Here are 31 better names for City Thameslink, the worst name for a railway station ever devised

The offending station. Image: Sunil060902/Wikimedia Commons.

City Thameslink is, of course, the worst name for a railway station ever devised. It’s so bad, it actually manages to be bad in about eight different ways, to whit:

  • Including route names in station is not something we’ve ever gone in for in London, so in context looks really weird.
  • The only exception is when you’re trying to distinguish one station building from another near neighbour, in what is in effect the same station in two or more bits (e.g. West Hampstead Thameslink).
  • But there is no other station called City.
  • When there was a station called City, it was Bank.
  • Bank is nowhere near City Thameslink.
  • City Thameslink is one of, I think, 13 stations in the City of London, so it’s not a very specific or helpful name.
  • It’s also right at one edge of the City of London, so for most of the City of London it’s not the station you want
  • Even if you’re arriving on Thameslink itself, there are two other stations that serve the City (Blackfriars and, a few metres over the border into Islington, Farringdon), so you can literally be travelling to the City on Thameslink and still not want your final destination to be City Thameslink, and at that point isn’t it clear it’s a bloody stupid name?

There are probably more, but time is short and we should get on.

Anyway. The awfulness of the name wouldn’t really bother me – I mean, most metro stations are festooned with terrible names, and London is no exception (Tower Gateway my bloody arse) – except it’s our local station. It’s mere moments from CityMetric towers: I have to walk past it, and see the name mocking me, every single day

So: I’ve given rather a lot of thought to what it could be called instead. This list, compiled under the misguided impression that writing it down would make me look more not less sane, is the result.

1. Fleet – The station is basically next to the course of London’s greatest lost river, which runs under what is now Farringdon Street.

2. Fleet Valley – Ditto.

3. Fleet Street – Is nearby, and while I have serious and principled objections to name stations after streets, let alone streets they are not even situated on, it’s an iconic London area name, and a damn sight better than City Thameslink.

4. Fleet Place – Okay, that’s the name of a private office complex that happens to sit on top of the station, but still: beats the status quo.

5. Holborn Viaduct – The name of one of the old stations City Thameslink replaced, as well as one of the streets it opens out onto it.

6. Viaduct – The same, but funkier - like Temple. Or Bank!

7. Ludgate Circus – A nearby road junction. (NOTE: The first draft of this claimed it as the name of another dead station on the site, but somebody pointed out that was Ludgate Hill. Curses. Anyway, re-numbering is a lot of effort, so on with the show:)

8. Ludgate – The same, but funkier – like Embankment.

9. Ludgate Viaduct – Best of both worlds!

10. Old Bailey – Parallels the station, cool name.

11. Limeburner Lane – Next to the station, and okay, it’s another street name, but pretty, no?

12. Newgate – Another long vanished City gate, slightly to the north of Ludgate.

13. Ludgate & Newgate – Since the station has one entrance by the site of each, why not have both?

14. Ludgate-Newgate – Since the station has one entrance by the site of each, why not have both, with Parisian punctuation?

15. New/Lud – Okay, I’m reaching now.

16. Ludnew – Scratch that, it sounds like a Welsh seaside resort.

17. Snow Hill – Yet another dead station on roughly the same site, plus the name of the original tunnel, plus Birmingham’s got a Snow Hill station so why can’t we?

18. St. Brides – Okay, this is a serious suggestion: it’s the name of a lovely old church just west from the station across Ludgate Circus.

19. St. Sepulchre – Another church, this one on Newgate Street, just east of the station.

20. Greyfriars – The name of the ruins slightly beyond St Sepulchre; it’s actually closer to St. Paul’s Tube, but I’m sure that having adjacent stations called Blackfriars and Greyfriars can’t possibly go wrong.

21. City West – D.C Metro style: okay it’s ugly, but at least it’s factual.

22. Western Wall – Prettier than City west, and while I haven’t Googled the name I’m pretty sure there are no disputed places called Western Wall in any other cities, so I’m fairly confident that this name is not problematic.

By this point I was starting to struggle (look, I’d come up with 22 different alternative names so don’t you bloody judge me). So I did what people in the grip of some madness or other have often done, and asked Stephen Bush.

He initially suggested St Paul’s, which wasn’t really in the spirit of the exercise, and more to the point actually sort of was the station’s name for its first few months: when the station opened in 1990, it was briefly known as St. Paul’s Thameslink. In 1991, British Rail renamed it on the grounds it’s actually quite a long way from St. Paul’s Underground station, and that’s how we ended up in our current mess.

Anyway. From that, between us, Stephen and I came up with the following:

23. St. Paul’s Churchyard – Sort of near it.

24. St. Paul’s South – Because it is.

25. St. Paul’s West – Because it is.

26. Upper Blackfriars 

27. Lower Farringdon

28. Upper Blackfriars & Lower Farringdon – Trollolololol.

29. Court & Chancery – “It’s sort of near those things, isn’t it?”

30. Cathedral – Ditto.

31. Museum of London – “It’s nowhere near the Museum of London!” “Look, you didn’t say the names had to be helpful...”

Anyway. The point, I hope, is clear: it is almost impossible to come up with a name for the station that lies between Blackfriars and Farringdon on the Thameslink route that is actually worse than City Thameslink.

Except for Ludnew.

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

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Here are eight thoughts on TfL’s proposed cuts to London’s bus network

A number 12 bus crosses Westminster Bridge. Image: Getty.

In 2016, the urbanism blog City Observatory had a modest proposal for how American cities could sort out their transport systems: “Londonize”.

Its theory, the name of which referenced another popular urbanism blog, Copenhagenize, was that the key plank of Transport for London’s success was something that even transport nerds did not consider very sexy: its buses.

