This new map shows how the Elizabeth Line will look on the tube map. It's rubbish

Oh, well that's... oh. Image: TfL.

You know, it's been ages since we ran a story about London's tube map. So long, in fact, that we've begun to get letters ("Are you okay?" and so forth).

Luckily, though, as with the Hammersmith & City line, just as you're giving up hope, another one finally pulls into view. This one shows how the line we used to know as Crossrail – but will in future know, nauseatingly, as the Elizabeth line – will look on the tube map.

Well, sort of. In fact, it's so keen to show how the new line will look on the map that it seems rather less bothered about showing, well, the map. All the other lines – tube, DLR, Overground – are shown in shades of grey.

Click to expand.

What you can see, though, is that TfL is planning to show the new line in its entirety. Earlier versions had suggested that the western arm – which will terminate in Reading some 25 miles outside Greater London – might get truncated. It won’t, but fitting it all on will require an entirely un-geographical downward turn.

It's not, if we're honest, the prettiest of maps, even if you ignore the greyscale problem and imagine it in glorious technicolour. The fact that line goes through two right-angles between Whitechapel and Canary Wharf isn't great. Nor are the five kinks in the line's central section between Ealing Broadway and the East End. The whole thing feels a little tortured.

Some of the station blobs are getting misleading, too. At Liverpool Street and Farringdon this results from the fact the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line stations will connect with two existing tube stations each (the extras are Moorgate and Barbican respectively). Those could be fixed by renaming the stations, as we've suggested before.

But others are more complicated. Paddington is a messy station, where one set of tube platforms (the ones to Hammersmith) are miles from the rest – but this map makes little effort to communicate this fact. Canary Wharf, meanwhile, will effectively have three entirely separate stations, connecting to three different DLR stations between them. It doesn't bother explaining that either.

Oh, and Woolwich's new station gets a British rail symbol, which implies you'll be able to change to National Rail at Woolwich Arsenal. Except Woolwich Arsenal is already on this map and the new Woolwich station is nowhere near it. Baffling.

The Elizabeth line won't open properly for another three years yet: it's entirely possible this won't be the final map. But that's good because – as it stands – it's rubbish.

 (Kudos to UCL's Oliver O'Brien for managing to dig it out of the back of a dark corner of TfL's website at all. You can see the original here.)

Anyway – enough grumpiness. This engineer from consultancy Arup tweeted a version of the map drawn by his six year old.


I mean, it seems to have forgotten to include large chunks of the Overground, while wrongly locating the East London Line on the Isle of Dogs. But all the same: adorable.

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

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Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image:

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.