Here are London’s eight hidden circle lines

Grange Hill: in the loop. Image: Sunil060902/Wikipedia.

For most of the history of London’s underground rail network it had a Circle line. From 1884 to 2009, it was possible to get on a train and then spend your day spiralling round and round the same loop around central London, returning to your starting point every hour or so.

But then in 2009, the Circle extended to the west and became a tea-cup. You’d  start in Hammersmith, and travel once round the loop via Edgware Road, Liverpool Street and Embankment, before coming to a halt at Edgware Road once again. It’s still known as the Circle line on the map; an actual circle it ain’t.

There are, however, a number of other loops hidden in London’s rail map. They’re not true circles – you can’t just keep going round and round them forever. But there are, nonetheless, parts of the network where you can remain on a train and find yourself back at your starting point, without ever doubling back on yourself.

By my count, there are eight. If I’ve I missed any, do let me know.

Let’s start with an easy one:

Hatton Cross to Hatton Cross via Heathrow Terminal 4. Happens all the time.

While we’re on the tube:

It’s quite rare for trains to go all the way round the Central line loop: generally they run to Hainault via Newbury Park, or on occasion, to Woodford via Hainult; mostly, the northern section exists almost as a sort of branch line.

But just occasionally, you can get on a train at Leytonstone, travel via Hainault and Woodford, and then find yourself back where you started.

Okay, now for the less obvious ones.

Tramlink, which serves London’s deep south, has a Heathrow-style loop in central Croydon: trams from Elmers End (route 1) and Beckenham Junction (route 2) go round it and end up back where they started. That gives you a choice of routes to get from East Croydon to East Croydon, should you feel the need.

Light green, to the left.

Just up the road, the Thameslink loop similarly gives you a choice of options to get from Streatham to Streatham: clockwise, via Sutton and Wimbledon; or anti-clockwise, via Wimbledon and Sutton.

It’s the purple one.

Oh how the days must fly by.

Okay, now we’re getting to the real obscure ones. This map of part of the South West Trains network contains not one but two hidden circles:

The red bits.

Firstly, there’s the Kingston loop, which enables trains to travel from Clapham Junction to Kingston, Richmond and back again – or, if anti-clockwise is more to your taste, vice versa.

The result is that, if you’re at Strawberry Hill and you’re trying to get back to Waterloo, you have a choice of directions (which is lucky as there are only two trains an hour each way). It’s marginally quicker to go via Richmond (34 minutes) than it is via Kingston (42), mind.

The other is the Hounslow loop, which does much the same but on the north side of the river. Richmond, then Hounslow, or Hounslow then Richmond; either way you can go from Barnes to Barnes in just over 40 minutes.

Departure boards, incidentally, tend to show some trains as terminating at Hounslow or Barnes Bridge, presumably in an attempt to prevent people from getting on one going the long way round the loop. Spoilsports.

Lastly, there’s the various Southeastern loops:

In practice, only two of these are in regular service. You can get trains that go via Bexleyheath and Abbey Wood, and trains that go via Crayford and Abbey Wood; but at present, best I can tell, there are no scheduled trains that run via Crayford and Bexleyheath.

Nonetheless – while London may not have a proper circle line any more, it has no fewer than nine different loops, where the same train or tram will take you from one station to itself without ever turning round.


So, now you know.

Right, that distracted me from the election for a whole hour. Now, how am I going to fill the next seven weeks?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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All maps courtesy of TfL.

 
 
 
 

This app connects strangers in two cities across the world. But can it tackle urban loneliness?

New Delhi, in India, where many of Duet-App's users come from. Image: Ville Miettinen

“You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people”. Olivia Laing, The Lonely City

Our relationship to where we live and the spaces we inhabit define who we are and how we feel. But how often do we articulate the emotional impact of this relationship, whether this be loneliness, frustration or even civic pride?

“When I moved to a new city, started living alone, wanted to drink less, stay indoors more, and when I realised that I cannot make any more best friends.”

A new social network, a simple app that connects two individuals from the UK and India, aims to counter some of these issues.  Over the course of a year connected pairs receive one question a day through the app and their responses are exchanged with each other. A simple interaction that gradually builds a series of one-on-one relationships and invites users to imagine, over time, the other person living their life.

Distant geographies are an implicit part of the experience, therefore many of the questions nudge users to explore correlations between their physical and emotional landscapes. The data shows us that many of the Duet-App users are located in populous urban cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Manchester, Leeds and London, places that can just as often discourage feelings of belonging and place-making as much as they foster them.

“I had thought I'd never be able to live here again. but here I am living again at home after almost a decade living elsewhere. Living in Mumbai is a contact sport, and I can't do without it's chaos and infectious energy.”

Mumbai, India. Image: Deepak Gupta

In general cities are getting bigger and spreading wider at the same time as our communications are increasingly being conducted online and via digital gateways.

There is a sense that much of our online personas project an idealised version of ourselves; we increasingly document and express our daily lives through a filter and we are not always comfortable with a spontaneous expression of ourselves. Duet-App seeks to foster alternative digital relationships that through their anonymity allow us to be more honest and free.

“I feel a lot of people assume that I always have a lot going on for me and everything's always happy and amazing. I wish they could appreciate... how much of my own anxiety I swim in every single day. I appear and behave “normal” on the outside, calm and composed but there are always storms going on in my head.”

In exploring the responses to the questions so far, those that often garner the most replies relate directly to how we feel about our personal position in the world around us. Often these questions act as provocations not only to share responses but to reflect and articulate our thoughts around how we feel about what we are doing in the here and now.

Manchester, another popular city for Duet-App users. Image: Julius 

“Sometimes I feel sad about it [getting old] because I saw how easy it would be to feel lonely, and the fact that the world is set up for able-bodied young people is a bit of a travesty.”

Although many social media platforms allow for distant engagement and access into the lives of others we are in the main still curating and choosing our friendship circles. Through Duet-App this is randomised (and anonymised) with the intention of bypassing the traditional mechanics of how we broker online relationships. While directly exploring the digital space as a place for intimacy.


“Where do you go for peace?

“Well the internet, really. I do some mindless browsing, peek into the fandoms, listen to a few songs. Calms me down.”

Snapshots into the lives of someone existing and playing out their lives remotely can highlight shared concerns that break down preconceptions of how life is lived by others. Prompted by the reflections of a stranger exposed to our lives, digital relationships can encourage us to address the physical space we inhabit and the effects that the cities we live out our lives in have on our own well being. 

Catherine Baxendale is director of Invisible Flock.

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