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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All images courtesy of TfL and Google.

 
 
 
 

Leeds is still haunted by its pledge to be the “Motorway City of the Seventies”

Oh, Leeds. Image: mtaylor848/Wikimedia Commons.

As the local tourist board will no doubt tell you, Leeds has much to be proud of: grandiose industrial architecture in the form of faux-Egyptian temples and Italian bell-towers; an enduring cultural legacy as the birthplace of Goth, and… motorways. But stand above the A58(M) – the first “urban motorway”  in the country – and you might struggle to pinpoint its tourist appeal.

Back in the 1970s, though, the city council was sufficiently gripped by the majesty of the motorways to make them a part of its branding. Letters sent from Leeds were stamped with a postmark proudly proclaiming the city's modernity: “Leeds, Motorway City of the Seventies”.

Image: public domain.

During the 1960s, post-war optimism and an appetite for grand civic projects saw the rapid construction of motorways across England. The construction of the M1 began in 1959; it reached Leeds, its final destination, in 1968. By the early 1970s the M62 was sweeping across Pennines, and the M621 loop was constructed to link it to Leeds city centre.

Not content with being the meeting point of two major motorways, Leeds was also the first UK city to construct a motorway through the city centre: the inner ring road, which incorporates the short motorway stretches of the A58(M) and the A64(M). As the council put it in 1971, “Leeds is surging forward into the Seventies”.

The driving force behind Leeds' love of motorways was a mix of civic pride and utopian city planning. Like many industrial cities in the North and Midlands, Leeds experienced a decline in traditional manufacturing during the 1960s. Its position at the centre of two major motorways seemed to offer a brighter future as a dynamic city open for trade, with the infrastructure to match. In response to the expansion of the roads, 1970s council planners also constructed an elevated pedestrian “skywalk” in an attempt to free up space for cars at ground level. Photos of Leeds from that time show a thin, white walkway running through blocky office buildings – perhaps not quite as extensive as the futuristic urban landscape originally envisaged by planners, but certainly a visual break with the past.

Fast forward to 2019 and Leeds’ efforts to become a “Motorway City” seems like a kitsch curiosity from a decade that was not always known for sustainable planning decisions. Leeds’s historic deference to the car has serious consequences in the present: in February 2019, Neville Street – a busy tunnel that cuts under Leeds station – was found to contain the highest levels of NO2 outside London.

City centre planners did at least have the foresight to sink stretches of the inner motorways below street level, leaving pedestrian routes largely undisturbed. Just outside the centre, though, the roads can be more disruptive. Sheepscar Interchange is a bewildering tangle of arterial roads, Armley Gyratory strikes fear into the hearts of learner drivers, and the M621 carves unsympathetically through inner-city areas of South Leeds with pedestrian access restricted to narrow bridges that heighten the sense of a fragmented landscape.

 

Leeds inner ring road in its cutting. Image: author provided.

 

The greatest problem for Yorkshire's “Motorway City” in 2019, however, is not the occasional intimidating junction, but the complete lack of an alternative to car travel. The dire state of public transport in Leeds has already been raised on these pages. In the early 20th century Leeds had one of the most extensive tram networks in the country. The last lines closed in 1959, the same year construction began on the A58m.


The short-sightedness of this decision was already recognised in the 1970s, as traffic began to build. Yet plans for a Leeds Supertram were rejected by successive Conservative and Labour governments unwilling to front the cost, even though smaller cities such as Newcastle and Sheffield were granted funding for light transport systems. Today, Leeds is the largest city in the EU without a mass transit system. As well as creating congestion, the lack of viable public transport options prevents connectivity: the city's bus network is reasonable, but weaker from East to West than North to South. As a non-driver, I've turned down jobs a short drive away that would be a logistical impossibility without a car.

Leeds' early enthusiasm for the motorway was perhaps premature, but there are things we can learn from the 1970s. Whatever else can be said about it, Leeds' city transport strategy was certainly bold – a quality in short supply today, after proposals for the supertram were watered down to a trolleybus system before being scrapped altogether in 2016. Leeds' rapid transformation in the 1960s and 70s, its grandiose visions of skywalks and dual carriageways, were driven by strong local political will. Today, the long-term transport strategy documents on Leeds City Council's website say more about HS2 than the need for a mass transit system within Leeds itself, and the council has been accused of giving up the fight for light rail and trams.

Whilst central government's refusal to grant funds is the greatest obstacle to Leeds' development, the local authority needs to be far more vocal in demanding the transport system the city deserves. Leeds' desire to be the Motorway City of the Seventies might look ludicrous today, but the political drive and utopian optimism that underpinned it does not.