8 "out of station interchanges" TfL should stop keeping secret

Spot the connections. Image: TfL.

For those of us who spend large portions of our time staring at maps of London’s transport network, there are some eternal and unchanging frustrations: the fact that all the many lines of the London Overground service are the same colour; the impossibly large space between Park Royal and Alperton on the Piccadilly line; the failure of the Circle Line to actually be a circle.

Most frustrating of all is the fact that these maps are so inconsistently helpful. Vague connections you’ll never need but are nice to know about are shown – like that between North Greenwich and the Emirates Air Line’s southern terminus, or the 300m walk between Bow Road tube station and Bow Church on the DLR. Meanwhile, other,. more useful ones don’t appear at all.


Admittedly, it may not be plausible to show every possible connection on the map. But if one opens up new journeys, could feasibly be squeezed onto the map with some slightly funky formatting, and would be helpful to the network’s users, then why shouldn’t it be included?

So, in the dual public service of facilitating transport connectivity and map-nerd enjoyment, here’s a few connections TfL should add to their maps, to save us all the bother of working it out for ourselves.

Northwick Park to Kenton

Niche interest as it may be, tucked into a corner of north west London, this connection is so mind-numbingly obvious to any human with the ability to look at a map and register distance that its omission from the tube map is incredibly aggravating.

At just under 500m, the walk between the two is no longer than a bad trip in the tunnels of King’s Cross St. Pancras, and much more aesthetically satisfying, with a chance to glimpse some of the finest specimens of Metroland housing stock. The connection would stop the northern ends of the Bakerloo and Metropolitan Lines being the public transport equivalents of cul-de-sacs; it would allow Metropolitan line passengers to connect to London Overground services outside of Liverpool Street, too.

Queensway to Bayswater

Notting Hill Gate is a surprisingly inconvenient interchange between the Central, District, and Circle lines – so much so that it’s actually quicker to get out at Queensway, get in the lift, and pop over to Bayswater station. Or at least it was that one time I was late back from my lunch hour.

Either way, with only 200m of pavement between the two, it just seems silly not to at least give a passing nod to the possibility of a connection here. The current map does the connection no favours, and you’d think the transport lords on high would at least recognise the will of their subjects. You’d think.

South Tottenham to Seven Sisters

Who’d have thought that two stations on different lines and in non-adjacent positions on the network map could be so close. It’s not that Seven Sisters is that close to South Tottenham, but it is as close to Seven Sisters as Seven Sisters is to even Sisters.

There’s about 250m between the Victoria Line station on High Road and the London Overground station (also called Seven Sisters) on Seven Sisters road. There’s only about 300m between the Victoria Line station and South Tottenham London Overground station.

If that weren’t reason enough, the simple act of inserting one of TfL’s magical double black connecting lines between Seven Sisters and South Tottenham would create a beautiful interchange hub connecting the Victoria Line, the Overground line up to Cheshunt and down to Liverpool Street, and another Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking. In my dream world, they change the name of South Tottenham station to Seven Sisters, and create a beautiful underworld pantheon of mysteriously long pedestrian tunnels (did someone say King’s Cross St. Pancras?) and a new and more glorious transport dawn rises. A man’s got to dream.

Camden Town to Camden Road

I mean, come on. It’s 400 meters away. They basically have the same name.

Radical thought – it might mean that the Overground line that swallowed up the old North London line actually connects with the Northern Line in North London. Whole lot of North there, and not a lot of connecting. You do the maths.

Archway to Upper Holloway

There is, of course, the argument that Camden and all associated stations are already crowded and sweaty enough without optimistic folk trying to get from Hackney Wick to Hendon Central (a regular commute for thousands, honest). Thankfully god was clearly smiling when they built the Northern line and Overground routes through North London.  

And thus were Archway and Upper Holloway stations brought seductively close together. Just 400m separate the Northern Line’s gateway to suburban bliss and the first stop on the Gospel Oak to Barking line through North East London. Leyton Midland Road to Totteridge & Whetstone? Easy.

Swiss Cottage to South Hampstead

This would be a fiddly one to format on any future revised map, but it’s a worthy connection to make. The Overground line from Euston is rather neglected between there and the hub that is Willesden Junction.

The simple way to increase ridership, facilitate all sorts of exciting journeys, and give the line just that little bit of spice it currently lacks? Hook it up with the Jubilee Line at Swiss Cottage, and you’ve got a whole new world of possibilities from Neasden to Bermondsey.

Finchley Road to Finchley Road & Frognal

Okay, you got me. There’s a perfectly good Jubilee-Overground interchange one stop over at West Hampstead (where they’ve even thrown in a Thameslink line for good measure, the dears).

But there’s something undeniably appealling about an interchange between two stations with almost identical names save for the addition of a Frognal. If you can’t understand my need for this then there’s something missing from your life.

Leytonstone to Leytonstone High Road

It’s at this point I’m forced to come to the conclusion that TfL is a huge tease. Why name two stations so similarly, position them so flirtatiously, and then refuse to indicate the interchange possibilities available to your lowly customers? Wilful negligence aside, the only conclusion can be that TfL is the transport authority equivalent of a cheeky Nando’s.

Of course – there are others, but most of these just wouldn’t make sense even to think about formatting. Most are just useful self-help tidbits: like knowing that the DLR station at Heron Quays is as close to the Jubilee line station at Canary Wharf as the DLR station at Canary Wharf, or that Waterloo, Southwark, and Waterloo East basically all link up like a network of gently sinister smugglers’ caves.


