The week after I've had an article published in Time Out, I always turn first to the magazine's letters page to see if anybody's written in to pick apart what I wrote. And this week, the jackpot...
Letter of the week Surely the shortest tube journey is the downhill amble from Charing Cross to Embankment on the Northern line. Reading diamond geezer's Big Smoke article in your tube special while approaching Charing Cross on said line, I counted 38 seconds between the doors closing at Charing Cross and the doors opening at Embankment. Admittedly I didn't use a stopwatch, nor did I then dash up Villiers Street to prove that it was quicker to walk but, in the interests of accuracy, I urge a recount. Blink and you'll miss it! Russell Mills N10
Well Russell, I hope you enjoy your £29 bottle of champagne, but I have to disappoint you. I don't just make this stuff up, I do my research first. And London's shortest tube journey, according to TfL's own website, is indeed the journey I wrote about...
Shortest distance between stations: Piccadilly line (Leicester Square to Covent Garden) - 0.26km (0.161 miles)
Remember that this is the distance from platform to platform, which is not always the same as the distance you can measure on a map at street level. So if TfL say that this is London's shortest tube journey then I have to believe them. And it is possible to check further. Geoff used to have a map with all the distances between stations marked on it - how useful that would have been in this situation <cough>. But we can also check elsewhere, at über-geek level, on Clive's "Underground line guides" website. He lists the official distances of every station on the network (in kilometres, from Ongar), which allows us to compare Russell's journey and mine.
Damn, that's a draw - each 260 metres apart. But these figures are only accurate to the nearest 10 metres. Before rounding, one of these journeys must have been fractionally shorter than the other. Only TfL know the exact distances, and they say that Leicester Square to Covent Garden is shorter. So it is. Hurrah.
But Russell wasn't talking about distance, he was talking about time. He says his trip from Charing Cross to Embankment took just 38 seconds. Hmmm. Because when I timed several tube journeys from Leicester Square [doors shut] to Covent Garden [doors open] they were always between 40 and 45 seconds long. Drat. Maybe the Northern line is quicker because it's downhill. Maybe the Northern line trains are faster. Maybe Russell counted wrong. Maybe his journey is quicker in time and my journey is shorter in distance. Never mind, because I'll never get the chance to tell him he might have been right, and he'll never read this to know he was almost certainly wrong.