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.

 
 
 
 

Barcelona’s car-free “superblocks” could extend lives. So will they catch on elsewhere?

Barcelona. Image: Getty.

The world’s biggest cities have larger populations and higher economic outputs than some countries. But as they grow in size and complexity, cities are also facing thorny challenges that threaten the health and happiness of residents. Congestion, pollution and a lack of community spaces have become major drags on people’s aspirations and experiences of urban living.

In response, cities must manage their resources and priorities to create sustainable places for visitors and residents, and foster innovation and growth. Enter Barcelona – the capital of Catalonia, in Spain – where a bold stroke of urban planning first introduced “superblocks” in 2016.

Image: ISGlobal/FAL.

Superblocks are neighbourhoods of nine blocks, where traffic is restricted to major roads around the outside, opening up entire groups of streets to pedestrians and cyclists. The aim is to reduce pollution from vehicles, and give residents much-needed relief from noise pollution. They are designed to create more open space for citizens to meet, talk and do activities.


Health and well-being boost

There are currently only six superblocks in operation, including the first, most prominent one in Eixample. Reports suggest that – despite some early push back – the change has been broadly welcomed by residents, and the long-term benefits could be considerable.

A recent study carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health estimates that if, as planned, 503 potential superblocks are realised across the city, journeys by private vehicle would fall by 230,000 a week, as people switch to public transport, walking or cycling.

The research suggests this would significantly improve air quality and noise levels on the car-free streets: ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) would be reduced by a quarter, bringing levels in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The plan is also expected to generate significant health benefits for residents. The study estimates that as many as 667 premature deaths from air pollution, noise and heat could be prevented each year. More green spaces will encourage people to get outdoors and lead a more active lifestyle.

This, in turn, helps to reduce obesity and diabetes and ease pressure on health services. The researchers claim that residents of Barcelona could expect to live an extra 200 days thanks to the cumulative health benefits, if the idea is rolled out across the city.

Space to play. Imag: Mosa Moseneke/Unsplash.

There are expected to be benefits to mental health, as well as physical health. Having access to such spaces can stave off loneliness and isolation – especially among elderly residents – as communities form stronger bonds and become more resilient.

Stumbling blocks

It was Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, who first championed the introduction of superblocks – and he argues that the idea could be used in any city. Even so, authorities looking to expand the concept in Barcelona or beyond will need to be mindful of some concerns.

Changes like these require capital investment. Even as the car-free streets are transformed with urban furniture and greenery, the remaining major roads will likely have to accommodate heavier traffic.

Nothing comes for free. Image: Zvileve/Flickr/creative commons.

Further investments in local infrastructure – such as improving surrounding roads to deal with more traffic, or installing smart traffic management system – could be required to prevent serious congestion. Then the question remains, how to finance such investments – a higher tax rate is unlikely to be popular.


What’s more, whenever a location becomes more desirable, it leads to an increase in property demand. Higher prices and rent could create pockets of unaffordable neighbourhoods. This may lead to use of properties for investment purposes and possibly, displacement of local residents.

It’s also worth noting that Barcelona is an old and relatively well-planned European city. Different challenges exist in emerging global cities across Asia, Africa and Latin America – and in younger cities in the US and Australia. There is a great deal of variation in scale, population density, urban shape and form, development patterns and institutional frameworks across the cities. Several large cities in the developing world are heavily congested with uncontrolled, unregulated developments and weak regulatory frameworks.

Replicating what’s been done in Barcelona may prove difficult in such places, and will require much greater transformations. But it’s true that the basic principles of superblocks – that value pedestrians, cyclists and high quality public spaces over motor vehicles – can be applied in any city, with some adjustments.

Leading the way

Over the history of human civilisation, great cities have been at the forefront of innovation and social progress. But cities need a robust structure of governance, which is transparent and accountable, to ensure a fair and efficient use of resources. Imposing innovation from the top down, without consultations and buy-in, can go squarely against the idea of free market capitalism, which has been a predominant force for modern economies and can lead push-back from citizens and local businesses.

Citizens must also be willing to change their perspectives and behaviour, to make such initiatives work. This means that “solutions” to urban living like superblocks need to have buy-in from citizens, through continuous engagement with local government officials.

A man speaks at a public consultation on the Eixample superblock in Barcelona. Image: Ajuntament Barcelona/Flickr/creative commons.

Successful urban planning also needs strong leadership with a clear and consistent vision of the future, and a roadmap of how that vision can be delivered. The vision should be co-developed with the citizens and all other stakeholders such as local businesses, private and public organisations. This can ensure that everybody shares ownership and takes responsibility for the success of local initiatives.

There is little doubt that the principles and objectives of superblocks are sound. The idea has the potential to catch on around the world – though it will likely take a unique and specific form in every city.

The Conversation

Anupam Nanda, Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate, University of Reading.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.