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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In many ways, smart cities are really very dumb

Rio de Janeiro’s control centre. Image: Getty.

It’s not news that anything and everything is increasingly being prefaced with “smart”: phones, watches, homes, fridges, and even water (yes, smartwater exists). And it’s not unintentional either. 

Marketeers know that we, the public, are often stupid enough to believe that thanks to their technology, life is better now than it was way back in, say, the primitive Nineties. Imagine having to, like a Neanderthal, remember how to spell words without an autocorrecting algorithm, or open the fridge door to check if you’d run out of milk, or, worse still, interact with actual people.

So it’s hardly surprising that we’re now also witnessing the rise of the so-called “smart cities”; a concept which presupposes that cities that are not technologically  “smart” are dumb, which, as anyone interested in the millennia-old history of cities — from the crypto-currency grain storage algorythms of ancient Mesopotamia to the complex waste infrastructure of ancient Rome, to London’s public transport infrastructure — will know, is not true.

Deployed in these smart cities are cameras and other networked information-gathering devices, load cells and other “sensing devices” detecting passing pedestrians and vehicles, audio surveillance devices listening for gunshots – and even vending machines equipped with biometric sensors to recognise your face. This is not to mention beacon technology — tiny anonymous looking black boxes hidden in trees and on lampposts — which transmits advertising, offers and other information directly to smart phones in the vicinity. 

If that doesn’t seem sinister enough, take, for example, Rio de Janeiro, where, in 2014, the International Business Machines Corporation designed a mammoth “control centre” that integrates data from 30 agencies for the city’s police. 

Described by the Guardian as having “the functionality of a Bond villian’s techno lair”, the then local mayor, Eduardo Paes, claimed the centre was making the city safer while using technology to deploy its “special” police unit to carry out the state’s “pacification programme”. Launched in 2008, the programme, which aims to push out drug gangs from Rio’s favelas, has been criticised by Amnesty International: “in January and February 2017 in Rio de Janeiro alone, at least 182 people were killed during police operations in marginalized neighbourhoods (favelas) – a 78 per cent increase in comparison to the same period in 2016”.

Sinister or not, as smart cities grow, they create new problems. For example, as urbanist Adam Greenfield writes in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, neither the algorithms nor their designers are subject to the ordinary processes of democratic accountability – a problem that international academics are currently attempting to tackle.  


“We need to understand that the authorship of an algorithm intended to guide the distribution of civic resources is itself an inherently political act,” writes Greenfield. “The architects of the smart city have utterly failed to reckon with the reality of power.”

The Real Smart Cities project, founded by Dr Gerald Moore, Dr Noel Fitzpatrick and Professor Bernard Stiegler, is investigating the ways in which so-called “smart city” technologies present a threat to democracy and citizenship, and how digital tools might be used create new forms of community participation.

Fitzpatrick is critical of current discourses around smart cities, which he says “tend to be technical fixes, where technology is presented as a means to solve the problems of the city.” The philosophy underpinning the project is “that technologies function as forms of pharmacology”, he adds, meaning that they can be both positive and negative. “The addictive negative effects are being felt at an individual and collective level.” 

An example of this lies in the way that many of these smart cities replace human workers with disembodied voices — “Alexa we need more toilet roll” — like those used to control the Amazon Echo listening device — the high priestess of smart home. These disembodied voices travel at the speed of light to cavernous, so-called “fulfilment centres”, where an invisible workforce are called into action by our buy-it-now, one-click impulse commands; moving robotically down seemingly endless aisles of algorithmically organised products arranged according to purchase preferences the like of which we never knew we had — someone who buys a crime novel might be more likely to go on and buy cat food, a wireless router, a teapot and a screwdriver. 

Oh to be the archeologists of the future who while digging through mounds of silicon dust happen upon these vast repositories of disembodies voices. That the digital is inherently material and the binary of virtual/real does not hold — there is no cyberspace, just space. Space that is being increasingly populated by technologies that want to watch you, listen to you, get to know you and sense your presence.

One project looking to solve some of the problems of smart cities is that of the development of a “clinic of contribution” within Pleine Commune in greater Paris (an area where one in three live in poverty).This attempts to deal with issues of communication between parents and children where the widespread use of smartphones as parental devices from infancy is having effects on the attention of young children and on the communicative abilities between parents and children. 

This in turn forms part of a wider project in the area that Stiegler describes as “installing a true urban intelligence”, which moves beyond what he sees as the bankrupt idea of smart cities. The aim is to create a “contributory income” in the area that responds to the loss of salaried jobs due to automation and the growth and spread of digitisation. 

The idea being that an income could be paid to residents, on the condition that they perform a service to society. This, if you are unemployed, living in poverty and urban deprivation, sounds like quite a simple and smart idea to try and solve some of the dumb effcts of the digital technology that's implemented in cities under the ideology of being “smart”.