I Hate and Despise London 61

The Daily Telegraph kindly commissioned a major comment piece from me on Kyrgyzstan, which was published today.


It already seems to have fed through into analysis by the BBC’s resident correspondents, which is a good thing.

A few months ago I wrote this:

Personally, if I had the chance to live in any town in the entire world, plus the seventh circle of Hell and an oxygenless planet off Alpha Centauri, London still might be bottom of my list.


On sober reflection, I was understating it. I deeply, deeply despise London. You will imagine the depth of my hatred if I tell you that, given the choice between eradicating London and eradicating Tony Blair, I would only opt for eradicating Tony Blair because it’s easier.

My only fixed appointment today was a simple interview shoot in Shoreditch, taking no more than half an hour. But I set off before noon and returned about six, spending five and a half hours in travelling from Acton to Shoreditch and back. I had walked to West Acton station by noon; spent one hour in going two stops to White City, where the train was terminated due to signals failure at Shepherd’s Bush. Central Line closed: on to the always disgusting, sepulchral Hammersmith and City line. That was only the start of a terrible, terrible return journey, of which the other chief highlight was a 27 minute wait for buses going down Hangar Lane.

Why do we put up with it? Tube systems in Paris, Warsaw, Brussels, St Petersburg, Moscow and Tashkent are infinitely more reliable than ours. My particular hatred is at the weekend, when all of the system that goes anywhere you might want to be shuts down completely, and all the stations continually announce “There is a good service apart from planned engineering work”.

What the **** does that mean? “You can’t go anywhere, connections across the city are shut down, we are out for 60 hours, but it’s OK because this is planned total failure, not spontaneous total failure.”.

Does it make any difference to me if London Underground had planned to be total crap, or if they are doing it accidentally?

This has been going on for a decade. Billions upon billions of pounds have been ploughed in, extravagant foreign managements have been imported en masse. But I still can’t get on the Central Line from West Acton to Liverpool St.

I hate London. There is no city on earth in which a family with an income of £30,000 per year would enjoy a worse standard of life. The private goods are too expensive and the public goods are worse managed than in the poorest third world country. There are much worse systems in third world countries, but billions upon billions less have been pumped into them. For value for money public services, nowhere is worse than London.

61 thoughts on “I Hate and Despise London

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  • Mae

    Seems like even at its worst East German transport was better than what you describe. In fact, Germans are so demanding about their public transport system, I wrote my first ever newspaper column about busses running two minutes early, and the bus company kicked up a fuss, defending its reputation. When we say “on time” we really do mean the very minute the schedule says it leaves, not one minute earlier or later!

    However, my brother, who lives in Berlin, insists the only truly reliable form of transport for him, too, is his bicycle.

  • Parky

    yes the good old push-bike has to be seriously considered. It was good enough for David Cameron on his former travels from home to the office, sadly he wont be doing that since he lives above the shop. As long as you dont get run over you will get fit and energised and not depleted by an expensive time consuming journey through one of London’s rat holes with depressed, stressed and frustrated passengers.

  • London

    London does have its good points too.

    There is the entertainment, a lot of it is expensive but during match days there is a lot of street violence that you can watch for free.

  • AJ

    I live beside a tube station and they have been working there every night for around 10 years now and I still can’t see anything different. They retiled the station at one point which took a few years and put up some indicator boards a couple of years after that – even though they still don’t work – otherwise, nothing has changed at all. Oh yeah, the station used to be manned all day and now it is only during peak hours. And the emergency button doesn’t work. The prices have gone up massively – and weirdly, it costs the same to travel to the next station on an empty train late at night as it does to travel to Central London during peak hours. Another nulabour wheeze.

  • NomadUK

    You do know that £4 is the tourist tax, right? Get an Oyster card. After the initial £5 layout, it’s £1.80 for Zone 1, and you can set it up to automatically top up as you need it.

    Good enough for Helen Mirrin, good enough for me!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    But NomadUK, Helen Mirren – real name, Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov (ah, Alfred, ‘another bloody immigrant’, eh?) is the Queen. Doesn’t she have equestrian modes of transport?

  • NomadUK

    Well, at least up in Scotland, she drives herself around in a bloody Range Rover.

    (God, Helen Mirren. Rowr. And at 75.)

  • StefZ

    “You do know that £4 is the tourist tax, right?”

    or the ‘keep off the database of your movements’ tax if you’re not a tourist

  • StefZ

    and if you’ve ever tried getting a ‘Pay as You Go’ Oyster Card (the one you’re not to supposed to have to give your name and address to use) you will have found out just how heavily drilled LU staff are to get your name and address off you

    and no, I’ve nothing in particular to hide, but the twunts who’ve been rolling this stuff out patently do

  • NomadUK

    Yes, I know. And if I thought there was any hope at all of MI5 and GCHQ not being able to track my movements if I *didn’t* use an Oyster card, I’d happily pay the extra few quid.

    Basically, though, we’re stuffed. So why not pay less until the black cars roll up to your door at midnight?

  • Control


    Completley agree with you. I managed 6 years including 3 bringing up a baby/toddler and moved out to the sticks 3 months ago.

    The grass isnt always greener I know and although the sticks has its fair share of problems – never having to go on an underground train or be stood at a london bus stop is worth it in itself.