The point here is all about making our transport networks helpful in a logical way. If you’re going to go to the effort of taking over a load of suburban railways lines, revamping the stations and coming up with a particularly putrid shade of orange to denote it, you might as well show the points at which it connects to your existing network.

Jack May tweets as @JackO_May.

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The Adam Smith Institute thinks size doesn’t matter when housing young professionals. It’s wrong

A microhome, of sorts. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Adam Smith Institute has just published ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’, a report by Vera Kichanova, which argues that eliminating minimum space requirements for flats would help to solve the London housing crisis. The creation of so-called ‘micro-housing’ would allow those young professionals who value location over size to live inside the most economically-active areas of London, the report argues argues.

But the report’s premises are often mistaken – and its solutions sketchy and questionable.

To its credit, it does currently diagnose the roots of the housing crisis: London’s growing population isn’t matched by a growing housing stock. Kichanova is self-evidently right in stating that “those who manage to find accomodation [sic] in the UK capital have to compromise significantly on their living standards”, and that planning restrictions and the misnamed Green Belt are contributing to this growing crisis.

But the problems start on page 6, when Kichanova states that “the land in central, more densely populated areas, is also used in a highly inefficient way”, justifying this reasoning through an assertion that half of Londoners live in buildings up to two floors high. In doing so, she incorrectly equates high-rise with density: Kichanova, formerly a Libertarian Party councillor in Moscow, an extraordinarily spread-out city with more than its fair share of tall buildings, should know better.

Worse, the original source for this assertion refers to London as a whole: that means it includes the low-rise areas of outer London, rather than just the very centrally located Central Activities Zone (CAZ) – the City, West End, South Bank and so forth – with which the ASI report is concerned. A leisurely bike ride from Knightsbridge to Aldgate would reveal that single or two-storey buildings are almost completely absent from those parts of London that make up the CAZ.

Kichanova also argues that a young professional would find it difficult to rent a flat in the CAZ. This is correct, as the CAZ covers extremely upmarket areas like Mayfair, Westminster, and Kensington Gardens (!), as well as slightly more affordable parts of north London, such as King’s Cross.

Yet the report leaps from that quite uncontroversial assertion to stating that living outside the CAZ means a commute of an hour or more per day. This is a strawman: it’s perfectly possible to keep your commuting time down, even living far outside of the CAZ. I live in Archway and cycle to Bloomsbury in about twenty minutes; if you lived within walking distance of Seven Sisters and worked in Victoria, you would spend much less than an hour a day on the Tube.

Kichanova supports her case by apparently misstating research by some Swiss economists, according to whom a person with an hour commute to work has to earn 40 per cent more money to be as satisfied as someone who walks. An hour commute to work means two hours travelling per day – by any measure a different ballpark, which as a London commuter would mean living virtually out in the Home Counties.

Having misidentified the issue, the ASI’s solution is to allow the construction of so-called micro-homes, which in the UK refers to homes with less than the nationally-mandated minimum 37m2 of floor space. Anticipating criticism, the report disparages “emotionally charged epithets like ‘rabbit holes’ and ‘shoeboxes,” in the very same paragraph which describes commuting as “spending two hours a day in a packed train with barely enough air to breath”.


The report suggests browsing Dezeen’s examples of designer micro-flats in order to rid oneself of the preconception that tiny flats need mean horrible rabbit hutches. It uses weasel words – “it largely depends on design whether a flat looks like a decent place to live in” – to escape the obvious criticism that, nice-looking or not, tiny flats are few people’s ideal of decent living. An essay in the New York Times by a dweller of a micro-flat describes the tyranny of the humble laundry basket, which looms much larger than life because of its relative enormity in the author’s tiny flat; the smell of onion which lingers for weeks after cooking a single dish.

Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley has described being “appalled” after viewing a much-publicised scheme by development company U+I. In Hong Kong, already accustomed to some of the smallest micro-flats in the world, living spaces are shrinking further, leading Alice Wu to plead in an opinion column last year for the Hong Kong government to “regulate flat sizes for the sake of our mental health”.

Amusingly, the Dezeen page the ASI report urges a look at includes several examples directly contradicting its own argument. One micro-flat is 35 m2, barely under minimum space standards as they stand; another is named the Shoe Box, a title described by Dezeen as “apt”. So much for eliminating emotionally-charged epithets.

The ASI report readily admits that micro-housing is suitable only for a narrow segment of Londoners; it states that micro-housing will not become a mass phenomenon. But quite how the knock-on effects of a change in planning rules allowing for smaller flats will be managed, the report never makes clear. It is perfectly foreseeable that, rather than a niche phenomenon confined to Zone 1, these glorified student halls would become common for early-career professionals, as they have in Hong Kong, even well outside the CAZ.

There will always be a market for cheap flats, and many underpaid professionals would leap at the chance to save money on their rent, even if that doesn’t actually mean living more centrally. The reasoning implicit to the report is that young professionals would be willing to pay similar rents to normal-sized flats in Zones 2-4 in order to live in a smaller flat in Zone 1.

But the danger is that developers’ response is simply to build smaller flats outside Zone 1, with rent levels which are lower per flat but higher per square metre than under existing rules. As any private renter in London knows, it’s hardly uncommon for landlords to bend the rules in order to squeeze as much profit as possible out of their renters.

The ASI should be commended for correctly diagnosing the issues facing young professionals in London, even if the solution of living in a room not much bigger than a bed is no solution. A race to the bottom is not a desirable outcome. But to its credit, I did learn something from the report: I never knew the S in ASI stood for “Slum”.