12. Waterloo & City Line
Less a Tube line, more a conceptual art stunt. It has precisely two stops and is mostly closed. In its defence, it certainly does travel between those two stops pretty quickly during the 37 minutes it’s open on alternating weekdays.
11. Hammersmith & City Line
Once, it was the only way to reach various awkward parts of West London. But ever since the Circle line spiralled out onto its turf, the Rogers & Hammerstein has just felt a bit…superfluous. Everything it does is now done by other lines, except without the inexplicable wait at Edgware Road. Edgware Road is where the promise of a better future goes to die.
9. District Line
A slowly trundling caravan of disappointment and crushed ambition. You have such dreams, such hopes, so many amazing places you want to go. Then you end up in Earl’s Court. Also it smells weird because there’s something funny with the brakes.
On the plus side, you get phone signal on most of it! Think of it less like a Tube line, more like a really long bus, and suddenly it all seems a bit better.
8. Piccadilly Line
A solid but unspectacular workhorse of a line that’s effectively just a 44-mile-long extension of the baggage reclaim carousels at Heathrow. Has a certain yeomanlike honesty to it, even though it’s a much slower way of going diagonally across London than the Victoria.
7. Bakerloo Line
An elderly gentleman, once a dapper and dashing young man about town, now slightly reduced in his circumstances but determinedly maintaining his dignity as he shuffles toward his club, where his regular armchair and a carefully folded newspaper await. Retains an air of elegance and charm, even thought it smells slightly of mothballs and decay.
6. Metropolitan Line
The Metropolitan Line feels like another world. It takes you to strange, possibly mythical, faraway places: Amersham, Rickmansworth, Chalfont & Latimer. It has whole zones all to itself. It has an express version that skips loads of stations. It has very nice new trains now. But there’s always the poignant tang of unfulfilled potential when you get on it, of adventure declined — you could go to Zone 9! You really could go to Zone 9!
You will never go to Zone 9.
5. Central Line
The Central Line is unfairly maligned. Yes, it can get overcrowded at commuting time. But you know why that is? Because it goes to loads of great places! And Acton! And it’s really quick! And red’s a nice colour! You can’t deny it: The Central Line is the backbone of London. On the downside, it is also the sweat gland of London.
Hipsters may have preferred it when Shoreditch was underground, but the newly unified Overground has opened up a dazzling world of possible destinations for many Londoners, through the simple trick of gathering up loads of pre-existing lines, adding cool new trains, and drawing an orange line through where they all go. Finchley Road & Frognal! Penge West! Bushey! Also: You now have no excuse not to go to Hackney.
(Except when it’s closed for planned maintenance, obviously.)
3. Victoria Line
A tease of a line. When it works, it’s a joy (assuming you wanted to go from Brixton to King’s Cross in no time at all). But then you have to deal with the shutdowns, random changes of destination (you wanted to go to Walthamstow? Tough. Make do with Seven Sisters), and the dreaded “being held to regulate the service”. Also: noisier than Black Sabbath and Metallica having a semtex fight. But we still love it.
(UPDATE: The Victoria Line was temporarily demoted to 13th place on this list, as approximately three hours after the article was published, some people at Victoria decided to pour fast-setting concrete into their own signal room, almost entirely shutting the line down for the day. It was still better than the cable car, though. It has now been restored to 3rd place, as it is no longer full of concrete.)
2. Jubilee Line
So shiny. So very, very shiny with its shiny shiny stations and shiny trains and shiny suicide prevention barriers. Using the Jubilee Line is like stepping into a sci-fi dystopia, but one of those cool dystopias that you don’t really mind because it’s so stylishly designed. Just imagine how awesome the Jubilee would be if it went to, you know, more exciting places.