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.

 
 
 
 

How can we stop city breaks killing our cities?

This couple may look happy, but they’re destroying Barcelona. Image: Getty.

Can’t wait to pack your bags and head off on holiday again? It used to be that people would look forward to a long break in summer – but now tourists have got used to regular short breaks through the year. We love to jet off to the world’s glittering cities, even if only for a day or two. The trouble is, binge travelling may be killing the places we visit.

You may even have seen some “tourists go home” graffiti on your last trip, and it’s not hard to see why. Barcelona is a good example of how a city can groan under the weight of its popularity. It now has the busiest cruise port, and the second fastest growing airport in Europe. Walking through the Barcelona streets at peak season (which now never seems to end) flings you into a relentless stream of tourists. They fill the city’s hot spots in search of “authentic” tapas and sangria, and a bit of culture under the sun. The mayor has echoed residents’ concerns over the impact of tourism; a strategic plan has been put in place.

It is true though, that cities tend to start managing the impact of tourism only when it is already too late. It creeps up on them. Unlike visitors to purpose-built beach destinations and national parks, city-break tourists use the same infrastructure as the locals: existing systems start slowly to stretch at the seams. Business travellers, stag parties and museum visitors will all use existing leisure facilities.

‘Meet the friendly locals’, they said. Image: Sterling Ely/Flickrcreative commons.

Barcelona may only be the 59th largest city in the world, but it is the 12th most popular with international visitors. Compared to London or Paris, it is small, and tourism has spiked sharply since the 1992 Olympics rather than grown steadily as in other European favourites like Rome.

Growth is relentless. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) even speaks about tourism as a right for all citizens, and citizens are increasingly exercising that right: from 1bn international travellers today, we will grow to 1.8bn by 2030, according to UNWTO forecasts.

Faced with this gathering storm, just who is tourism supposed to benefit? Travellers, cities, residents or the tourism industry?

Market forces

Managing the impact of tourism starts by changing the way destinations market themselves: once the tourists arrive, it’s too late. Tourism authorities need to understand that they are accountable to the city, not to the tourism industry. When the city of Barcelona commissioned the University of Surrey to look into how it might best promote sustainable development, we found a series of techniques which have been incorporated, at least in part, into the city’s 2020 Tourism Strategy.

In the simplest terms, the trick is to cajole tourists into city breaks which are far less of a burden on the urban infrastructure. In other words, normalising the consumption of sustainable tourism products and services. In Copenhagen, 70 per cent of the hotels are certified as sustainable and the municipal authority demands sustainability from its suppliers.

Higher than the sun. A primal scream from the world’s cities? Image: Josep Tomàs/Flickr/creative commons.

Destinations must also be accountable for the transport impact of their visitors. The marketing department might prefer a Japanese tourist to Barcelona because on average they will spend €40 more than a French tourist – according to unpublished data from the Barcelona Tourist Board – but the carbon footprint we collectively pay for is not taken into account.

Crucially, for the kind of city breaks we might enjoy in Barcelona, most of the carbon footprint from your holiday is from your transport. Short breaks therefore pollute more per night, and so destinations ought to be fighting tooth and nail to get you to stay longer. It seems like a win for tourists too: a few extra days in the Spanish sun, a more relaxing break, and all accompanied by the warm glow of self-satisfaction and a gold star for sustainability.


Destinations can also target customers that behave the most like locals. Japanese first-time visitors to Barcelona will crowd the Sagrada Familia cathedral, while most French tourists are repeat visitors that will spread out to lesser-known parts of the city. Reducing seasonality by emphasising activities that can be done in winter or at less crowded times, and geographically spreading tourism by improving less popular areas and communicating their particular charms can also help reduce pressure on hot spots, much like Amsterdam is doing.

Turnover is vanity, and profit margins are sanity. No city should smugly crow about the sheer volume of visitors through its gates. If tourism is here to stay, then the least cities can do is to sell products that will have the greatest benefit for society. Whether it’s Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna or Bognor, there should be a focus on locally and ethically produced products and services which residents are proud to sell. Tourist boards should work with small businesses that offer creative and original things to do and places to stay, adding breadth to the city’s offering.

The ConversationWhether Barcelona will introduce these ideas will depend on the bravery of politicians and buy-in from the powerful businesses which are happily making short-term profits at the expense of residents and the planet. It is possible to do things differently, and for everyone to benefit more. It may be that the tipping point lies in the age-old mechanics of supply and demand: bear that in mind next time you’re booking a quick city break that looks like it’s only adding to the problem.

Xavier Font is professor of marketing at the University of Surrey.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.