Though the Tube might get more glamorous press, London’s bus service really is impressively massive: It carries roughly 2.3bn passengers per year—much more than the Tube (1.3bn), close to the New York City subway (2.8bn), and nearly half as much as every bus service in America combined (5.1bn), while serving a population roughly 1/35 as large.

How has TfL done this? By making its bus network high frequency, reliable, relatively easy to understand and comprehensive. We rarely talk about this, because the tube map is far more fun – but the reason it’s so difficult to fall off the transport network in Greater London is because you’re never that far from a bus.

Given all that, we should probably talk about TfL’s plans to rethink – and in most cases, cut – as many as 36 different central London bus services over the next few months.

I’m not going to rehash details of the changes on which TfL is consulting from next month: there are just too many of them, and anyway it’s someone else’s scoop. The story was originally broken by Darryl Chamberlain over on 853 London; there’s also some fascinating analysis on Diamond Geezer’s blog. You should read both of those stories, though preferably not before you’ve finished reading this one.

Before offering my own analysis of the proposed changes, though, I should offer a few examples. More than a dozen routes are facing a trim: the 59 from King’s Cross back to Euston, the 113 from Oxford Circle to Marble Arch, the 171 from Holborn all the way down to Elephant & Castle and so on. A couple – the 10, the 48, the C2, and at most times the special routemaster version of the 15 – are being withdrawn altogether.

On, and one new route is planned – the 311, from Fulham Broadway to Oxford Circus. This will help plug some of the cuts to the 11, 19 and 22.

So, what does all this mean? Some thoughts:

1) This might not quite be as awful as it initially sounds

TfL says that demand for buses has fallen by around 10 per cent in London in recent years. It predicts it’ll fall further when Crossrail opens, as passengers switch to the new line, or to the tube routes relieved by the new line. So: the idea of taking some unwanted capacity out of the system is not, in itself, terrible.

Striping out unnecessary buses should also improve air quality in some of London’s worst pollution hot spots, and improve traffic flow, hopefully speeding up journeys on those buses that remain. 

A map from the presentation in which TfL explained its plans, showing the reduction in bus numbers on key arteries. Hilariously, notes Darryl Chamberlain, “It no longer produces its own maps, so has had to use one prepared by a bus enthusiast”.

The plans might even free up buses and staff to increase frequencies in outer London where demand hasn’t fallen – though these plans won’t be unveiled until next year and, for reasons I’ll come to below, I’ll believe it when we see it.

2) For many bus users, a lot of these changes will pass almost unnoticed

By my count, I use nine of the affected routes with any regularity – but only three of the changes are things that I’m likely to be at all inconvenienced by. Most of the changes either affect a part of the route I don’t take, or one where there are easy, and pain free, alternatives.

This is anecdotal, obviously – perhaps I’m just lucky. But my suspicion is that a lot of these changes will go unnoticed by most passengers. It’s only the sheer number of them happening at once that makes this look like a big deal.

3) The Hopper fare makes this easier...

Once upon a time, if you had to switch buses, you had to pay a second fare. This isn’t true of journeys on the tube or railways – and since bus passengers have, on average, less money than tube passengers, it amounted to a pretty unfair tax on poorer Londoners.

But in January, in what is probably his most notable policy achievement of his two years in office so far, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan changed the rules. Now you can take as many buses as you want within an hour, for a single fare: that means you can switch buses without paying a penalty.

That will have made it easier for TfL to cut routes back: replacing a direct bus journey with one that requires a change no longer means imposing a financial penalty on passengers.


4) ...but not that easy

That’s about where the good news stops, though – because there are reasons other than cost why people prefer direct bus routes. Needing to change buses will be difficult for anyone with any form of mobility impairment, for example. Even for those of us lucky enough not to fall into that category, it’ll be annoying: it’s just easier to stay in one seat for 40 minutes than to get turfed off and have to fight for a new one halfway through.

More than that, from the passengers’ point of view, excess capacity feels quite good a lot of the time: it means your bus may well be nice and empty. Reducing the number of buses along those key corridors will also make those that remain more crowded.

5) The motive is almost certainly financial

Another of Sadiq Khan’s big policy promises was to freeze fares. He made this promise at a time when central government is massively reducing the financial support it gives TfL (the work, Chamberlain notes, of Evening Standard editor George Osborne, back when he was chancellor). And the Hopper fare, while a great idea in many ways, means a further reduction in income.

So: TfL is scrambling for cash: this is why I remain cynical about those new outer London bus routes. I would be amazed if money wasn’t a motivation here, not least because...

6) TfL thinks no one will notice

Any attempt to reduce tube frequencies, let alone close a station, would result in uproar. Hashtag campaigners! Angry people pointing at things in local newspapers! Damning reports on the front of the Evening Standard from the bloke who made it happen!

Buses, though? Their routes change, slightly, all the time. And do you really notice whether your local route comes every 10 minutes or every 12? That’s not to mention the fact that bus passengers, as previously noted, tend to be poorer – and so, less vocal – than tube passengers.

So cuts, and the savings they bring, are much easier to sneak through. TfL probably would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling bloggers.

Although...

7) Scrapping the C2 might be a mistake

The C2 runs from Parliament Hill, through Kentish Town and Camden to Oxford Circus. In other words, it links north London, where a lot of journalists live, to the offices of the BBC and Buzzfeed.

As occasional New Statesman writer James Ball notes, this is probably not the easiest route to quietly shelve.

8) None of this is set in stone

The consultation doesn’t even begin until next month and then will run for six weeks – so all these plans may yet be forgotten. We shall see.

Anyway – here’s Darryl Chamberlain’s original scoop, and here’s some detailed analysis on Diamond Geezer. Please support your local bloggers by reading them.

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

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