Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has unveiled the region’s new “tube map”

Andy Andy Andy, oi oi oi. Image: Getty.

Well, this is exciting. Here’s the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, promising that the true capital of England should get its own tube map:

He’s referring to the imaginatively named “Our Network” programme, a 10-year plan to “deliver an integrated, accessible and affordable public transport system, which” – this bit is fluffy but inevitable – puts passengers first”.

He is, you will be amazed to learn, over-selling the “tube map” point. For one thing, the video that shows the new map in its various forms is “indicative and purely for illustrative purposes”, so it’s not clear how seriously we can take it. For another, drawing lines on maps is a lot easier than turning maps into reality.

But nonetheless, we love a map round here, so let’s take a closer look. Transport for Greater Manchester has re-imagined the conurbation as a series of concentric circles, with Manchester city centre at its heart and the various other boroughs (Stockport, Bolton and so on) on some of the outer rings. The larger blobs represent more important centres; the colours represent the transport modes on offer at each.

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Here’s how Metrolink looks on that map:

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And here’s a version with some exciting new extensions on it, as dotted lines:

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Port Salford! A quicker route to Manchester Airport! Middleton, a place which spawned one of the former hosts of our podcast! How terribly exciting.

And now here are the buses:

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That’s a lot more extensive, but also, since it’s buses, it’s not clear how excited we should be. Buses aren’t really something you’d show on a “tube map”, are they? Which you can tell from the fact that they’re, well, buses.

But! The Greater Manchester combined Authority has just agreed it should move ahead with a London-style bus franchising system, which would make it the first major city outside the capital to actually plan its bus network, rather than just allowing the market to let rip, in more than 30 years. And I don’t know much about the region’s existing bus network – but Jen Williams of the Manchester Evening News tweeted yesterday that the new map showed a “cledar aspiration... to improve orbital and east-west links”. So, all this sounds like it might be rather a good thing.

The next slide is cycling and walking which is just a sort of background honeycomb arrangement which tells us nothing, so moving on we come to rail...

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...and then “tram-trains”: basically extending the Metrolink by using existing rail routes to places like Stockport, Glossop, even Warrington.

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The “tube map” label is over-selling things a little – it says more about the strength of the tube map’s own brand than Greater Manchester’s future transport network, I feel. Nonetheless, this is a fairly ambitious programme, and a sign that maybe, just maybe, the mayoral model of devolution is a pretty good idea.

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

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17 things the proposed “Tulip” skyscraper that London mayor Sadiq Khan just scrapped definitely resembled

Artist's impression. See if you can guess which one The Tulip is. Image: Foster + Partners.

Sadiq Khan has scrapped plans to build a massive glass thing in the City of London, on the grounds it would knacker London’s skyline. The “Tulip” would have been a narrow, 300m skyscraper, designed by Norman Foster’s Foster & Partners, with a viewing platform at the top. Following the mayor’s intervention, it now won’t be anything of the sort.

This may be no bad thing. For one thing, a lot of very important and clever people have been noisily unconvinced by the design. Take this statement from Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, from earlier this year: “This building, a lift shaft with a bulge on top, would damage the very thing its developers claim they will deliver – tourism and views of London’s extraordinary heritage.”

More to the point, the design was just bloody silly. Here are some other things that, if it had been built, the Tulip would definitely have looked like.

1. A matchstick.

2. A drumstick.

3. A cotton ear bud.

4. A mystical staff, of the sort that might be wielded by Gandalf the Grey.

5. A giant spring onion.

6. A can of deodorant, from one of the brands whose cans are seemingly deliberately designed in such a way so as to remind male shoppers of the fact that they have a penis.

7. A device for unblocking a drain.

8. One of those lights that’s meant to resemble a candle.

9. A swab stick, of the sort sometimes used at sexual health clinics, in close proximity to somebody’s penis.

10.  A nearly finished lollipop.

11. Something a child would make from a pipe cleaner in art class, which you then have to pretend to be impressed by and keep on show for the next six months.

12. An arcology, of the sort seen in classic video game SimCity 2000.

13. Something you would order online and then pray will arrive in unmarked packaging.

14. The part of the male anatomy that the thing you are ordering online is meant to be a more impressive replica of.

15. A building that appears on the London skyline in the Star Trek franchise, in an attempt to communicate that we are looking at the FUTURE.


14a. Sorry, the one before last was a bit vague. What I actually meant was: a penis.

16. A long thin tube with a confusing bulbous bit on the end.

17. A stamen. Which, for avoidance of doubt, is a plant’s penis.

One thing it definitely does not resemble:

A sodding tulip.

Anyway, it’s bad, and it’s good the mayor has blocked it.

That’s it, that’s the take.

(Thanks to Anoosh Chakelian, Jasper Jackson, Patrick Maguire for helping me get to 17.)

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

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.