Cooling the Tube

Air conditioning on the Tube! I never thought the day would come. What a pity that it’s scheduled to happen nearly two years after I left.

I will have to regale future generations with tales of the summer heat waves that lasted up to five days. The mercury would rise beyond 32 degrees Celsius (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Articles would fill British newspapers about the heat on London’s public transport system: it was illegal to transport livestock at the temperature on the Tube.

The locals were outraged. But anyone who had lived or travelled during the summer in the Middle East, or even parts of the US, called the Brits heat wimps. 90 degrees may not be scorching, but it makes you appreciate air conditioning.

I’ll miss those signs outside most Tube station entrances, advising riders to carry a bottle of water to keep cool, putting the onus on the passengers, rather than on the station management.

Heat waves were unusual in London when I was living there, but we really felt them when they hit — nothing, from our flat to our local Starbucks, was air-conditioned. (Our closest cinema was, but not every theatre within it. That governed our movie choices).

So a temperature controlled Tube will open a whole new world of cool. But it will only debut on four lines — so we old-timers will still have somewhere to ride if we want to feel heat.

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