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What's the Point of a Night Tube That Has Nowhere to Go?

In the time it's taken to get the night tube running, most of London's late-night fun has closed down.

Everyone has that moment, when they feel like the Ray Mears of good vibes, standing on the platform of the U-Bahn. You've had it, haven't you, on your Easter break from uni, when your mates rented a AirBnb in Kreuzberg and you stayed up pre-drinking Weissbier and listening to Jamie XX on a Beats pill until 1am. Then you went to a bar, didn't you, until half 4 or so, and then your mate who's been to Berlin before tells you it's time to leave and go to the club. You're playing it cool, but you're thinking, 'FUCKING HELL, we're LEAVING to go out at half 4 in the morning? How does that even work? Does that mean we're just going to be out until lunch? Do clubs serve lunch here?'


Then you get onto the train platform and there is a shop and it's open and it's selling beer which you can drink right there. No one is stopping you. And then your train comes. And everything is fine. There are no German street gangs ready to glass you. And at that moment you sort of become this weird mix of Nick Knowles, Farage and your dad all rolled into one. You think, why don't we have this? What can't we live in this 24-hour culture without the nanny state looming over us? Why can't we stay up all night and drink beer on trains because look I'm doing it RIGHT NOW and it's FINE.

When the night tube was first announced, in early 2014, it was with that kind of thinking. London had for too long lived under puritanical licensing restrictions that meant many pubs still called last orders at 10:50pm. We needed a more night-friendly city, where you could still get around after dark falls. This became especially important as people were being forced out the centre of London by high house prices, and those in the suburbs needed a quick, cheap way to get home at night. But more than its practical purposes, the night tube was going to make us cool again. We were a global city and needed a cool late-night tube, like the other global cities have. Mum I don't need a bedtime! I can stay out all night!

Well now London's night tube is finally, finally, launching. Sadiq Khan, the new London mayor, says the trains will start running from Saturday 19th August. From then the Central, Piccadilly, Victoria and Jubilee lines, as well as half the Northern Line, will run non-stop from Friday morning until Sunday night.


But if you're expecting London to suddenly switch to a 24-hour Berlin-style culture, you might be in for a shock. Because at the moment there is hardly anywhere open in London late enough to make the night tube useful. In the years it took to get ready, scores of the capital's clubs have closed. The past decade has marked the death knell of SEOne, Plastic People, Cable, Madame JoJos, Herbal, The End, Turnmills, the Astoria and whatever that thing was they kept trying to make work in the Millennium Dome - to name but a few.

But it's not just the closures. The clubs that remain often have restricted licences, meaning very few of them can open past two in the morning. Yes, there is still Fabric and Corsica (not that the night tube will serve either Elephant and Castle or Faringdon, where those clubs are located), and the occasional spot in Hackney Wick or Peckham that gets a temporary late licence (again not served by the night tube), but by and large this tube is there to get people in and out of central London where this nothing going on except a few dodgy casinos and insanely expensive shoes-and-shirt afterparties.

Have you ever wandered through London at 4AM trying to find somewhere to go? It's like having the life sucked out of you. This sprawling city with seemingly infinite possibilities closing down in front of you. Shutters slamming against the floor, burly bouncers telling you to fuck off, desperately trying to persuade your mate to let everyone go back to there's but you can't because their flatmate's got to be up at 8AM for the Harry Potter LARPing group or whatever, so you just wander the curbs like Britain's worst street gang, until one person gives up or you all get mugged.


That's basically what the night tube is going to get you. Not Metropolitan culture and all-night parties, just more gangs of soggy losers roaming the streets of London, not getting in to places, wondering how soon it is until they can get the night tube home.

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