Here’s a new rail map for Dublin

A detail from the Dublin Rail map. Image: Chris Singleton/Richard Hart.

There has been something of a rail revival in Dublin in recent years, with a significant expansion of the city’s tram network and the re-opening of commuter rail lines. But graphic design has failed to keep up: go to any railway station or tram stop in Dublin and you’ll be struck by the lack of a map which highlights how all the various rail lines integrate with each other. Although route maps for individual services exist, it’s strangely difficult to find a comprehensive –and high-quality –map of all the rail routes in Dublin.

As a former Dubliner and somebody with a love for good design, this is a situation which has always bothered me, and for many years I wanted to create a new map which addressed these shortcomings. And when I read this Citymetric piece on Dublin’s new tram map, which described it as “a crime against cartography,” I felt the time had finally come to get on with this piece of work.

So, working with my good friend and fellow designer Richard Hart, I set out to create a new Dublin rail map that would:

  • include all rail and tram routes on one single map, along with Dublin airport bus information;
  • be of a similar quality to those found in major European cities like London, Paris and Berlin.

Importantly, we wanted to ensure that wheelchair accessibility information was included on the new map; the existing maps are very poor in this regard.

We also wanted to provide clear information regarding which stations provide bike and car parking – again, something which is not really present on existing maps.

We also decided to include the two key Dublin airport bus routes on the map, to make it easier for visitors to the city to understand where they could switch onto other modes of public transport.


Design decisions

In terms of the aesthetics, we drew considerable inspiration from the London Underground map, believing it to represent the gold standard of design in public transport maps.

However, we wanted to ensure that our map had its own character: hence the green colour scheme (as you might expect, green is often used on Dublin train liveries) and the choice of an alternative typeface to the Tube map’s famous Johnston font.

For the typeface, we plumped for the appropriately named Transport, designed by graphic design heroes of ours, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert. Transport is a font which will be familiar to Dubliners, being used on all road signs across Ireland, but it also arguably has a more modern “feel” than Johnston. With the pace of change in Dublin being pretty intense at the moment – not just in its transport system, but in terms of urban development, too – we wanted to ensure that the design of the map reflected this sense of modernity, and we thought that the clean, sans-serif Transport font would help us in this regard.

We also wanted to make improvements where possible on the London Underground design – notably in the station index for the map. On the LU map, the grid reference comes before the station name; on ours, we made the assumption that users of the index will be attempting to locate a station name first in order to find the grid reference, not the other way round.

The full map. Click to expand.

A new website for Dublin public transport

During the course of our map design project, it became apparent that Dublin wasn’t just missing a map, it was missing a website too: there isn’t currently a TFL or RATP style transport portal for the city, where information about all the forms of public transport in the capital can be found.

In order to rectify this — and also to provide a home for our new map — we created a new Dublin public transport website, which aims to give users:

It’s my hope that both the new map and website will make travelling around Dublin on public transport considerably easier for both residents of and visitors to the city.

It would be wonderful to see a large poster version of our rail map displayed at every train and tram stop in Dublin, but even if it just has a life as a PDF on a lot of passengers’ phones, I’ll be happy.

Chris Singleton runs the digital communications and design blog Style Factory and when not doing that, fronts London-Irish art-rock band Five Grand Stereo. His new rail map and Dublin public transport website can be accessed here.

 
 
 
 

As EU funding is lost, “levelling up” needs investment, not just rhetoric

Oh, well. Image: Getty.

Regional inequality was the foundation of Boris Johnson’s election victory and has since become one of the main focuses of his government. However, the enthusiasm of ministers championing the “levelling up” agenda rings hollow when compared with their inertia in preparing a UK replacement for European structural funding. 

Local government, already bearing the brunt of severe funding cuts, relies on European funding to support projects that boost growth in struggling local economies and help people build skills and find secure work. Now that the UK has withdrawn its EU membership, councils’ concerns over how EU funds will be replaced from 2021 are becoming more pronounced.

Johnson’s government has committed to create a domestic structural funding programme, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), to replace the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF). However, other than pledging that UKSPF will “reduce inequalities between communities”, it has offered few details on how funds will be allocated. A public consultation on UKSPF promised by May’s government in 2018 has yet to materialise.

The government’s continued silence on UKSPF is generating a growing sense of unease among councils, especially after the failure of successive governments to prioritise investment in regional development. Indeed, inequalities within the UK have been allowed to grow so much that the UK’s poorest region by EU standards (West Wales & the Valleys) has a GDP of 68 per cent of the average EU GDP, while the UK’s richest region (Inner London) has a GDP of 614 per cent of the EU average – an intra-national disparity that is unique in Europe. If the UK had remained a member of the EU, its number of ‘less developed’ regions in need of most structural funding support would have increased from two to five in 2021-27: South Yorkshire, Tees Valley & Durham and Lincolnshire joining Cornwall & Isles of Scilly and West Wales & the Valley. Ministers have not given guarantees that any region, whether ‘less developed’ or otherwise, will obtain the same amount of funding under UKSPF to which they would have been entitled under ESIF.


The government is reportedly contemplating changing the Treasury’s fiscal rules so public spending favours programmes that reduce regional inequalities as well as provide value for money, but this alone will not rebalance the economy. A shared prosperity fund like UKSPF has the potential to be the master key that unlocks inclusive growth throughout the country, particularly if it involves less bureaucracy than ESIF and aligns funding more effectively with the priorities of local people. 

In NLGN’s Community Commissioning report, we recommended that this funding should be devolved to communities directly to decide local priorities for the investment. By enabling community ownership of design and administration, the UK government would create an innovative domestic structural funding scheme that promotes inclusion in its process as well as its outcomes.

NLGN’s latest report, Cultivating Local Inclusive Growth: In Practice, highlights the range of policy levers and resources that councils can use to promote inclusive growth in their area. It demonstrates that, through collaboration with communities and cross-sector partners, councils are already doing sterling work to enhance economic and social inclusion. Their efforts could be further enhanced with a fund that learns lessons from ESIF’s successes and flaws: a UKSPF that is easier to access, designed and delivered by local communities, properly funded, and specifically targeted at promoting social and economic inclusion in regions that need it most. “Getting Brexit done” was meant to free up the government’s time to focus once more on pressing domestic priorities. “Getting inclusive growth done” should be at the top of any new to-do list.

Charlotte Morgan is senior researcher at the New Local Government Network.