Here are six things we learned by making a list of every station in London that crosses a borough boundary

This station crosses a boundary, but by less than you think. Image: Getty.

Confession time: Some of the original version of this post was wrong. What follows is the corrected version, with the number of boundary-crossing stations bumped from 20 to 24, and so forth.

It’s the ultimate crossover of CityMetric’s favourites: transit systems, local government, and cartography. Here are six facts we learned by using OpenStreetMap data to find which stations within Greater London cross borough boundaries.

For simplicity, I’m treating the City of London as a borough, and treating stations as the entire building, including platforms (obviously), ticket offices, entrances and exits to the buildings themselves, and the underground passageways. Complaints are invited and encouraged.

1. 24 stations overlap a boundary

 

 

For now. Once the Crossrail upgrade to Farringdon is complete, there will be 25, with its platforms stretching over 200 metres east from Islington through to the City of London at the eastern interchange on Long Lane. Suggestions that Barbican will be the 26th overlapping station are at best contentious.

Image: Open Street Map.

Sadly, there are no stations that overlap three boroughs. Willesden Junction, between Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham, comes close to Ealing but doesn’t quite make it. If only it still had its main-line platforms.


2. Three stations are in one borough, but two cities and two counties

Alright, I’m cheating here and I’m talking about the City of London (not, technically, a borough, but technically its own city and county).

Farringdon will be one. Chancery Lane also sneaks in, sitting on the boundary between Camden and the City. That boundary, set in 1994, runs midway down (High) Holborn and with entrances on each side, Chancery Lane’s in.

Lastly, the finest of any of the crossing stations, Blackfriars. Not only does it span two cities, but also a whole river. Entrances on both sides, platforms with a great view, and a problematic train service. Ah, Thameslink.

3. The City of London extends south of the river

The boundary between most boroughs over the Thames lies straight in the middle. Blackfriars Bridge, however, is owned by a trust of the City of London Corporation, the Bridge House Estates. This ownership is apparently enough reason that the City of London’s boundaries can extend to the south bank of the Thames, dragon statues and all.

Image: Open Street Map.

London Bridge, also owned by the Estates, is a bit trickier – it has the dragons, but the Ordnance Survey map shows the midway boundary. So, who knows?

4. Four stations have their platforms cleanly split between two boroughs

Most of the stations on the list have an entrance, or a part of a platform, that pops over a boundary. But at New Southgate, platforms 1 and 2 are in Enfield, while 3 and 4 are in Barnet. Kennington's underground platforms are dissected between Lambeth and Southwark. 

At Kensington Olympia, the southbound London Overground platform is in Kensington & Chelsea, while the Overground’s northbound platform and District line bay platform are in Hammersmith & Fulham. The overlap meant that residents from both boroughs successfully protested when TfL planned to put in a gateline that would have included the bridge between the platforms, preventing locals from crossing over without tapping in and paying a fare. The residents argued the bridge was a right-of-way; TfL relented and moved the gateline to allow the bridge to continue to be used.

5. Boundary commissioners like railway lines

Just down from Kensington Olympia is the finest example of split platforms. West Brompton’s District line platforms are in Kensington & Chelsea, and its Overground platforms in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Image: Open Street Map.

In 1940, passenger services on the West London Line (WLL) between Willesden and Clapham Junctions were shut down, and the platforms demolished. Following the MotoRail interregnum, the WLL returned to West Brompton in 1999 with new platforms.
But the Local Government Boundary Commission for England had already produced report #675 on the RBKC and H&F boundary in 1992. It decided that “a realignment of the boundary to the West London railway line would result in more effective and convenient local government. [...] A realignment of the boundary to the eastern side of the railway would be the most appropriate.”

Image: Open Street Map.

So when new platforms were built and West Brompton’s WLL reopened for services, the commissioners’ clean-cut boundary split the station into two. Confusingly, the changes never happened at Olympia.

Image: Open Street Map.

6. Let’s have a new set of administrative boundary reviews

It’s been over 25 years since the last report. With all the platform extensions and wider infrastructure changes, lots of stations are awkwardly jutting into another borough, like a unsure growing teenager with their new limbs.

Here’s the plan: finish the Parliamentary constituencies and Crossrail, carry out a London-wide “Principal Area Boundary Review”.

Then do Crossrail 2.

 
 
 
 

A Century after radical leftists were elected to its city hall, Vienna’s social democratic base is slipping away

Karl Marx Hof. Image: Kagan Kaya.

