel Brabbins.

The history of the challenge

The first recorded instance of a World Record being set for the completion of the challenge dates back to 13 June 1959 when R.J. Lewis and D.R. Longley attempted the challenge. Unfortunately, no further information is available on this particular challenge, however, this attempt established what has become a fairly well-known and (particularly within circles of enthusiasts) well-respected challenge. Since then, there have been numerous recorded attempts at the record - a few successful, most unsuccessful - and doubtless many more unrecorded attempts. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive, but merely a record of those who have made notable efforts or who have even held the record themselves.

The 1960s

The first documented record was set on 3 December 1960 by K. and J. Branch, who completed the network of then 277 stations in a time of 20 hours and 27 minutes. Marshall [cite web|url=|title=Tube Challenge History|publisher=Geoff Marshall|format=HTML|language=english|accessdate=2007-11-21] has collated details of the progress of the record in the 1960's which, alongside the historical material at, [cite web|url=|title=World Record Times|format=HTML|language=english|accessdate=2007-11-21] form the source material for the following table.

Time in bold represents current official Guinness World Record. * "Highlighted times are awaiting ratification from GWR and as such are unofficial." # "Matthew Scrivin was also a member of Karahan and James's team, but missed Mill Hill East after being temporarily separated from his colleagues."

Route planning

Mathematically, the Tube Challenge is closely analogous to the Travelling Salesman Problem. The successful route of former world record holder Håkan Wolgé was designed by computer, using a genetic algorithm [cite web |url= |title=Travelling the London Underground in the shortest time |accessdate=2008-03-22 ] . It is necessary to account not just for the distances or times between stations, but also for the timetable - especially when planning routes over the less frequently served parts of the network. Comparison of recent routes with earlier ones suggests that the dramatic improvement in the record time between 2000-2008 may largely be due to the use of increasingly better routes.

There are a number of commonly used bus, tram, rail or pedestrian connections between termini or near-termini of lines, such as: Wimbledon - Morden or South Wimbledon; Cockfosters - High Barnet; Edgware - Stanmore or Canons Park; West Ruislip - Ickenham; and Richmond - Hatton Cross. These may be traversed in either direction, depending on the specifics of the route.

Some connections are often made on foot between geographically proximal points on different lines, or different branches of the same line, such as North Ealing - West Acton; North Harrow - West Harrow; and Chiswick Park - Gunnersbury.

Network changes

The London Underground network has undergone considerable changes in order to transform from the network that Lewis & Longley traversed in 1959 to the network of today. The most noticeable changes were the openings of the Victoria Line (1968-1972) and the Jubilee Line Extension (1999), [cite web|url=|title=Tube Challenge History|publisher=Geoff Marshall|format=HTML|language=english|accessdate=2007-01-13] together with the loss of the East London Line from the network in 2007.

Tube Challenge in the media

Former Guinness World Record holder Geoff Marshall was featured in an episode of the ITV documentary series (later sold to Sky Travel amongst others) "The Tube", as he and friend Dave attempted (unsuccessfully) to break the record. [ [ Tube 3 (the one in "24 hours")] ]

A few months later, as part of the 'Metroland' series of programmes on ITV, Geoff appeared again: this time with two friends, Chris and Peter, as they made another (unsuccessful) attempt. This programme was called 'Race Around The Underground' and also featured previous world record holders Jack Welsby and Bob Robinson.

In the wake of the attack on the London Underground on the 7th July 2005, a special charity event "Tube Relief" was organised by Geoff Marshall and Neil Blake, to encourage people to ride the tube all day and attempt to visit all 275 stations. The spirit of the event was not to try and break the record time, but to merely show that the "We're not afraid" tag line in use at the time was very much true. On Thursday 25th August 2005, 67 people participated, most of them travelling the majority of the network, starting at Amersham and finishing at Upminster. Over £10,000 was raised in charity money for the official relief fund. The event attracted attention from BBC News and Virgin Radio, as well as several channels in New Orleans, Louisiana, from where one participant, a policewoman,Captain Tami Brisset, had travelled to take part, only to return home in the wake of Hurricane Katrinaand to locate her unit with the New Orleans police Department.

In 2006 the first of a now regular annual charity attempt was made in aid of BBC Children in Need. Challengers taking part have featured on both BBC Three Counties Radio (laying the foundations for an attempt involving the station, see below) and BBC Southern Counties Radio [ [ Audio of Children In Need Tube Challenge 2006] ] , on the phone during the challenge. The 2008 running is scheduled for 14 November.

In April 2008, BBC Three Counties Radio featured the Tube Challenge for a week on the Lorna Milton show, culminating in the coverage of a record attempt by station reporter Rachel Brabbins, who along with Ryan Brown joined World Record holders Antony, Jamie, Kevin and Phillip Brown and John Stark for the day. The team's progress was followed by the station throughout the day, and they finished in a new World Record time of 17 hours, 56 minutes and 28 seconds.

Alternative challenges

Instead of attempting the whole network, 'mini challenges' that require doing a smaller number of stations have also become popular amongst Tube Challengers. These include:

Zone 1 Only - this involves visiting only the 64 stations which make up Travelcard Zone 1 of the network. The (unofficial) current fastest time is 2 hours, 42 minutes and 22 seconds, achieved by John Stark and Jamie Brown on 17 July 2008.

The Zone 1 challenge has become increasingly popular ever since Scotsman Ewan Spence organised a Zone 1 challenge event through his blog, wanting 'one last crazy thing to do before leaving London for Scotland' in 2004. [ [ Ewan Spence's blog] ] This attracted the attention of Geoff Marshall, who helped promote the challenge through his website. It was also featured in an article on BBC London News.

There has been one specific major 'Zone 1 meet' per year since, [ [ Geoff Marshall's pages on the Zone 1 Challenge] ] where groups of people simultaneously attempt the Zone 1 challenge, all starting from the same point but finishing wherever they wish.

The Circle Line "Bottle" Challenge - this involves visiting all 50 stations which are on and appear within the Circle Line on the London Underground Map. During 2006 there was a dispute as to whether there are 48 or 50 stations, as Marylebone and Edgware Road (Bakerloo Line) stations appear within the Circle Line on some maps, but outside on others. The members of narrowly voted to include these two stations. The current (unofficial) fastest time is 1 hour, 52 minutes and 55 seconds, achieved by John Stark [cite web |url= |title=Circle Line Bottle Challenge |accessdate=2008-03-22 ] .

The "All Lines In The Shortest Time" Challenge - the objective of this challenge is to travel at least one stop on each of the London Underground lines in the shortest time possible. The current unofficial fastest time is 33 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved by Steven Karahan and Matthew Scrivin on the current eleven line system [cite web |url= |title=All Lines Challenge |accessdate=2008-05-09 ] . Prior to the closure of the East London Line in December 2007, Chris Presswell held the record at 52 minutes and one second for the former twelve line network.

A mini-festival of Alternative challenges was introduced in 2008, dubbed the "Tube Olympics" [] (to coincide with the 2008 Beijing Games), featuring five alternative challenges alongside a multiple-World Record attempt in the space of 2 weeks; attracting the highest entry outside of the 'Zone 1 meets' in the process. It is intended that this will be repeated every four years, as with the Olympic Games themselves.


External links

* [ Rules of the Tube Challenge]

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