This 1960s British Rail map shows all London's mainline services – but misses out the tube

Something's missing here, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Image: British Rail, via Project Mapping.

 When I was a child, because I was really cool, it used to bother me that there was no diagrammatic map of London's mainline railways. 

There was a map of the tube network of course, but many of the stations closest to my house weren't on the tube. The incompleteness of it irritated me. Why wasn't the London underground map complemented by a British Rail one showing the rest of London's rail network?

I was an only child, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, this week I've learned that the map I always wanted actually used to exist. And, now I've seen it, it's bloody obvious why it wasn't better known. It dates from the 1960s, and here it is:

Click to expand.

The problem with the map, now I can actually see it, is it's not clear what it's actually for. It's quite useful if you want to know which order the stations on a particular line are in; it's quite useful if you want to know how to get to one of the city's many commuter suburbs that are only served by mainline trains. 

But the fact it doesn't show the tube at all – Why not? Was it pique? Was it designed by an idiot map-obsessed 11 year old boy? – renders the map largely useless. If you want to travel from one side of the map to the other, or if your journey starts or ends anyway in central London other than right next to the relevant mainline station, then this map just doesn't contain the information you need to plan your route. For the vast majority of journeys, you need the tube map, too.

Which is silly. That's presumably why this map never caught on, and we got the London Connections map, which shows everything, instead. 

Anyway, it's an interesting curio for those who are into that sort of thing, and since you're reading this, I assume that you are.  Here are some other observations:

It's titled the "Greater London Network", but it's a funny definition of Greater London, stretching from Reading to Southend and Gatwick to Bedford. It actually covers the whole of the metropolitan area – which, since metropolitan areas are basically the same as commuter belts, is no real surprise 

The map colours the lines based on which London station they terminate at, and at this time there were 13 London termini, so that's 13 colours (plus a few other styles to show peak-only services and local branch lines).

But in the olden days, printers apparently didn't have enough colours to cope with that complex a network, so five of those colours are repeats, only they're broken up with white blocks.


Colouring the map using terminals sort of works, though: you can see the shape of the network in south London far better than you can on the current version, which seems to think you care more about corporate brands than destinations. Which is obviously nonsense.

There's no Thameslink line, running north south across central London, yet: that didn't open until 1988. Back in the sixties, the line to the north terminated at St Pancras; the one to the south at Holborn Viaduct. The latter name is far better than the current title of City bloody Thameslink, though.


The South London rail network is such that lines on many routes can actually serve multiple termini. Despite this, though, the Holborn Viaduct lines serve very similar destinations as those served by Thameslink today: a loop involving Wimbledon and Sutton (though at this time continuing to Victoria), and a branch to Sevenoaks via Catford.

Oh, and while we're looking south, in this era, the Bromley North branch wasn't a local service, but continues onto the mainline towards London Bridge. 

Up in north London, the lines that are now part of the Overground all looked very different. For one thing, the Gospel Oak to Barking line doesn't make it to Gospel Oak, instead terminating at Kentish Town.

There's no Dalston-Stratford line: instead, it turns south and terminates at Broad Street, a long demolished station that used to be next to Liverpool Street. Once upon a time it was London's third biggest terminal, beaten only by Liverpool Street and Victoria; and Broad Street services served Watford and large chunks of north London. By the time of this map, though, the station was already in decline. It's since been demolished, and replaced with the Broadgate office complex where various banks live.

Meanwhile, some St Pancras line trains continued via Farringdon, following the Circle line onto Moorgate – a branch that was part of Thameslink as late as 2009.

The map also shows various other closed stations and dead branches. Lea Bridge, to the north of Stratford, has been closed for decades but will re-open soon. Outside London, there's also a branch south of High Wycombe, another from Welwyn Garden City to Dunstable, and another west from Watford (again, this one's on its way back).

There's no doubt more we haven't spotted. You can see the whole map, in all its not-quite-technicolour glory, here.


In South Africa's cities, evictions are happening despite a national ban

An aerial view shows a destroyed house in Lawley, south of Johannesburg, on April 20, 2020. The city has been demolishing informal structures on vacant land despite a moratorium on evictions. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

On the morning of 15 July, a South African High Court judge ruled that the city of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit had illegally evicted a man when it destroyed the shack where he was living.

That afternoon, the Anti-Land Invasion Unit was out again, removing shacks in another informal settlement.

Evictions were banned in South Africa for nine weeks, after the national government placed the country under a strict Covid-19 lockdown in late March. At present, eviction orders are automatically suspended until the country moves to a lower “alert level” and can only be carried out with a special order from a judge.

Yet major cities including Cape Town, Johannesburg and eThekwini (created through the merger of Durban with several surrounding communities), have continued to use municipal law enforcement agencies and private security companies to remove people from informal housing. In many cases those operations have been conducted without a court order – something required under regular South African law.

Around 900 people were evicted from three informal settlements in eThekwini during the eviction ban, according to the Church Land Programme, a local NGO. Its director, Graham Philpott, says it’s also aware of evictions in other informal settlements.

While evictions aren’t a “new experience” in these communities, the NGO released a report on lockdown evictions because they were “so explicitly illegal”. “There was a moratorium in place,” Philpott says, “and the local municipality acted quite flagrantly against it. There’s no confusion, there’s no doubt whatsoever, it is illegal. But it is part of a trend where the eThekwini municipality has acted illegally in evicting the poor from informal settlements.”

Evictions also took place in Cape Town and Johannesburg during so-called “hard lockdown” according to local activists. In eThekwini and other municipalities, the evictions have continued despite restrictions. In Cape Town, authorities pulled a naked man, Bulelani Qholani, from his shack. That incident, which was captured on video, drew condemnation from the national government and four members of the Anti-Land Invasion unit were suspended. 

