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.

 
 
 
 

Could twin towns bring Britain back together?

An unlikely pair. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Twin towns: an irrelevant novelty to most of us, a peculiar name on a village’s welcome sign. But could linking one British town to another – a domestic reinterpretation of this long-standing European practice – help bring Britain back together in a time of national crisis?

Born in the aftermath of World War II, town twinning aimed to foster cooperation and solidarity across Europe. Communities entered formal alliances, nurturing friendships and shared histories. Coventry forged links with Dresden and Volgograd, then Stalingrad, marking the devastation faced by their citizens during the war.

The democratisation of Greece, Spain and Portugal during the 1970s led to a new wave of twin towns across Europe, as did the fall of the Soviet Union a decade later. Since its inception, the focus of town twinning has been on uniting people through relationships. It is a testament to the initiative’s success that many of these remain to this day; Coventry recently enjoyed a performance at the city’s cathedral by Volgograd’s children’s choir.

While European relations have improved since the 1940s, unity at home has received less attention. As a result, Britain is riven with deep economic, political, educational and cultural divides. These fault lines are increasingly determined by geography, with a growing gap between our big metropolitan cities and almost everywhere else.

In comparison to other European countries, we face staggering levels of regional inequality; six of the ten poorest regions in northern Europe can been found in the UK. As outlined by Alan Milburn, the government’s former social mobility tsar, “the country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division. That takes a spatial form, not just a social one.”

These divisions are poisoning our body politic. As Adam Smith argued in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, putting yourself in someone else's shoes is vital for developing a moral compass; in doing so "we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him..." But this is difficult when we have little interaction or experience of those with opposing views.

This is increasingly likely in geographically polarised Britain, with the places we live dominated by people who think alike. Our political leaders must commit time and energy to bridging these divides, just as the leaders of Europe did in the aftermath of the Second World War. By forging links between different parts of the country, a new era of domestic town twinning would do just that.


School exchanges between sister towns would offer an opportunity for children to be exposed to places, people and perspectives very different to their own. This would allow future generations to see things from an alternative and opposing perspective. It may also embed from a young age an awareness of the diversity of experiences seen by people across our highly unequal country.

MPs would be encouraged to spend time in their constituency’s sister town. First-hand exposure to voters in a very different part of the country would surely soften the views of even the most entrenched parliamentarian, making for a more civil debate in the Commons. Imagine the good this would do for Parliament today, with Brexit gridlocked because of the unwillingness of MPs to compromise.

In 2016 the Carnegie UK Trust launched its Twin Towns UK programme, a pilot linking twenty towns across the UK to examine how they might develop together. Emerging benefits include a reduction of insularity and a greater awareness of the bigger picture. Its focus was not on bridging economic divides – towns with similar socioeconomic characteristics were twinned – but initial outcomes from the scheme suggest a broader programme of domestic town twinning could have a powerful impact.

Looking further back, Camden has been twinned with Doncaster since the 1980s, a relationship that unionised Camden Town Hall workers forged in a display of solidarity with striking miners during the 1980s. Funds were raised to feed families of striking workers at the pit and Camden locals even drove north to deliver presents at Christmas. Though the relationship appears less active today, it serves as a powerful reminder of twinning’s capacity to bring people from very different places together.

As we prepare for Brexit it’s imperative that we protect existing twin town relationships with our European partners. This is of vital importance when we know sadly many of these are under threat from austerity and gloriously un-PC mayors. But we should look to breathe new life into these traditions too, where possible. Domestic town twinning would do just that: a step towards bringing Britain back together, just as a continent was reunited after the devastation of war.

Ben Glover is a researcher at the think tank Demos.