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London's 24-Hour Tube Finally Starts

There can be a penalty to being first: You can do it wrong. That's what happened to London's miraculous Underground system. It was the first of its kind in the world when it opened in 1863, but in 2016, its design is outdated and repairs can't be conducted without shutting down. That's partly why for 153 years London's Tube, like so many world subway systems, has had to close from around midnight to around 5am. And as any visitor to London can tell you, having to rush through an evening to make the final train can put a crimp on a holiday.

Until now. After decades of begging, years of staff infighting, and months of delays, the dream of an all-night Tube will finally be realized this weekend.

Or partly realized: At first, only two lines, the Central and the Victoria, will be chugging through the wee hours, and although they won't reach the farthest corners of the city, they ply the central parts of town where a tourist is most likely to be.

Trains will go every 10 to 20 minutes, which isn't that bad—some major cities see that frequency during daylight—and they're certainly more convenient than the circuitous, multi-stage misery that many Londoners have endured with the Night Bus system. The system is also confined to Friday and Saturday nights—you'll still need to race for the last Tube on school nights.

By the autumn, three more crucial lines—the Northern, the Piccadilly, and the Jubilee—will join the Night Tube, making the below-ground transportation picture in central London nearly complete. Only the Bakerloo is sitting this one out, but the other lines come near enough to its stops for that not to be much of an inconvenience.

The addition of the Night Tube is expected to boost London's economy by £360 million (US$470 million) a year.

Now if we could only convince the city to allow pubs to stay open past 11pm!