Karl Marx-Hof, a kilometre-long municipal apartment block in Vienna’s wealthy 19th district, was first named after the father of the communist movement by Austria’s Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP) in 1927. Its imposing structure borrows from an eclectic mix of modernist, Bauhaus, art deco, neoclassical and baroque architectural styles. In the mould of early soviet experiments, the building, nicknamed The Palace of the Proletariat, housed shared childcare services, gardens and washrooms.

The building is Vienna’s most prominent physical reminder of a period known as Red Vienna, when left-wing radicals found themselves at the helm of the Hapsburg’s former imperial capital during the aftermath of the First World War. 

After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in 1918, the SDAP won the fledgeling republic’s first elections held under universal suffrage and commenced an ambitious programme of social and economic reform. Leading intellectual lights of the party sought to unite the two great strands of the 20th-century labour movement, reconciling parliamentary socialism and revolutionary communism under their new current of non-Bolshevik “Austro-Marxism”. Karl Marx-Hof epitomised their radical ambitions. “When we are no longer here”, Mayor Karl Seitz told an assembled crowd of workers at the building’s opening in 1930, “these bricks will speak for us.”

When I visited Karl Marx-Hof on a sunny day in June, Monica and George, two of its residents, were walking their two Chihuahuas around the estate’s leafy, quiet courtyards. “We moved here last year,” Monica tells me. “It’s really nice because you’ve got a lot of green space in the middle of the city.”

The young couple are the beneficiaries of a generous system of public housing provision. Vienna has a relative abundance of high-quality municipal flats compared with most large capitals. “We weren’t waiting long for the flat – moving in here was really fast”, Monica says. Currently, 60 per cent of Vienna’s residents live in either municipally owned, subsidised housing, or in social homes run by not-for-profit cooperatives. The remaining portion of private homes is subject to strict rent controls and regulations.

The social democrats and their less radical successors have remained the dominant party in Vienna since the city’s first election, save for an 11-year hiatus of fascist dictatorship from 1934, followed by Anschluss and Nazi occupation from 1938. The city remains a red statelet in an otherwise conservative country. Indeed, Austria is now more associated with the far right than the radical left. But even Vienna is no longer immune to the trend of waning support for centre-left parties that has gripped European countries since 2008, and cracks are beginning to appear in its social democratic project.

Two exhibitions in the city – one in the former communal wash house of Karl Marx-Hof, the other in the grand Wien Museum MUSA – note the achievements of Red Vienna’s experiment in local socialism: the introduction of pensions and unemployment support; the establishment of a nascent public healthcare system; the opening of kindergartens, schools run on Montessori principles, public baths, open-air swimming pools, libraries, parks, leisure facilities, arts centres; and, of course, a programme of mass council house building, all paid for by a system of progressive income taxation coupled with duties on luxury goods, including servants, champagne, private cars and riding horses.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, (and partly because, as a provincial government, it lacked the powers to do so), the SDAP did not expropriate or nationalise factories or private industry without compensation, but instead paid former owners whenever buildings or land passed from private to public hands. The party built what it perceived to be the chrysalis of a new egalitarian society, while leaving the market and private ownership of the means of production largely intact. In many ways, its policies palliated the worst effects of early 20th century industrial capitalism like slum housing, mass unemployment and extreme poverty. Red Vienna laid the ground for the modern European welfare state, inspiring other social democratic governments across the continent to implement similar policies after the Second World War. 


“Back then the social democrats were good,” Monica tells me, attempting to calm her excitable dogs by pulling on their leads. Does she intend to vote for the social democrats in the upcoming national elections in September? “We vote for the blue ones,” she answers. Monica and George will cast their vote for the Freheitliche Partei Osterreichs (FPO), the Freedom Party, an organisation founded after the Second World War by a former Nazi minister of agriculture and high-ranking SS officer. “It’s because of all the refugees and all the violence that’s going on here,” she claims. “Shootings are more frequent in Vienna.”

Austria has one of the lowest murder rates in the world, almost half that of England and Wales, and Vienna itself is known for its relative safety compared to other European capitals. But hundreds of thousands of refugees have travelled through Austria over the last four years. Many have made the city their home, but most have transited towards Germany, at Angela Merkel’s invitation. The mass movement of people from across the Mediterranean to central and northern Europe has ruptured the country’s social-democratic pact. In 2016, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party narrowly missed out on victory in the presidential election, receiving 46 per cent of the vote.

