A Guide to Filming on the Underground

  • Film & Location

What do The Bourne Ultimatum, Sliding Doors and Bridget Jones’s Diary have in common? They all include scenes shot on London’s Underground network.

But with increasing security risk, is it still possible to film on the Tube? And if so, what rules do you need to comply with?

Here’s our guide to filming on the famous transport network.

Guide content:

Permits & Insurance
What notice period is required?
Access times to film on the Tube
What are the restrictions?
Getting script approval from the Film Office
Can I use the Underground’s electrical power?

What permits do I need for filming on the Tube?

The London Underground (LU) Film Office has been set up to facilitate location managers and film crews who seek to film on the Tube. Any individual or film production company wanting to film (or even to take photographs) must seek permission from this office.

The cost varies depending on which type of permit you have. There are three different types of permits:

Student or non-professional permit
Crew/Group Size: Five or less with handheld equipment only 
Cost: £50 including VAT - valid one month from date of issue

Note: The costs for the student and non-professional permits do not include broadcasting fees and Licence to Publish contracts start at £250. On top of this, the permit holder is not permitted to publish/broadcast anything without the prior permission of London Underground.

2 for 1 permit (Monday to Friday and between 10:00 - 15:30)
Crew size: Five or less with handheld equipment only
Cost: £500 plus VAT

Location permit (hiring a platform to shoot from for example)
Quotes on application
Cost: From £500 plus VAT per hour

There is also an additional cost for filming in the driver's cab of £500 plus VAT per hour. A member of operational staff will need to supervise the shoot and a maximum of two crew plus equipment are allowed.

All permit requests must be made in writing. Detailed information can be found on the Film Office’s website.

A current policy of insurance, providing cover for death and/or personal injury to any person and loss of, or damage to, any property is required. The insurance policy needs to have a public liability of at least £2m.

What notice period do London Underground require?

On their website the Film Office state that they need two weeks’ notice to set up an average-sized shoot. In some cases, however, the Film Office can work with less time but this depends on the request.

Access times to film on the Tube

Filming is generally only allowed during off-peak periods. This means:

- Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 15:30 and from 20:00 to 23:30.

- Weekend times depend on the station but generally any time of day.

The Film Office states that it is not advisable to film between 01:00 and 04:30, as this is when essential engineering work is carried out. However, exceptions are made is advance notice if given and there are no planned works at the station you want to use.

What are the restrictions?

When filming occurs on the platforms, especially when the station is open to the public, flash photography or additional lighting is not permitted. In some cases they may be used elsewhere - in the tunnels for example - and the Film Office and/or station supervisor who will attend the shoot can advise you on this.

The same goes for tripods, which are only authorised at the station supervisor's discretion and are generally not allowed on platforms due to safety reasons.

The Film Office also compiled another list of activities which are not allowed to be filmed. These are listed as:

- Vandalism or graffiti
- Assaults on passengers or staff
- Fare evasion or ticket touting
- Use of firearms or weapons
- Misuse of escalators or LU property
- Unlicensed busking
- Begging
- Smoking or the use of illegal drugs
- Behaving in an overtly sexual or indecent manner (including nudity)
- Direct threats (including terrorist) to LU, its staff or passengers
- Anything that may negatively affect the interests of the site owner

Getting script approval from the Film Office

Before granting your permit the Film Office will need to have your script or layout approved before a permit is granted. They can also refuse an application without providing you with specific reasons, however, normally they will offer advice on how you can alter your script so as to be granted the permit.

You can also send in a synopsis or storyline before submitting your full permit application.

It is your own responsibility to ensure you don’t breach copyright or other intellectual property rights.

Can I use the Underground’s electrical power?

The Film Office states that they generally request that film crews use battery-operated equipment as they operate on a different voltage system to the standard domestic set-up and connections to their power supply must be supervised by a specialist electrician.

In case the use of London Underground’s power is a must, then this has to be requested in advance and will be seen as an added cost. The Film Office will be able to advise you on the current rate. 

The use of petrol or diesel generators is absolutely prohibited at all London Underground stations and on trains.

This guide was produced with the help of London Underground’s Film Office. For more information you can visit their website by clicking here.