Tube Challenge Blog

I did it!!

posted 2 Jul 2011, 05:21 by Marc J

Read it and weep - I did!

Worst short films ever

posted 3 Apr 2011, 15:50 by Marc J

Sadly, I will be responsible for some of them.

One question I get asked a lot (no really, people love to talk to me about this) is "how will you prove you've done it? Does someone from the Guinness book of world records come to watch?"

Not really. The onus is on the challenger to obtain and submit proof that they have successfully made a world record attempt.

I aim to do this by making a series of short video clips (10 seconds or so) that contain me, the station name, and that day's newspaper*. If I then have these videos verified by a trusted 3rd party before the next day's tube service begins then I humbly submit your honour that I have indeed been to each and every station over the course of one calendar day.

Furthermore, by having an independent third party start and stop a watch at my first and last station, and transfering to him/her a card containing the said video clips, the time the challenge has been completed in is also verified.

A sample video is up on youtube...

Fun times.

*Following a conversation with Tony C, the newspaper idea might not be as solid as I thought due to editions being available the night before. So I might improve it by having some independent person sign the paper, or write a code number on it, in the morning before I start.


April Fools'!

posted 3 Apr 2011, 14:29 by Marc J

I've had my attention diverted elsewhere again recently, and not been able to keep the site updated, but I'm back, and a few days ago, on April 1st, I made my first attempt at the tube challenge, which you can read about in the Trial Run section of the site.

It was a little unexpected, but a free day in London opened up and I took it. Indeed, as I emailed and texted around the good news, not everyone was convinced, e.g.,

"I just realised! you're lazing in your bed on April 1st - you got me!!"

But no, a bit of photographic evidence is duly submitted...

Indeed, the only April Fools' joke occuring that day was by my sister who called to tell me that £10,000 had been transferred out from one of my company accounts the day before and did I know anything about it. She got me good, though in my defence I was rather distracted by trying to figure out which door I should be stood next to for a speedy exit coming up. Priorities and all. Well done Jill!

A short and dull post, just what you've been waiting for...

posted 19 Dec 2010, 14:32 by Marc J

It's been a quiet two months from me - an overload of consulting work and travelling kept me away from the challenge. Counting up, since my last post I've spent time in a dozen countries: Austria, Belgium, the Bahamas, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, the US, and the UK...too much getting around by airplane rather than tube train.

Anyway, I'm back and will be catching up on email over the coming days (logging into account there are a fair number of emails I find, my apologies for not replying so far) as well as posting on progress made and recent activity.

Closest London Underground Stations

posted 3 Oct 2010, 12:13 by Marc J

Which tube stations are closest together on the London Underground?

As part of my attempt at the Tube Challenge I'll run between some stations - though I don't know which ones yet. To incorporate this possibility into the modelling I need to calculate the time that these runs would take, and whilst calculating the data for this I realised I'd also generate a list of which stations are geographically closest to one another on the London Underground network as a byproduct.

I started off with the longitude and latitude co-ordinates for each station that I had gathered in an earlier phase of the project. Thus the distances mentioned in this blog post are between the points used to indicate the station on a map, rather than actual track distances between platforms at different stations (on that measure Leicester Square and Covent Garden are regarded as the two closest stations).

Using the trusty Haversine formula again I generated a 270 x 270 table showing the straight line distances between all 270 stations that comprise the Tube Challenge. As I'm interested in the actual distance I need to run, rather than distance as the crow flies, I added 15% onto each distance. In the late 90s transport companies would typically add on either 40% or 25% to the straight line path when estimating distances depending on whether the route modelled used the fastest roads or went for the shortest distance. I figure that being on foot gives even greater flexibility and indeed checking some random combinations with google maps the 15% turns out to be a pretty decent approximation.

I came up with 170 station pairs that were within 1km of one another. Removing stations on the same line, those on opposite sides of the Thames (15% doesn't seem enough to have added on in those cases), plus cases involving stations that count twice within the rules of the Tube Challenge (e.g., Hammersmith, Paddington) I was left with 47 stations.

