A guide to the the Victoria Line's tiled artworks

Guess the station. Image: Diamond Geezer via Flickr.

London's Victoria line, which runs in a semicircle through North, West and South London, was designed and built in 1969. Since then, trendy users flooding in from the newly gentrified Walthamstow and Brixton have made it one of the most popular (and heavily used) lines. 

For art lovers, the Victoria line has an additional draw in the form of unique artworks on its tiled station walls. When it was built, Transport for London decided to tile each station in pale blue, and commissioned well-known artists to design individual pieces to differentiate them, like this one at Blackhorse Road station:

Image: Stacey Harris at Wikimedia Commons.

In 2013, Maxwell Harrison, a London-based graphic designer, travelled down the line photographing each of the tile artworks. He then replicated them for an interactive site, which tells the story behind each one. Some of the pieces reference the station's name, while others commemorate nearby landmarks (or, in Stockwell's case, a pub).

Here are a few of our favourites:

Brixton 

Designed by Hans Unger, art nouveau painter and TfL poster designer. 

It's a tonne of bricks, geddit?

Warren Street

Designed by Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes, a graphic design partnership.

Because warrens are like mazes, of course. 

Finsbury Park

Designed by Tom Eckersley, a poster artist. 

Apparently, the park was once a popular duelling spot. Who knew?

Update 11/12: A helpful reader has pointed out that Eckersley's design was actually a mistake: he confused Finsbury Park with Finsbury Fields, where the duelling actually took place. 

You can see the rest of the designs on the project's website. For true tube design afficionados, Harrison has also produced stickers of the artworks.

Images: Maxwell Harrison. 

 
 
 
 

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

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