The cities say they’re fighting “land invasions” – illegal occupations without permission from the land owner.

“Land invasions derail housing and service projects, lead to the pollution of waterways, severely prejudice deserving housing beneficiaries and cause property owners to lose their investments over night,” Cape Town’s executive mayor, Dan Plato said in a statement. (Plato has also claimed that Qholani did not live in the shack he was pulled from and that he disrobed when municipal authorities arrived.)

South African municipalities often claim that the shacks they destroy are unoccupied. 

If they were occupied, says Msawakhe Mayisela, a spokesman for the eThekwini municipality, the city would get a court order before conducting an eviction. “Everything we’re doing is within the ambit of the law,” Mayisela says. But “rogue elements” are taking advantage of Covid-19, he added.

“We fully understand that people are desperately in need of land, but the number of people that are flocking to the cities is too much, the city won’t be able to provide housing or accommodation for everyone overnight,” he says. 

While eThekwini claims to be a caring city, local activists say the evictions show otherwise.

In one case, 29 women were evicted from shacks during the hard lockdown. With nowhere to go, they slept in an open field and were arrested by the South African Police Service for violating the lockdown, Philpott says.

“These evictions are dehumanizing people whose dignity is already compromised in many ways,” says S’bu Zikode, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a community organization whose Zulu name translates to “the people of the shacks”. 

“It has reminded us that we are the people that do not count in our society.”

Municipal law enforcement and private security contractors hired by cities regularly fire rubber bullets, or even live ammunition, at residents during evictions. Some 18 Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed since the organization was founded in 2005, Zikode says, most by the eThekwini Land Invasion Unit and Metro Police.

(Mayisela says that if city employees have broken the law, Abahlali baseMjondolo can file a complaint with the police. “There is no conclusive evidence to the effect that our members have killed them,”  he says.)

Other Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed by what Zikode calls “izinkabi,” hitmen hired by politicians. Two eThekwini city councillors were sentenced to life in prison 2016 after they organized the killing of Thuli Ndlovu, an Abahlali baseMjondolo organizer. A member of the Land Invasion Unit who is currently facing a charge of attempted murder after severely injuring a person during an eviction remains on the job, Zikode says.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution is intended to protect the public from arbitrary state violence and guarantees a right to housing, as well as due process in evictions. But for Zikode, the South African constitution is a “beautiful document on a shelf”.

“For the working class and the poor, it’s still difficult to have access to court. You’ve got to have money to get to court,” he says. 

The actions by municipal law enforcement are breaking down social trust, says Buhle Booi, a member of the Khayelitsha Community Action Network, a community group in the largest township in Cape Town.

“There’s a lack of police resources and those very few police resources that they have, they use to destroy people’s homes, to destroy people’s peace, rather than fighting crime, real criminal elements that we see in our society,” Booi says.

For him, it’s a continuation of the practices of the colonial and apartheid governments, pushing poor people, most of whom are Black, to the periphery of cities.

Around one-fifth of South Africa’s urban population live in shacks or informal dwellings, according to a 2018 report by SERI. Many more live in substandard housing. City governments maintain that the shacks destroyed during anti-land invasion operations are unfinished and unoccupied. But Edward Molopi, a research and advocacy officer at SERI, says that this claim is an attempt to escape their legal obligations to get a court order and to find alternative accommodation for affected people. 

The roots of the current eviction crisis go back to apartheid, which barred non-white people from living in cities. Between the 1940s and 1970s, tens of thousands of people were forcibly relocated from neighbourhoods like Johannesburg’s Sophiatown and Cape Town’s District Six to remote townships.

In the 26 years following the end of apartheid, deepening economic inequality and rampant unemployment have limited access to formal housing for millions of South Africans. Government housing programs have mostly focused on building small stand-alone homes, often on the peripheries of cities far from jobs and amenities.

While these well-intentioned projects have built millions of homes, they’ve failed to keep up with demand, says Marie Huchzermeyer, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Government-funded housing projects “will never on it’s own be enough,” she says. “It has to be accompanied by land release.”

Government policies call for the “upgrading” of informal settlements and the formalization of residents’ occupation. But “there are still very, very, very few projects” of that nature in South Africa, Huchzermeyer says. “Even if it’s an informal settlement that’s been around for 20 years, there still seems to be a political wish to punish people for having done that.” The government wants people to go through the formal process of being given a house, she says – and for them to be thankful to the government for providing it.

At the municipal level, change will require “real leadership around informal settlement upgrading and around ensuring that land is available for people to occupy,” she says. 

Despite the end of enforced racial segregation, spacial apartheid remains a factor in South Africa. There are few mixed-income neighbourhoods. Those who can afford to often live behind walls in sprawling low-density suburbs, while the poor live in overcrowded slums and apartment buildings.

The creation of the apartheid city “didn't happen by chance,” says Amira Osman, a professor of architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology. “It was a deliberate, structured approach to the design of the city. We need a deliberate, structured approach that will undo that.”

Since last fall, Johannesburg’s Inclusionary Housing Policy has required developments of 20 or more units to set aside 30% of those units for low-income housing.

The policy, which faced significant opposition from private developers, won’t lead to dramatic change, says Sarah Charlton, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies, but it is “an important and significant step.”

Zikode isn’t optimistic that change will come for shack dwellers, however.

“People in the high positions of authority pretend that everything is normal,” he says. “They pretend that everyone is treated justly, they pretend that everyone has homes with running water, that everyone has a piece of land – and hide the truth and the lies of our democracy.”

Jacob Serebrin is a freelance journalist currently based in Johannesburg. Follow him on Twitter.