This amateur London Tube map someone posted on Wikipedia is far better than the real thing

Well, this is much better. Image: SameBoat/Wikimedia Commons.

Over the last couple of weeks we have spent extensive time whinging about quite how bad the new version of London's tube map is. (Yes, we're obsessed, but let's not pretend, dear reader, that you are otherwise.) It's cramped, it’s unclear, and it just isn't very pretty.

Well. Over the weekend it came to our attention that someone else out there felt similarly. But they, unlike us, had decided to actually do something about it. 

This anonymous hero, a Hong Kong resident who goes by the name of "SameBoat", has been posting their own re-jigged tube map to Wikipedia since last August. Unlike Transport for London's version, this one basically abandons the 80-year old template we're all so familiar with and starts again. It retains the map's straight lines and 45 angles where appropriate; but isn't afraid to abandon them where necessary.

You can see the full version, at the correct scale, here. But to give you a flavour, here's central London on the official map:


And here’s SameBoat’s new version:


Here are some other things we like about the map:

It actually bothers to show different Overground lines in different colours

One of our biggest complaints about the new Tube map is that it shows TfL's increasingly cumbersome Overground empire in a single shade of orange, thus making it hard to tell which line you're looking at at any one time.

SameBoat's version corrects that, showing new fewer than seven different Overground routes:

We're not convinced by the names. (The old East London line is now the South Chord? Really?) But at least this version has names – and more importantly, colours, to make it clearer where there are direct trains on offer.

It shows out of station interchanges

There are a pairs of stations that are close enough to each other to make useful interchanges, and where the ticketing system will allow you to change trains – yet which the official map has kept secret. This new map makes those changes visible:

Some of these are more useful than others. It's not hard to think of journeys that could make use of the short hop from Camden Town to Camden Road, for example; whereas the long walk from Ickenham to West Ruislip is far less likely to come in handy. Ideally the map would communicate the length of the walk required, too.

But, you can’t have everything, and since those are official interchanges, it seems better to show them than not.

It shows the correct geographical relationship between the two Bethnal Green stations

No more pretending that Bethnal Green Overground is north of Bethnal Green Underground, which was always lunacy.

Now, if we could just get TfL to rename one of them.

It shows all the new lines and extensions currently in progress

That includes the new Watford branch on the Metropolitan...

...the new Battersea branch on the Northern...

...the Overground extension to Barking Riverside...

...and of course, Crossrail.

That means that, unlike TfL's designers, the people behind this map are unlikely to be wrong-footed by the arrival of a new line that's only been planned for the past 30 years.

It doesn't show that sodding cable car

Nuff said.

There are inevitably aspects of this map we're less keen on too. It’s simplified the design in part by abandoning attempts to show wheelchair accessibility, which – were it to happen on the real map – would be seen as a backward step. And in places this new map sends outer branches through weird 90 degree turns – so the Central line heads east from Loughton to Epping, that sort of thing. It's a clever way of keeping the map compact, but still looks weird to our eyes. 

The fact that the Chingford line trains don't serve London Fields or Cambridge Heath is shown, but doesn't make much sense if you're not already aware of this fact. Similarly, while it's great to see Tramlink on a tube map at last, it's a bit of a shame it doesn't have any stations on. But that said, there are numerous versions of this map available on Wikipedia, suggesting that it's a work in progress. Perhaps these things will be fixed in a future version.

On the whole, sacrilege though it may be to say it, we much prefer this version of the Tube map to the proper one. SameBoat, if you're reading this: we salute you.

PS We've just noticed that, on the proper version of this map, you can click on a line in the key and it'll flash cheerfully at you from the map. So that's pretty cool, too.

PPS This is a representation of the interchanges that'll be available at Canary Wharf once the new Crossrail station opens. We think it's accurate. It's also bloody horrible.

Can someone please do some renaming or something to sort this mess out? Okay thanks bye.

All images courtesy of SameBoat, under Wikimedia Commons.


A tale of 10 cities: Most big British cities have shrunk relative to the country around them

The John Brown Shipyard, Clydebank, Glasgow, 1938. The relevance of this image will become clear. Image: Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities.

Below, excitingly, you’ll find a chart of how the populations of Britain's ten largest cities changed between 1981 and 2014, according to Centre for Cities (CfC) data*. The chart doesn’t show absolute numbers, because the sheer size of London will render any changes in the population of the other nine all but invisible; instead, we’ve indexed them against their 1981 population (100, on the chart). The black line represents the change in population of the UK as a whole.

We've also removed the labels. Just, y'know, to make things more fun.

The 10 cities are: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham and Bristol. See if you can guess which is which.


The first thing to note is that almost all these cities are in relative decline. The population of the UK as a whole – the black line – has increased almost throughout this period (it shrunk very slightly in the early 1980s, but then has increased every year since). Yet two of these ten cities have seen their populations increase faster than the UK as a whole; three have actually shrunk since the early 1980s.

It's possible to over-state the link between population growth and prosperity; and, as ever, where you draw city boundaries is a factor, too. But nonetheless, successful and economically vibrant cities will generally attract more people to live in them. The fact that eight of Britain's ten largest cities have grown less quickly than Britain as a whole is probably not a good thing.

That's the general trend - but which city do you think is which? Looks to me like we have a five different groups here:

  • Two boom towns, which have grown faster than the UK population;
  • Two that basically flat-lined until around 2001, then began to grow quite slowly;
  • Three tightly bunched cities (seriously; two of those lines basically cover each other), that declined throughout the late 20th century, but began to recover around the millennium;
  • A fourth, that looked like it was going to be in that group but arrived late at a weaker recovery;
  • Lastly, two that declined much more steeply, and have barely recovered since; they're still over 10 per cent smaller than they were in 1981. This, given the UK as a whole is 14 per cent bigger, is a really quite significant decline.

You can probably guess that the boom towns are the only two southern English cities on the map. Since 1981, the population of London, on CfC definitions, has grown by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) and Bristol by nealy a fifth (18 per cent).

The others take more explanation so here's a labelled version of that chart:


Why Nottingham and Leeds should have sustained their populations when most similarly sized British cities didn't is quite frankly a mystery to me. Leeds, one can speculate, was helped out by having one of the north's more diversified (and richer) economies; the same can't be said of Nottingham, though. If anyone has a theory, do write in.

The exceptions at the bottom of the graph, though, do have something in common. Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow are all built on major rivers (Tyne, Mersey and Clyde), all of which once held shipyards. It's possible that what we're looking at here is the decline of British sea power.

That said, London and Bristol, of course, were port cities too, in their day. As ever, the problem is not the decline of old industry, but the lack of new ones.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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*By population, incidentally, we don't mean official population. Rather we're looking atprimary urban areas: a collection of local authorities which, when you take urban build-up and commuting patterns into account, are as good a way as any to define the functional geography of a city.

PUAs are slightly arbitrary, but so is almost every other option. At least these are comparable. And while the PUA boundaries have changed, the figures we're using here cover consistent areas right back to 1981, so there.