The Tube Challenge is the accepted name for the Guinness World Record attempt to visit all the stations on the London Underground network in the fastest time possible. Participants do not have to travel along all lines to complete the challenge, merely to pass through all the stations on the system. Participants may connect between stations on foot, or by using other forms of public transport.
The first recorded challenge took place in 1959. Although many people have attempted the challenge and held the record since, they have not always been credited in the record books. In the earlier days of the challenge, participants were permitted to use private forms of transport (such as a car or bike) to move between stations. This led to times of less than 16 hours in some earlier records, and Guinness later changed the rules[when?] to ban private transport.
The following is a list of record holders that have appeared in the Guinness Book of Records. The record did not appear in the book until its eighth edition.
|March 1960||George Hurst & Jane Barwick||264||18 hours, 35 minutes|
|9 September 1961||J Birch, B Phillips & N Storr||264||18 hours, 9 minutes|
|3 December 1960||K A Branch and J Branch||273||20 hours, 0 minutes|
|22 August 1963||Christopher Niekirk||272||14 hours, 58 minutes|
|4 July 1964||A Mortimer, J P Herting, D Corke & G Elliot||272||14 hours, 17 minutes|
|7 September 1965||Alan Paul Jenkins||273||16 hours, 57 minutes|
|1 November 1966||Leslie Burwood||273||15 hours, 53 minutes|
|1 September 1967||Leslie Burwood||277||14 hours, 33 minutes|
|3 September 1968||Leslie Burwood||277||15 hours, 0 minutes|
|27 June 1969||Anthony Durkin and Peter Griffiths||277||16 hours, 5 minutes|
|20 May 1980||John & Stephen Trafford||278||18 hours, 3 minutes|
|3 December 1981||Colin Mulvany||277||17 hours, 37 minutes|
|14 April 1986||Robert Robinson, Peter David Robinson, John Garde, Timothy John Clark||272||19 hours, 51 minutes, 14 seconds|
|30 July 1986||Robert Robinson, Peter David Robinson, Timothy Robinson, Timothy Clark, Richard Harris||272||18 hours, 41 minutes, 41 seconds|
|4 October 1994||Robert Robinson, Tom McLaughlin||270||18 hours, 18 minutes, 9 seconds|
|16 March 2000||Robert Robinson, Chris Loxton, Chris Stubley, Chris Whiteoak, Olly Rich and Adam Waller||272||19 hours, 57 minutes, 47 seconds|
Between the 1960s and 1990s the record regularly appeared in the Guinness Book of Records, initially listed under "Underground Railways – circuit of", but later just under "Railways" and then "Trains". Since the change of publishing style of the book from the 2001 edition onwards, the record – although frequently broken – has only once appeared in printed form, in the 2008 edition. More recent records have tended to be published online instead. Since the record has not regularly been published in the book, there have been two broad configurations on the system – one for 275 stations, and one for 270 once the East London Line was no longer part of the network.
On 3 April 2002 Jack Welsby set a new record time for 275 stations by traversing the system in 19 hours, 18 minutes and 45 seconds. Welsby made just one attempt, starting his route at Heathrow and finishing at Amersham.
This time was beaten on 4 May 2004 by Geoff Marshall and Neil Blake who achieved a new record time of 18 hours 35 minutes and 43 seconds. Their attempt began on the first train out of Amersham on the Metropolitan Line and ended at Upminster, and took Guinness World Records four months to ratify it. A previous attempt had been broadcast on TV as part of The Tube TV series and another attempt had been televised as part of an ITV1 programme Metroland: Race Around the Underground on 16 October 2003.
Although this time stood for two years before being beaten by just five seconds, it was not until Håkan Wolgé and Lars Andersson (both from Sweden) set a new record time for 275 stations that it appeared in the Guinness World Records Book again, in the 2008 edition. They set a new record of 18 hours, 25 minutes and 3 seconds, on 26 September 2006.
Changes to the total number of stations meant meant that the record was 'reset' and broken three more times over a two year period until when in October 2008 Wood Lane station opened, and the network settled at 270 stations.
The first holders with 270 stations were previous record holder James and Hazel who on the 14 December 2009, accompanied by another former holder Steve Wilson, achieved a record time of 16 hours, 44 minutes and 16 seconds. TfL used this route four years later as part of the Art on the Underground labyrinth project to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, installing permanent designs at stations in the same order that the world record route had taken, and later appeared in an Information Captial article.
This record remained unbeaten for 17 months, until Marc Gawley from Denton, Greater Manchester set a new time of 16 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds on 21 April 2011. As a fast marathon runner, he revealed that he did not use any buses on the day, preferring instead to make all his connections on foot. Gawley's record was beaten just thirty-seven days later, when James and Wilson completed the challenge in just 44 seconds faster, setting a new record time of 16 hours, 29 minutes and 13 seconds on 27 May 2011.
This record stood for over two years until August 2013, before being broken by previous record holder Geoff Marshall who along with Anthony Smith, completed the challenge in 16 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds, the record time was then published for the first time in seven years in the Guinness World Records book.
It is quite common for people to attempt the challenge and be sponsored for it — often on a 'pence per station' basis, or a complete sum for travelling the whole network. Attempts have been linked to charities such as Children in Need and Comic Relief. A charity attempt known as 'Tube Relief' was organised, following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, to raise money for the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund. Fifty one people rode the entire tube network for the day, raising over £10,000 towards the official charity fund. Sue Ryder charity event took place in November 2011, where ten teams competed against each other to have their photo taken outside as many of the 270 stations as possible.
Richie Firth from Absolute Radio raised the profile of the challenge by announcing a record attempt as part of the Christian O'Connell breakfast show in 2011. Although a test run was made, the attempt was postponed due to Richie failing a medical. The attempt was eventually made in December 2012, but one station was missed due to the online timetables incorrectly stating that a train service was running to Olympia.
The BBC News Magazine ran a video piece, featuring an attempt made with Geoff Marshall and Anthony Smith, from 28 March 2013.
Other previous attempts have included a Cambridge University student and a pub landlord from Reading in 2006, a man raising money for Tearfund in 2010, two teenagers from Leighton Buzzard in 2011 and two teenagers, Samuel Coop and Alex Williamson, from Sutton in February 2012,.
- Subway Challenge, a similar challenge in New York City
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