TfL produce a geographically accurate tube and rail map, but don't tell anyone about it

The magnified central London section of the secret London Connections map. Image: TfL.

Amazing the things you can find out using a Freedom of Information Request. James Burbage, a hero of whom we know sadly little, submitted one to Transport for London (TfL) in August 2014, asking:

Please supply a geographically accurate map of all the stations,platforms, lines and tracks that form the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and National Rail services where applicable, which is updated as of August/September 2014.

Well that sounds great, but wouldn't that be da-

Omit information which could pose a concern for health and safety.

Ah. Good man.


This sounds like a big ask: I mean, a busy transport authority like TfL is hardly going to draw a whole new map, just to satisfy an FOI request, is it?

But as it turns out – I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Burbage had some inside sources on this one – such a map already exists. TfL just don't talk about it very often.

It's the geographically accurate London Connections map. It shows all London's railways, including a few that haven't been built yet:

 

It shows Croydon’s tram routes:

 

It shows main roads, and major parks:

 

It shows where the built up area stops, and where motorways begin:

 

(That white bit on the A12, regular readers will be delighted to learn, is that bloody potato farm I never stop banging on about.)

The map gives equal prominence to TfL lines and those run by private national rail operators (although these are differentiated through the thin black bands around them). But it emphasises TfL's own stations by showing them in its official Johnston font, heavier and more striking than the narrow one used for national rail stations.

The map is really rather good if you're interested in abandoning the geometric purity of the stylised tube maps, and seeing where you train really goes. You can suddenly see quite how closely packed stations in the centre of town are, compared to those in the suburbs. These two extracts – one showing the City of London and its surroundings, the other the Essex-flavoured suburbs of Romford and Hornchurch – are to the same scale:

 

It's interesting, too, to see where the urban area stops. Look at all that white space around the edges:

 

But there's a slightly unfinished air to the whole thing. The map hasn't been updated since May 2014, meaning that the spate of rail lines TfL took over last May are still shown belonging to other operators (although dotted lines tell you the new services are on their way).


There’s a jarring change in the size of the fonts used in central London, although that part of the map is magnified in the bottom left hand corner. And at least one station is in the wrong place (Emerson Park, since you ask). On the whole, you can sort of tell this was never really intended for publication.

But it is nonetheless quite lovely, if you're into that sort of thing, which obviously we are. You can see the whole thing, and explore it at your leisure, here.

If you're the sort of person who likes Tube Maps, you can find a whole host of them here.

Or if you want more of this stuff you could just, y'know, like us on Facebook.

 

UPDATE, 17 September, 11am: 

This map seems to have gone down rather well – so well, in fact that this morning we received a statement from TfL telling us that it's decided to publish the thing on its own website as an official, non-secret map.

Here's the full statement:

Gareth Powell, director of strategy & service development at London Underground, said: “We create a wide variety of maps for our customers for planning and other uses. An extensive range of these, including walking maps and interactive maps, are available on our website and are used by millions of people every day. The most popular is the classic Tube map, which people are familiar with using to navigate London.

“This map was produced for engineering works planning and wasn't designed for customer use, however we are happy to make any maps available which help our customers to travel in London. This map will therefore be added to our website.”

(Hat tip: The excellent Mapping London blog.)

 
 
 
 

London Overground is experimenting with telling passengers which bits of the next train is busiest

There must be a better way than this: Tokyo during a 1972 rail strike. Image: Getty.

One of the most fun things to do, for those who enjoy claustrophobia and other people’s body odour, is to attempt to use a mass transit system at rush hour.

Travelling on the Central line at 6pm, for example, gives you all sorts of exciting opportunities to share a single square inch of floor space with a fellow passenger, all the while becoming intimately familiar with any personal hygiene problems they may happen to have. On some, particularly lovely days you might find you don’t even get to do this for ages, but first have to spend some exciting time enjoying it as a spectator sport, before actually being able to pack yourself into one unoccupied cranny of a train.

But fear not! Transport for London has come up with a plan: telling passengers which bits of the train have the most space on them.

Here’s the science part. Many trains include automatic train weighing systems, which do exactly what the name suggests: monitoring the downward force on any individual wheel axis in real time. The data thus gathered is used mostly to optimise the braking.

But it also serves as a good proxy for how crowded a particular carriage is. All TfL are doing here is translating that into real time information visible to passengers. It’s using the standard, traffic light colour system: green means go, yellow means “hmm, maybe not”, red means “oh dear god, no, no, no”. 

All this will, hopefully, encourage some to move down the platform to where the train is less crowded, spreading the load and reducing the number of passengers who find themselves becoming overly familiar with a total stranger’s armpit.

The system is not unique, even in London: trains on the Thameslink route, a heavy-rail line which runs north/south across town (past CityMetric towers!) has a similar system visible to passengers on board. And so far it’s only a trial, at a single station, Shoreditch High Street.

But you can, if you’re so minded, watch the information update every few seconds or so here.

Can’t see why you would, but I can’t see why I would either, and that hasn’t stopped me spending much of the day watching it, so, knock yourselves out.

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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