The 10 geographically closest stations on the London Underground network, which are not on the same line, are:

Euston Square
Circle/Met/H and C
Regent's Park
Great Portland St
Circle/Met/H and C
Cannon St
Aldgate East
District/H and C
St Paul's
Mansion House
Northwick Park
Warren St
Great Portland St
Circle/Met/H and C
Mansion House
White City
Latimer Road
Circle/H and C

My model gives the furthest separated stations as being Chesham and Upminster (fairly evident from this earlier work) with a 'running' distance of 71km. Checking some examples against Google Maps shows good agreement:

1Regent's Park
Great Portland St
2Bank    Mansion House

Looks good. I'll convert the distances obtained into estimated running times. On a treadmill I can do 5km in a little under 18 minutes, and 1km in a little over 3mins. In order to not die I'll probably be running somewhat slower than that on the streets of London so will adjust accordingly, plus I'll add on two minutes for getting out and back into the underground system.

September: 10% of Target Reached

posted 30 Sep 2010, 09:14 by Marc J

Is that 10% of the fundraising target? Not quite, although you can donate here. And I'm hoping to push the fundraising aspect once I have more of the route planned and a sense of what the time might be.

With the addition of google adwords (have you clicked on one yet?) a few weeks ago to the site I made a grand total of £2.83 this month, or 10% of the cost of a zone 1
-9 travel card and the £9.99 I paid for this domain name. At an earning rate of £0.17 per day the project is scheduled to be self-financing re these two items 137 days from now. Which just so happens to be valentine's day 2011. Surely I should hope to have better options for that day then attempting the tube challenge...


Section 3 Completed!

posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:52 by Marc J

To be honest, 'completed' is too optimistic a word. I know that there are a few gaps in there, and that I'll need to expand some parts of what I have into more segments, but for now I'm considering the dullest part of the task officially finished.

Part 3 of the project was to code in the travel times between each segment of the track that I have identified, along with typical service frequencies on the segment. You can see part of the excel file above showing exactly that.

Consider segment #3 in the screenshot above, from Ruislip to Rayners Lane. This segment actually encompasses two intermediate stations (Ruislip Manor and Eastcote) which have not been modelled explicitly. This type of simplification is discussed in an earlier phase of the project.

In column I we can see that the typical journey time along this segment is 6 minutes, and we see that trains arrive typically every 7 minutes between 6h and 7h, increasing to every 4 minutes between 7h and 9h, and so on.

The train frequencies will be useful to model how long I would typically wait for the next train if I arrive/change at the station at some point during the day. If I'm passing through the station (segment) without getting off then this information is redundant.


posted 27 Sep 2010, 16:06 by Marc J

Is it really the end of September already? Where did the time go?! Not towards working on this hobby, that's for sure...

Now that the site is properly up and running it's attracted the attention of a few people and I've received a number of messages and offers of support over the last couple of weeks.

There have been unexpected ones from old friends (hi Tom!), concerns relayed about the situation at Blackfriars (good attention to detail James and Dave!) offers to help on the day if possible (nice one Nick!), book suggestions (thanks Tony and Martin!), as well as kind words of support from experienced Tube Challengers who have stumbled across the site...

Today I made a little interview film with my ever-witty hometown friend John. It's posted up on youtube for the world to laugh at. We certainly enjoyed ourselves making it, although had I known that we'd go no further than the first, practise take then I'd have probably had a shower, shaved, and got dressed and stuff. You know, to avoid looking like some geek who stays in all day with his best friend the computer...

Show me the money!

posted 15 Sep 2010, 05:12 by Marc J   [ updated 15 Sep 2010, 05:44 ]

Not so much has been going on in the last week with the site as it's been fairly busy work-wise.

I've been doing a little research behind the scenes though, continuing to code in travel times between stations.

I've also signed up to Google Adsense (you may notice the adverts displayed on the left of each page). These went live yesterday and so far I have earned 11 pence. Get in.

Connected with that is a Google Analytics account with which I can see how 'popular' the site is and how many visits it's receiving. So far 150 visits, which I was quietly quite chuffed about until I noticed that I probably account for the vast majority.

Foray Into Graphic Design

posted 2 Sep 2010, 14:30 by Marc J

I had a go at a bit of graphic design this evening
, creating the banner photo for the home page. Taking my treasured London Underground t-shirt out of its wrapper for the first time I struck a pose and went about superimposing an image of myself onto the tube map. A laughably crude result (!), but I did discover a free site, Pixlr, which has some handy image editing tools.

Anyway, with such a cringeworthy picture on the home page it's surely time to start sharing the site with friends... | During 2010 I will be attempting the Tube Challenge - visiting all 270 stations on the London Underground in as short a time as possible. I'll be hoping to raise money for Crisis  along the way, a charity dedicated to helping single homeless people

1-10 of 13