NARRATOR: The London Underground is one of the largest urban rail services in the world. Its passengers make more than 1 billion journeys every year. Opening in 1863, it was the first underground system of its kind.
RICHARD AMBROSE: And it was a hit from the start. By 1880 the London Tube was carrying over 40 million passengers a year.
NARRATOR: And surprisingly for something that's called the underground, 55% of today's network is actually above ground. But it's the tube-shaped tunnels that have made it famous. And their depth varies greatly.
NARRATOR: The oldest are just below street level, whereas newer sections are typically at least 20 metres below the surface.
NARRATOR: It operates 600 trains 7 days a week. So, what does it take to be a tube driver?
JONNY PHILLIPS: Unfortunately they wouldn't let me loose on a real train, but we've got the next best thing.
NARRATOR: This million-pound state-of-the-art simulator is normally used to train London Underground's finest. But today they're letting Jonny loose behind the wheel. Except it isn't a wheel. His trainer is Matt Shelley.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Right, so just push this forward and I'll start moving.
MATT SHELLEY: And the train will go.
JONNY PHILLIPS: And back to break?
MATT SHELLEY: And back towards you to break.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Right. Oh, here we go.
NARRATOR: And, as any tube driver will tell you, the secret to a smooth ride lies in the wrist action.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Are there speed limits?
MATT SHELLEY: There are, on the display in front of you.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Oh yes.
MATT SHELLEY: You see the train speed in the yellow.
JONNY PHILLIPS: OK.
MATT SHELLEY: The red hand, as we all it, to the right hand side. That's your maximum speed.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Right.
MATT SHELLEY: And that'll tell you when you need to slow down.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Obviously I want to be concentrating on the track, not looking at that.
MATT SHELLEY: Exactly.
JONNY PHILLIPS: That's quite tough.
NARRATOR: Once you're up and running on a clear stretch of track it's a bit of a doddle.
JONNY PHILLIPS: It's a lovely day.
NARRATOR: On this simulator it's possible to drive anywhere on the London Underground network, under any weather conditions.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Look at that, the snow's settled. And what about the trees? And lightning and - [the plague].
MATT SHELLEY: Not yet. We haven't got lightning on the progs yet. Trees on the track we can do.
NARRATOR: Trees are one thing. Just don't mention the wrong type of leaves. Right, now all Jonny has to master is stopping.
MATT SHELLEY: Right, so now you're going..
JONNY PHILLIPS: Whooo.
MATT SHELLEY: A 400 metre break, you need to be at zero.
JONNY PHILLIPS: OK. Just wait for that red hand to get closer and do a bit more breaking.
MATT SHELLEY: Pretty good.
NARRATOR: To help the driver stop accurately, every station has a board at the end of the platform. The trick is to land in the green. Miss it and you're in trouble, because these trains have no reverse. So will Jonny make the grade?
JONNY PHILLIPS: Oooh.
MATT SHELLEY: Not quite. A little bit more.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Sorry that was a little bit vigorous.
MATT SHELLEY: Yes.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Goodness me.
MATT SHELLEY: The system's telling us because you haven't stopped accurately enough.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Right.
MATT SHELLEY: You aren't allowed to open the doors.
JONNY PHILLIPS: Oh no! So I've got a lot of irate passengers.