Someone redesigned the Manchester Metrolink map and made it much, much better

Look, a pink line tram. Image: Getty.

The Manchester Metrolink map is rubbish. It shows an indeterminate number of tram routes, every one of them in grey; and while it shows you where each starts, and where it ends, it's strangely silent on where they go in between.

Oh, and to make matters worse, the letters which represent the routes on the map don't appear on any of the actual trams. None of this is a network-killing flaw, providing you're trying to get from the suburbs to the city or back again; but in the event you're trying to get from, say, Manchester Airport to Oldham, it's a right pain in the bum.

The official map. Click to expand if you want to suffer. Image: Transport for Greater Manchester.

A few months back I wrote a piece, noting all this and suggesting an alternative: why not colour-code the different lines by the route they took through the city centre?

I was quite lazy about this, though, so this is as far as I got:

Hey, I was busy. Image: CityMetric.

Luckily, however, there are those with rather more commitment and better graphic design skills than me. Andrew Smithers from the excellent Project Mapping has taken my suggestion and run with it, breaking the various routes into five different groups. Here's the result:

Oooooh. Click to expand. Image: Project Mapping.

And here's the strip map version, for inside carriages:

Nice. Click to expand. Image: Project Mapping.

There are disadvantages to this approach – it’s less flexible if the authorities decide they want to unexpectedly divert a tram, say.

But in most situations this, to my mind, is much clearer. Say you do want to get from Manchester Airport to Oldham. Now you can see that one is on the light blue line, the other on the dark blue one, and so you need to change somewhere between St Werburgh's Road and Deansgate-Castlefield. Easy.

The next stop, of course, would be line names. I can think of three – the Airport line for the light blue, the Exchange line for the dark blue and (proud of this one, lads) the Picctoria line for the red one.


But I'm stumped on the other two. Perhaps they'd be better off sticking with colours, letters or numbers – if you have any suggestions, though, do feel free to make them on social media.

That’s three stories about Manchester in two days, you know. Someone will be along in a minute to point out that not everyone lives in Manchester, I’m sure.

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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The Delhi Metro: How do you build a transport system for 26m people?

Indraprastha station in 2006. Image: Getty.

“Thou hath not played rugby until thou hath tried to get onto a Delhi Metro in rush hour,” a wise Yogi once said.

If you’ve never been on New Delhi’s Metro, your mind might conjure up the the conventional image of Indian trains: tawdry carriages, buckets of sweat, people hanging out of windows and the odd holy cow wandering around for good measure.

Well, no. The Delhi Metro is actually one of the most marvellously sophisticated, affordable, timely, and practical public transportation systems out there. On a 45C day in the Indian summer, many a traveller has shed tears of joy on entering the spacious, air-conditioned carriages.

Above ground, Delhi is a sprawling metropolis of the scariest kind: 26m people, three times the population of London, churn and grind through Delhi itself.

The National Capital Region, an area which includes Delhi and its surrounding satellite cities – now victim of its never-ending urban sprawl – has an estimated population of almost 50m. So how do you tie such a huge population together?

The map; click to expand. Image: Delhi Metro Rail.

Motorised vehicles won’t do it alone. For one, air pollution is a horrific problem in Delhi, as it is across India. Last November, the government declared a state of emergency when the Indian capital was engulfed by a toxic, choking fog so thick that you could barely see several metres in front of you, drawing allusions to the great Victorian fogs in London.

Then there’s Delhi’s famous traffic. Twenty-five years ago, the travel writer William Dalrymple observed that you could reduce the Delhi’s road laws to one simple idea: the largest vehicle always had the right of way. The traffic has tamed somewhat in the 21st century, but the number of vehicles has multiplied again and again, and it’s not uncommon for people to be stuck in four-hour traffic jams when they try to traverse the mighty city.

Enter the Delhi Metro – a huge network of 164 over- and underground stations – and by any account, a titan of civil engineering and administration.

The numbers are simply colossal. Every day the metro serves on average almost 3m people. Annually, it carries around 1bn.

In a country where intercity trains still turn up a day late, the Delhi Metro is extraordinarily timely. On the major lines, trains will come every several minutes. The trains are extraordinary speedy, and you’ll reach your destination in a fraction of the time it would take for you to drive the distance.

The minimum fare is 10 rupees (12p); the maximum fare, to and from the airport, is 50 (60p).

The evolution of the metro. Image: Terramorphus/Wikimedia Commons.

Construction of the metro system began in 1998, with the first section completed in late 2002. Keen to avoid the catastrophic corruption and bureaucratic mismanagement which plagued eastern city of the Kolkata Metro, developers took advice from Hong Kong’s high-tech system There have been several stages of development to add extra lines; more is planned. By 2020, it is hoped that the 135 miles of line will have increased to over 300.  

One thing quite striking about the metro is its women’s only carriages at the rear and the front of the train, marked by pink signs. Sexual assault and harassment has been a horrific problem on Delhi’s transport systems. Women can of course go anywhere on the train – but men who violate the carriage system will have to deal with the scathing anger of the entire pink carriage.


One of the under-discussed impacts of widespread and well-used public transportation systems is their propensity to break down social and class barriers over time. As the London Tube began to be used more and more in early 20th century London, people from completely different walks of life and classes began to brush shoulders and share the same air.

The story is similar in Delhi. The necessity of the metro helps to break down old caste and class divisions. Of course, many elite Delhiites would not be seen dead on the metro, and choose their private chauffeur over brushing shoulders with the common man. But slowly and surely, the times are a changing.

What’s more, the Delhi Metro system is one of the greenest around. Six years ago, the Metro was the first railway system in the world to be awarded carbon credits from the United Nations for helping to reduce pollution in the capital by an estimated 640,000 tonnes every year.  

All praises sung and said, however, at peak times it’s less mind the gap and more mind your ribs – as a fifth of humanity seems to try to get on and off the train at once.

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