“Lots of people say they’re just racists,” Monica continues, visibly uncomfortable with the idea that people would attribute malice or prejudice to voters like herself. But she hastens to add that her views, and those of her partner George, aren’t necessarily typical of Vienna’s affluent 19th district. “There are very rich people here, so they vote for the party who protects their interests… You’ll see a lot of big houses, so I think the OVP, the People’s Party, would do well.”

The OVP is the more traditional centre-right party of Austrian politics, and wins the most seats in the 19th district. Yet the city’s voting patterns are diverse. This is partly a result of the policies of successive social democratic administrations placing the integration of social classes and income levels at the heart of their municipal agenda. Subsidised housing can be found alongside wealthy private apartments in the city centre designed by Renzo Piano, and at the foot of the city’s vineyards near up-market wine taverns. Kurt Puchinger, chair of wohnfonds_wien, the city’s land and housing fund, tells me that the council “do not want to have a situation where you can identify the social status of a person by their home address.”

Despite the SDAP’s century-long efforts to promote social cohesion, recent years have seen the rise the FPO’s vote share at the expense of the left. Favoriten is a more solidly working class area of Vienna in the 10th district. There, according to Monica, “most vote for the Freedom Party because they are for stopping migration.” She pauses to consider her words. “Not stopping. Trying to find a way to filter them and control them. Every country has a problem like this.”

Monica’s feeling for the electoral preferences of each of the various Viennese districts proves accurate. After the war, Favoriten elected communists as their local representatives. The district's loyalties quickly switched to the social democrats, and until 2005 the party could comfortably expect to receive over half the votes there, consistently getting more than double the votes of both the far-right Freedom Party and the centre-right People’s Party. But in the most recent 2015 election, the Freedom Party won 24 seats and 38 per cent of the vote, only two points and one seat behind the social democrats. In Austria nationally, the People’s Party, headed by a 32-year-old leader, Sebastian Kurz, with Patrick Bateman overtones, has formed a government with the Freedom Party – but their coalition collapsed ignominiously in May.

Neither Austria as a whole, nor Favoriten in particular, are outliers. In France, Le Pen’s National Rally polls well in the Communist Party’s former “ceinture rouge” outside Paris. In Britain, Labour’s post-industrial heartlands are turning towards the Brexit Party, while blue collar workers in America’s rust belt have backed Donald Trump. And in Vienna, neither the impressive legacy of the SDAP nor the continually high standard of living (the city was rated as the world’s most liveable for the 10th time in 2018 by Mercer, the consultancy giant) is enough to stem the tide of right-wing populism.

Until he was unseated as leader following a corruption scandal in May, Heinz-Christian Strache positioned the FPO as the party of the working class, a guarantor of Austrian identity, and the protector of a generous welfare system now threatened by an influx of migrants. “We believe in our youth,” ran one of his slogans, “the [social democrats] in immigration.”

Sofia is a masseuse who has lived in Karl Marx-Hof for 19 years with her partner and his son. “People are angry with the social democrats now because of refugees,” she told me. “They should change this... They should say ‘we are on the left but we can’t accept everybody here.’” The view that the party have abandoned their traditional voters is widespread, but Sofia isn’t fond of the alternatives. “The FPO – the Nazis – you can’t vote for the Nazis… anyone who votes FPO isn’t my friend… But I won’t vote for the People’s Party because they do everything for rich people, not normal people.”

Sofia reserves her strongest criticism for the youthful Sebastian Kurz, who is likely to become head of another People’s Party-led coalition after elections in September. “I’m scared of him,” she says. “I think he’s a psychopath. I think he’s not a normal person.”

Like many Viennese, Sofia admires the legacy of Red Vienna: “The socialists did a lot of really good things. We are the only city in the world that has so much state housing. And they brought in pensions, health insurance, a lot of things.” But she’s not sure they will get her vote in 2019. In an era of polarisation and anti-establishment rhetoric, the most fertile yet unoccupied political ground seems to be for a radical, redistributive economic programme, coupled with a more conservative vision of shared responsibilities and values, national sovereignty, and sociocultural issues.

“Even in the working class areas of the city,” sighs Kurt Puchinger, the city’s housing fund chair, “less people are voting social democrat. And this is a pity.” 100 years since the old radical Social Democratic Workers’ Party was first elected by a restive, war-weary working class, the working class remains restive, but while the SDAP’s flagship Karl Marx-Hof still stands, the bricks no longer seem to be speaking for them.