This new take on London's tube and rail map is neat, clear and beautiful

Ooooh. Shiny. Image: Jug Cerović.

You know, somewhere out there in the great media blob that clings to this world like an overgrown squid, there are journalists receiving leaks from the highest levels of government. There are hacks to whom corporate whistleblowers are even now anonymously emailing proof of corporate misconduct.

Perhaps I could have been one of those guys once. Perhaps. But my life has taken a different path. Instead, I'm the guy to whom people send their new takes on the world’s metro maps.

Hi Jonn,

I have thoroughly updated my London subway map, I thought you would be interested.

I shouldn't complain, though, because this latest effort is a corker. It comes from Jug Cerović, a Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer; you may remember us singing rhapsodies about his version of tube map back in June.

In this latest version of the map, Cerović has, well, let's let him speak for himself:

I finally decided to give a go to a most dreaded prospect: mapping the whole London rail system, especially south of the Thames.


Putting together a full London rail map is a pretty big challenge for a designer – far bigger, in fact, than simply re-doing the tube map.

It's relatively easy to keep a map beautiful when the network it portrays is a simple one. The more complex a system becomes, however, the more difficult it is to keep things looking pretty. Instead of a visually pleasing spider's web, you end up with a plate of multi-coloured spaghetti. Even at the most basic level of distinguishing lines from one another, there's a danger of running out of colours.

Cerović has overcome the latter problem by using bright colours for the Tube network, and lighter, pastel ones for the National Rail network. This, he says, "gives the map a hierarchy and better legibility. You see the underground first, then the rest."

South of the river, where the network gets really messy, Cerović has gone further. Most maps of the current system show the whole of south London in one shade, and the whole of south east in another, to represent the fact each is dominated by a single train operating company.

The result is that, in place of easily traceable route maps, you get a whole quarter of the city’s rail network shown in just two colours. To make matters worse, both Southern and SouthEastern trains serve multiple bits of central London: from the map, it’s often not clear where you train will end up.

So this new map also divides them up by terminal station. The result looks like this:

There are a number of other features of the map worth nothing. It includes some of London's major parks to aid in orientation:

It uses bold type, to highlight key stations, and tiny numbers to tell you what travelcard zone you're in:

It uses multiple colours to show different DLR routes, too:

It even shows river boat services.

Inevitably, there are things we're less convinced by. The increasingly sprawling Overground network uses a single shade of pale orange, despite having about nine different routes now, which feels like the wrong decision. The choice of which ground level walking connections are shown seems a bit arbitrary, too.

And a few errors have crept in. The map shows Great Northern services from King's Cross leaving London via Highbury & Islington (they don't), and misses Drayton Park altogether.

But errors like these are perhaps inevitable on a design project of this scale – especially one covering a city with which the mapmaker isn't intimately familiar. No doubt, they’ll be corrected on a later draft.

Overall, Cerović's map is packed with information, beautiful to look at, and easier to follow than a network this complex has any right to be. Transport for London's cartographers should take note.

You can see the map in all its glory on Jug Cerović’s website.

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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.