    London – so little for so much.

    p.s Don’t get me wrong – if you are seriously wealthy I can see the atraction but as an average joe moving out was the best thing I ever did.

  • pb_praha

    Here in Prague:

    18 Koruna Ticket (59p) – Valid for 5 stops for 15 mins, non transferable, on bus, metro or tram.

    26 Koruna Ticket (85p) – Transferable, valid for 75 mins (90 at weekends), on bus, metro or tram.

    100 Koruna Ticket (£3.35) – Transferable all day ticket on bus, metro or tram.

    In the day, most trams and metros run every 5 to 10 minutes

    I can get 11km to the city airport, pick up a friend and be back again (with a following wind) on a 26kc ticket.

    Private car ownership was low during “Communism”, and the public transport system reflects that.

    During the weekends the city is left to the tourists and expats, all the locals bugger off to the countryside on the reasonably priced local trains.

    Oh, and none of those stupid barriers on the metro/tube here, it all works on a trust system, with spot checks from the ticket inspectors.

    London… you can fugging keep it; dirty , smelly, shit hole that it is.

    (actually, that goes for the UK too, god bless her and all who sink in her)

  • Vronsky

    “We just don’t know how to complain properly in this country.”

    How very true. Once at a US airport I saw a check-in desk open. It immediately acquired a very long queue. I sighed and warned my young daughter that we would have a long wait. Not so. The Americans looked at the queue, glanced at each other, then raised merry hell until two more check-in desks were opened. I learned a lot from that.

    NomadUK: second that rowr.

  • edwin

    I didn’t find London that bad at all. It was reasonably clean, and large number of museums were free. My wife and I found a great book of walking tours. There were wonderful old buildings and the canal system…

    Sure it was a bit expensive, but the subway system seemed to go where we needed, even with the occasional closure. The price was a bit high, but with the oyster card it wasn’t too bad.

    Then again – I’m from Toronto.

  • Tony Rogers

    Do I hear a Scotsman biting the hand that feeds him? Good luck with the socialist utopia!

  • anon

    The transport system in this country is just capable of getting people to their work and back again. This country is not run for the people it’s run for big business. Comfort is not a requirement. Our economy exists to provide the cash to buy american weaponry (trident and planes for the carriers) not to give a quality of life to the workers or should that have been captives.

  • Abe Rene

    The discussion about prices reminds me of when I was in Manhattan on holiday. I bought a Metrocard for $20 (about £13), good for 10 journeys. A journey could be just the next station or the South end of Manhattan miles away – it made no difference! Ten journeys anywhere within Manhattan by subway or bus, and that was it. I wonder whether something like this could work in London. Of course the needs of regular commuters and tourists are different.

  • Parky

    well remember all those consultancy and legal fees have to be paid for somehow!

    It amazes me the cost of public works and the poor standards that are acceptable in the UK. Maybe the general public have got accoustomed to it and don’t bother to complain because they know it would make no difference. They just get on with it and make do. Getting out is the only sensible solution but few can even be bothered to attempt it.

  • andrew williams

    London is no place for grown ups. If you still need to live there after the age of 40 something has gone wrong.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    NomadUK, from earlier, Helen Mirren is 64, not 75.

    She was in ‘O Lucky Man’, btw: the dreamy girl on the roof above London (the only place to be).

  • NomadUK

    Thanks for the correction; my subtraction was off!

    But I’m sure she’ll still be lovely at 75.

  • NomadUK

    Thanks for the correction; my subtraction was off.

    But no doubt she’ll still be lovely at 75.

  • Jon

    @StefZ – if you’re concerned about the Oyster travel database, just get one unregistered. I am a Brummie but keep an unregistered card for my London travelling, and I only charge it up with cash. Sure, it is still theoretically traceable, but to do so for an ordinary Joe (whose worst crime is to disagree with excessive surveillance) would be cost prohibitive.

  • Jon

    Back on topic – can people say some positive things about London please? I am considering moving there for work, so I don’t need you grumpy lot to put me off! Am considering Greenwich, which appropriately enough is still quite leafy for London.

  • Theophrastus

    As the station announcer in the nine lives of thomas katz says, “the entire underground network has ceased to exist. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

    The best excuse I ever heard on a tube train not in a film was “we apologize for the delay which is due to the long interval between trains.”

  • Simon mcg

    Don’t you worry. We in London will carry on paying our taxes to subsidise the rest of the uk

  • London

    London (and Ramsgate) hates and despises you, craig!! We will rattle your back door in the night, non-specically but entertainingly. We will scare you shitless or witless if you don’t get a grip and issue a public denial of your demented claim that your blog is being attacked by Zionistically organized trolling persons, because you will otherwise reduce yourself to a neurotic wreck. Just like before…..

    So chill, man.

  • Neil Barker (the real Neil Barker, photographer, Burton Mail)

    I am Neil Barker from the Burton Mail.

    We litigate.

    We look forward to litigation.

    Craig Murray hosts this site and allows Suhayl Saadi to libel me, and has posted my job details, my employer’s address, and made side attacks on my wife.

    I WILL have satisfaction.

    Do not underestimate me.

    Craig, Saaadi , you WILL pay me compensation.

    Next time, check your sources before causing disruption to my paper.

    See you both in court.

    Neil Barker, Burton on Trent Mail.

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