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Friday, 11th January 2013 - 16:00

ITS United Kingdom Congratulates the London Underground on 150th Anniversary


ITS (UK), the Intelligent Transport Society for the UK, salutes the oldest underground railway in the world on its 150th birthday.  The oldest sections of the London Underground completed 150-years of operations on the 9th January 2013.

Viewed by many as the best transport system in the world, the London Underground is without doubt an essential component of daily travel for many of us, be it to and from, around, or through the British capital. 

ITS (UK) wants to take this opportunity to highlight the impact that Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has had during the 150-year development of this icon of transport infrastructure.

Since the first sub-railway was proposed in Britain in 1835, and the first underground railway was built in London in 1860, and with its opening on the 9th January in 1863, it could be argued that the London Underground is itself a very early example of an ‘intelligent transport system’.  The London Underground expanded rapidly between 1920 and 1941, and is renowned for providing a secondary purpose during World War 2 (1939-45) by acting as an air raid shelter used by as many as 177,000 people each night. 

But how has ITS underpinned the development of the London Underground in more recent years?

The late 1980s saw the introduction of ticket machines (known as the Underground Ticketing System) coupled with the installation of ticket barriers to prevent fare dodging, while maintaining the throughput of passengers necessary with an ever increasing travelling population.

In July 2000, the first London Underground Journey Planner – Tubeplanner - was launched.

July 2003 saw the launch of the now famous Oyster Card introducing electronic ticketing to the London Underground.  By June 2012, over 43-million Oyster Cards had been issued reducing the number of transactions required at ticket offices, and underpinning the efficiency of travel to and from, around, and through the Capital.  The recent introduction at the end of 2012 of contactless payment technology, “pay-and-wave” as it is sometimes called, builds on the benefits already delivered by the Oyster Card to both London Underground and its passengers.  One day this new technology may replace the Oyster and  other smartcards only serving transport.

With the meteoric development of Internet-services during the first decade of the ‘New Millennium’, the birth of the app has enabled a whole new concept of interactive travel information to be made available to the traveller.  App developers are hard at work, and providing information about the London Underground is no exception with the advent, for example, of the award-winning Tubemap app.

It cannot be denied that ITS has played an essential role in the development of the London Underground.  With an ever increasing travelling population in and through London, ITS will continue to be an essential component in the future development of the London Underground in order to sustain the level of service needed to be provided by this prestigious component of the capital’s transport infrastructure.

Although there is a mass of historic and real time data being generated by a multitude of multi-modal travel networks and systems across the Nation, it is ‘information’ and ‘intelligence’ that the traveller needs and seeks.  With the rapid spread of mobile information delivery devices (for example, the Smartphone), the thirst of travellers for robust, reliable, and timely information delivered into the ‘palm-of-the-hand’ is growing … and ITS can deliver.

As has been seen with London Underground, ITS can provide the essential underpinning component of a travel system delivering greater efficiency in existing transport infrastructure, sustaining its usability, and maximising return on existing investment.  ITS (UK), through its Public Transport Interest Group members, is at the forefront of ITS technology and its application to public transport – come and join us, as London Underground has proven, ITS is the future.

Picture is copyright Transport for London






For further information, please contact:


Jennie Martin



+44(0)20 7709 3003

Notes to editors:

ITS UNITED KINGDOM, the UK association for the promotion of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), is a not-for-profit public/private sector association financed by members' subscriptions, and provides a forum for all organisations concerned with ITS. We work to bring the benefits that ITS can offer in terms of economic efficiency, transport safety, and environmental benefits to the United Kingdom - and at the same time expand the ITS market.

The membership, over 150 UK organisations, comprises Government Departments, Local Authorities, Police Forces, consultants, manufacturing and service companies, and academic and research institutions.

Members benefit from ITS United Kingdom activities including seminars, workshops and regular news dissemination. ITS United Kingdom encourages discussion on issues such as public/private co-operation, standards, legislation, information provision and new technology.

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