Yet more ways TfL should change London’s tube and rail maps to make them less irritating to me, personally

A London Overground train, thinking. Image: Getty.

First, I whined about interchanges. Then, I banged on about zones. And now, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here are even more things that Transport for London should change about London’s tube and rail maps to make them marginally less irritating to me, personally.

Split the Northern line

Let’s start with lines. How many lines there are on the London Underground is a source of some contention – by which I mean that there are definitely, officially 11 and there’s not really any space to argue about that, but that I’m, nonetheless, not having any of it and last summer managed to get about half a dozen different pieces of content and a YouGov poll out of arguing that this number was wrong.

Anyway. One of the reasons that figure is obviously wrong is because of the obvious stupidity of the Northern line.

I mean, it’s just not a line, is it? Look, this is a line:

This is one line.

And this is the Northern... thing:

This is not one line. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The upside of pretending that this network of different routes is a single line is that watching tourists aiming for Borough Market wandering, baffled, round Euston is quite funny.

The downside is literally everything else.

So, the obvious solution is to split it: make the bit via Charing Cross one line and the bit via Bank another. These two lines would still share trains and be managed together on a sort of Hammersmith & City / Circle line basis – but the map would be less confusing and less in contradiction of the basic premises of geometry, and it’d mean we get an extra line for basically nothing. What’s not to love?

The case for this will get even stronger once the Battersea extension opens, and the Charing Cross route stops running to Morden. To maintain London Underground’s proud history of utterly absurdity, this route could be named the Southern line.

Though I’ll believe the Clapham Junction bit when I see it. (Also, what on earth has happened to Clapham South? No idea.) Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Then I could probably get a ranty piece out of how stupid that is.

Again: what’s not to love?

While we’re on this:

Split the District line

Though it’s less obvious, there are two different routes that make up the District line, too: one running along the south side of the Circle line through Victoria, Embankment and Tower Hill, and the other running up its west side through Kensington to Edgware Road.

It’s hard to see how this would ruin anyone’s day, exactly – departure boards on the only branch regularly served by both types of trains, the Wimbledon one, tend to be pretty clear about where their trains are ending up, and it’s much harder to miss a destination station than a “via”.

This is not one line either. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, this too presents an opportunity for London to add a tube line for literally nothing, and why would we not do that? We should definitely do that. London is a big city, the more lines the better. Call it the Wimbleware, make it a different shade of green – sorted.


Give London Overground specific line identities

Another reason I managed to keep that “how many lines are there on the tube are there” row going on for about seventeen and a half years is because of a surprisingly involved debate about whether the London Overground, DLR and so on count as tube lines. Which, to be clear, they obviously don’t.

But London Overground lines do count as London Overground lines – and there are, these days, rather a lot of them. When the network first opened, back in 2007, the Overground network consisted of three or possibly four lines (Euston-Watford, Barking-Gospel Oak, and the North and West London lines, which sort of come as a package). But then the East London line extension opened. And the network swallowed the Liverpool Street suburban lines through Hackney. And that little stub between Romford and Upminster. And at some point, if transport secretary Chris Grayling ever does the decent thing and fucks off, vast swathes of the south London rail network are likely to get thrown into the mix as well.

And so, as things stand, the London Overground serves 112 stations, which is nearly half as many as the 270 served by the London Overground – yet the official rail maps have maintained that there is one London Overground with one colour, orange.

 

This is really not one line. Image: Briantist/Sameboat/Wikimedia Commons.

This is stupid and goddammit it needs to change. Give them names! Give them numbers! Give them anything to make it clearer that you can’t get a direct train from Highbury & Islington to Wembley Central! Just, in the name of all that is holy, do something!

Acknowledge the existence of the interchange at Camden

Over the last few years, a number of previously secret connections between Underground and Overground have begun finding their way onto the maps. There are now interchanges visible in Hackney, Walthamstow, Forest Gate/Wanstead Park, Archway/Upper Holloway...

One, however, remains forbidden. Despite the fact that the two stations are separated by a walk that’ll take you about four minutes, and that walking from one to the other makes often getting from north London to east vastly easier, the maps still pretend that Camden Town and Camden Road are completely different places. Rather than, say, two stations 300m apart.

New phone, who dis? Image: Google Maps.

 

 

This is, one suspects, a traffic management thing: Camden Town gets more overcrowded than just about any station on the network outside zone one – so while CityMapper and the like may suggest you change between the two, TfL would rather not encourage you. From a network management point of view, keeping this one secret probably makes sense.

But dammit it irritates me and where’s that on TfL’s list of priorities, eh?


The station names

Holloway Road is an infuriating name for one of four (4) different stations on the Holloway Road. Ditto Caledonian Road, although this time it’s only three. Tottenham Court Road is worse, because it’s three again, but this time it’s right at one end and for most of Tottenham Court Road definitely not the station you want. 

I could bang on about this for hours – I have, more times than the mind can comfortably contain. I even once attempted to create an entire taxonomy of metro station names, though quickly felt disheartened and stopped in the hope nobody would actually notice.

