Before the London Underground:
Civil engineers have long searched for ways to provide speedy transportation by using underground tunnels. In about 1798, Ralph Todd tried to build a tunnel under the Thames River in London. He encountered quicksand and his plan failed. Over the next hundred years, other engineers and developers attempted to create underground transportation, without success.
London's First Successful Subway:
The London Underground is the world's oldest public underground railway. The noisy, steam rail system opened January 9, 1863. With trains running every ten minutes, the new underground rails carried 40,000 passengers between Paddington and Farringdon that day.
The first system was built by a cut and cover method—streets were dug up, rails were placed in the trenches, and brick ceilings became the base of the road surface. This disruptive method soon was replaced with a tunnel excavation method similar to the way coal was being mined.
Source: Transport for London History [accessed Jan. 7, 2013]
The London Underground Expands:
Over the years, the system has expanded. Today's London Underground is an electric rail system that runs both above and below ground through twelve deep bore tunnels, or "tubes." Known as "the Underground" or (more familiarly) "the Tube", the rail system serves 274 stations, covers more than 253 miles (408 km), and carries more than three million passengers every day. The system also has about 40 abandoned "ghost" stations and platforms.
Terrorist Bombings at the London Underground:
On July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings struck several points in the mass transit system, killing several dozen people and injuring many more. The first explosion occurred on the underground between Liverpool Street and Aldgate East Stations. A second explosion occurred between the King's Cross and Russell Square stations. A third explosion occurred at Edgware Road station. Then, a bus exploded in Woburn Place.
Fire at the London Underground:
The terrorist bombings of July 2005 represent the most fatalities ever experienced at the London Underground. The last serious incident was the Kings Cross fire in 1987. Twenty-seven people died after a machine room under a wooden escalator caught fire. Emergency procedures were overhauled as a result of that fire.