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.

 
 
 
 

To see how a city embraces remote work, look to Helsinki

A deeply rooted culture of trust is crucial to the success of remote work. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

When I speak to Anssi Salminen, an account manager who lives an hour outside Helsinki, he’s working from a wooden platform on the edge of a Finnish lake. With a blanket laid out and his laptop set up, the sun low in the sky, Anssi’s remote work arrangement seems blissful. 

“I spend around half of my time working somewhere else other than the office,” he says. “I can work from home, or on the go, and I also travel to the Netherlands once a month and work from there.

“The emphasis in my work has always been that it doesn’t matter when or where I work, as long as I get things done.”

For many people around the world, the shift to remote work was sudden, sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Finland, however, is finding the transition much less significant. Before Covid-19, the Nordic nation already displayed impressive levels of remote working, with 14.1% of its workforce reporting usually working from home. Only the Netherlands has a comparable percentage of remote workers, while the UK lagged behind at 4.7%, and the US’s remote workforce lingered at around 3.6%

Anssi works for one of many Helsinki-based companies that offers its employees flexible policies around when and where they work. That arrangement is in part due to the Finnish capital’s thriving start-up scene. In spite of being a relatively small city by global standards it is home to over 500 technology start-ups. These companies are leading the way when it comes to keeping employees connected wherever they choose to work.

“Our company has a completely location-free working policy,” says Kasper Pöyry, the CEO of Helsinki-headquartered software company Gapps. “All meetings are made available for online participants and facilitated accordingly. Some employees have worked extensively from abroad on a working holiday, whilst others prefer the comfort and social aspects of the well-stocked office. Whatever works for our employees is what works for the company.”

Like Gapps, many Helsinki-based firms are deeply preoccupied with providing the necessary technology to attract talent in a vast and sparsely populated country. Finland has only 15 inhabitants per square kilometre, and companies understand that in order to compose teams of specialised expertise, they may have to seek talent outside of the city. Local governments take a similarly proactive stance toward technological access, and Helsinki offers free, unrestricted, high-speed Wi-Fi from city-wide hotspots, while the country as a whole boasts some of the best coverage in Europe. 

But encouraging remote work isn’t just about optimising the potential of Finland’s workforce – companies in Helsinki also recognise that flexibility has clear benefits for both staff and employees. 

“The idea of a good work-life balance is ingrained in Finnish culture,” says Johannes Anttila, a consultant at organisational think tank Demos Helsinki. “It goes back to our rich history of social dialogue between labour unions and employers, but also to an interest in delineating the rules of working life and pushing towards people being able to enjoy their private life. Helsinki has been named the best city in the world for work-life balance, and I think that this underlies a lot of the mentality around remote work.” 

For Peter Seenan, the extent to which Helsinki residents value their free time and prioritise a work-life balance prompted his move to the city ten years ago. He now works for Finnair, and points to Finland’s summer cottages as an example of how important taking time to switch off is for people in the country. These rural residences, where city residents regularly uproot to enjoy the Nordic countryside, are so embedded in Finnish life that the country boasts around 1.8 million of them for its 5.5 million residents

“Flexible and remote work are very important to me because it means that I don’t feel like I’m getting stuck in a routine that I can’t control easily,” he says. “When I’m working outside of the office I’ll go down to my local sauna and go ice swimming during the working day, typically at lunchtime or mid-morning, and I’ll feel rejuvenated afterwards… In winter time especially, flexibility is important because it makes it easier to go outside during daylight hours. It’s certainly beneficial for my physical and mental health, and as a result my productivity improves.”

The relaxed attitude to working location seems to pay off – Finland is regularly named the happiest country in the world, scoring highly on measures such as how often its residents exercise and how much leisure time they enjoy. With large swathes of unspoiled countryside and a national obsession with the outdoors, sustainability is at the forefront of its inhabitants’ minds, leading to high levels of support for measures to limit commuting. In January, Finland passed a new Working Hours Act, the goal of which was to help better coordinate employee’s work and leisure time. Central to this is cementing in law that employees can independently decide how, when, and where they work.

Yet enacting the new ruling is not as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops. For Kirsimarja Blomqvist, a professor of knowledge management at LUT University, perhaps the most fundamental feature that remote work relies upon is a deeply rooted culture of trust, which Helsinki’s residents speak of with pride. The anecdotal evidence is backed up by data which suggests that Finland boasts one of the highest levels of trust and social cohesion in Europe, and equality and transparency have always been key cornerstones of political thought in the country.

“Trust is part of a national culture in Finland – it’s important and people value it highly,” she explains. “There’s good job independence, and people are valued in terms of what they do, not how many hours they work for. Organisations tend to be non-hierarchical, and there is a rich history of cooperation between trade unions, employers, and employees to set up innovative working practices and make workers feel trusted and valued. 

“It’s now important that we ensure that this trust can continue to be built over technology, when workers might have been more used to building it face-to-face.”

As companies begin to look hopefully toward a post-Covid future, the complexities of remote work are apparent. Yet amid issues of privacy, presenteeism, and social isolation, the Helsinki model demonstrates the potential benefits of a distanced working world. The adjustment to remote work, if continued after the crisis, offers a chance to improve companies’ geographical diversity and for employers to demonstrate trust in their workforce. On these issues, Blomqvist believes other cities and employers can learn a lot from Helsinki.

“People are now beginning to return to their workplaces, but even as they do they are starting to consider the crisis as a jumping point to an even more remote future,” she says. “The coronavirus pandemic has been an eye-opener, and people are now interested in learning from Finland’s good practices… We are able to see the opportunity, and the rapid transition to remote work will allow other countries to do the same.”

Katie Bishop is a freelance writer based in Oxford.