How we ended up exploring a church through the windscreen of an X-Wing

Moseying up to Big Ben in the Millennium Falcon. Image: Star Wars Maps.

As you might have heard, there’s a new Star Wars film on. Apparently, in some quarters at least, it’s kind of a big deal.

So to celebrate the occasion, some unknown fan has coded a fun add-on to Google Maps, in which you can drive famed Star Wars vehicles around on Google Street View

The map is accessible here, and in practice is a little tricky to use: you can only navigate the world by scrolling up and down to zoom in and out, then dragging the little orange man to the relevant site. It also only works across the US and Europe.

On the plus side, though, you can choose between the Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader's Tie Fighter and X-Wing...

... and pootle around to your heart's content, imagining the terrified faces of passerby as you go. 

We enjoyed dropping an X-Wing on random bits of the UK and ending up in slightly inexplicable situations like this one:

A church somewhere in the southeast, which didn't know what hit it.

Then we attacked the Gherkin because it made a nice pattern on the windscreen: 

And here we are driving the Millenium Falcon through Times Square:

What a time to be alive.

All images: Star Wars Maps.


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.