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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“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

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

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