So on this occasion I’m not going to do any of that. Instead, I’m going to boil my critique of London’s station-name conventions down to a single, punchy sentence.

Here it is:

City Thameslink is a bloody terrible name and for the love of good, London, change it.

Okay, I’m done.

Don’t have nightmares, now.

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

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The media scumbag’s route of choice: A personal history of London’s C2 bus

A C2 bus at Parliament Hill. Image: David Howard/Wikimedia Commons.

London’s C2 bus route, which runs from Parliament Hill, by Hampstead Heath, down to Conduit Street, just off Regent Street, is one of the bus routes recently earmarked for the chop. It has oft been noted that, of all the routes recently pencilled in for cancellation after a consultation late last year, it was the one most likely to survive, for the simple reason that it links liberal suburban north London with BBC Broadcasting House and Soho; it’s thus the route most likely to be used by people who can convince someone to let them report on its imminent demise.

So it would come as no surprise that former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger took to the Camden New Journal when the consultation began, arguing that it would be a disservice to the local community to discontinue a route where you can always get a seat – seemingly missing the point that the fact you can always get a seat is not a great sign of the route’s usefulness.

It wasn’t always that way. When I left university in 2000, and moved from accommodation near college to up to a rented shared house in N6, the C2 was my bus. I commuted to Soho for sixteen years: for more than a decade from flats around the Swain’s Lane roundabout, and for five years from Kentish Town. While my place of work bounced around from Golden Square to Lexington Street to Great Marlborough, it was always the most convenient way to get to, and from, work; especially given the difference between bus and tube prices.

So when it comes to the C2 I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and bought the bus pass. And by bus pass, I mean those little paper ones that still existed at the beginning of this century. Not just before contactless, but before Oyster cards.

More importantly, it was before London buses operated a single zone. There was an outer zone, and an inner zone, with different prices. To travel from one zone to another cost £1.30, meaning an all cash commute was £2.60, whereas a paper bus pass was £2.00. That made it worth your while to divert to an early opening newsagents on your way to the bus stop (GK, in my case), even if you only got two buses a day.

It’s a measure of how greatly London’s buses have improved over the last twenty years, since first brought under control of the mayoralty, that pretty much everything about this anecdotage, including the prices, seems faintly mad. But there’s more: back when I started getting that bus down to Stop N, literally at the very end of the route, the C2 used single decker buses with a single door. It’s an appalling design for use in a crowded city, which meant most of any journey was, for most passengers, spent fighting your way up and down the middle of the bus to find a seat, and then back again to get off; or – and this was more likely – fighting your way up the bus to get into standing space the driver insisted was there, before fighting your way, etc.

Such buses – and in my former life in the English Midlands I went to school on one of these buses every day – are perfectly functional where bus stops are infrequent and buses rarely standing room only. But running through Camden Town at rush hour, they’re wholly unfit for purpose.

A Citypacer. Image: RXUYDC/Wikimedia Commons.

It could have been worse. I didn’t know this at the time, but a few years before the C2 route had been run using Optare City Pacers. Those are, let us be frank, not really buses at all, but minibuses. That’s something the reveals the C2’s origins, as a hopper route to the west end largely intended for the daytime use of Gospel Oak’s pensioners in the years immediately before bus privatisation. (The C11 has a similar origin, taking the same constituency from Archway to England’s Lane.)

Once responsibility for London Buses was moved to the newly established mayoralty, things improved dramatically. Under Ken Livingstone it went double decker in 2005, and 24 hour in 2007. Under Boris Johnson it was extended from its once, and future, terminus of Conduit Street to Victoria Station, swallowing up the cancelled sections of the 8 bus; this extension was quietly disposed of a few years later, once it was clear no one would notice. (I did.)


In those years I must have taken a C2 the best part of ten thousand times; but for all the years when I wouldn’t have been able to live without the C2, times have reduced its utility, and not just for me. I’m now a 214 sort of guy: these days the top chunk of the C2 route is duplicated exactly by that other bus, which starts up in Highgate Village and, once it gets to Swain’s Lane, follows the same path until the fork of Kentish Town Road and Royal College Street, opposite the long defunct South Kentish Town tube station.

From a few hundred metres below that point, at Camden Gardens, stop C, the 88 starts. That duplicates the rest of the C2’s route, with the exception of the run down Albany Street and onto Great Portland, for much of which the C2 is the only bus.

So the C2, old friend that it is, is pretty redundant in the age of the hopper fare, which allows you to change buses without paying a second fare. That’s even more true now the C2’s otherwise un-serviced stops are being giving over to a re-routed 88, which will pick up the C2’s most northern leg, by not finishing at Camden Gardens anymore and instead going all the way to Parliament Hill Fields. Which will be nice for it.

All this, however, ignores the best reason for getting rid of the C2 (or rather for merging it with the 88, which is what’s actually happening): that first character. The letter. Who wants a bus route with a letter in front of it when even half the night buses don’t have the N anymore? It’s relic of the route’s aforementioned origins as a ‘Camdenhopper’.

That C is twenty five years past its own utility. It’s just untidy. City Metric hates that sort of thing. Get rid.