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A London Tube Dream Ride, In The Driver's Cab


This time of year coworkers often exchange gifts at the office. And here at NPR we're no different. At our London bureau, producer Rich Preston gave a surprise to correspondent Ari Shapiro. Here's Ari to explain.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I didn't know where we were going or what we were doing. Friday morning my producer just dragged me onto the London underground.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Your next stop will be Edgeware Road.

SHAPIRO: A man in a blue jacket and tie met us at the station.

EDDIE CORNISH: Hi, my name is Eddie Cornish. I'm the train's operations standards manager for Edgeware Road Train Crew Depot. And I've arranged for a train ride in the front of the cab for yourselves.

SHAPIRO: What a nice Christmas present.

SHAPIRO: The London underground is the oldest subway system in the world. It just celebrated 150 years. A few weeks ago the tube hit a new record of transporting 4 million passengers in a day. Most days I'm one of them.

SHAPIRO: And how often do you get people in their mid-thirties interested in trying - arranging to drive the train?

CORNISH: Quite a lot. Quite a lot.

SHAPIRO: Really, really? (Laughter).

CORNISH: Yes. It's like everyone's dream. They won't tell no one. It's their secret dream.

SHAPIRO: His colleague walks down the platform. Yomi Subuloye has been driving trains for 14 years.

SHAPIRO: What do you enjoy about it?

YOMI SUBULOYE: I just like it. I like being alone. You know what I mean? It gives me loads of thinking time.

SHAPIRO: It's a strange workplace where you're surrounded by crowds but isolated in a private cocoon. Our train pulls into the station, and we climb into the compartment in the nose.

SUBULOYE: Come on. Let's go boys. Are you ready?

SHAPIRO: Subuloye punches in a code, turns the key, closes the passenger doors, and we begin to pull into the long, dark tunnel.

SHAPIRO: This is really cool.

SUBULOYE: It is. It is not bad at all actually.

SHAPIRO: It is a completely different perspective with trains crossing in front of us and colored lights along the sides of the track. On the dashboard there are computer screens, buttons and a red bar called the dead man's handle.

SUBULOYE: Do you know why they call it the dead man's handle?


SUBULOYE: Let's say all of a sudden I felt faint, and I collapsed.

SHAPIRO: His hand falls from the handle, and the train stops.

SUBULOYE: You take your hand off the handle, for any reason, the brakes come on.

SHAPIRO: Wow. Apologies to the folks in the train for having delayed their journey by about three seconds there.

SHAPIRO: As we pull into the station, our driver has one last present for me. He points to a small button next to him.

SHAPIRO: Just push it?



SUBULOYE: That's it. Done.

SHAPIRO: Merry Christmas.

SUBULOYE: Merry Christmas to you, too.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Ari Shapiro. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.