Here’s a tool which shows you which stations you can reach on direct trains from every station in Great Britain

The Duchess of Cambridge meets Paddington bear. Image: Getty.

Have you ever wanted to know exactly which other stations you can reach on a direct train from Basingstoke? Go on, own up, you have, haven’t you?

Well, Tom Forth – thinker, data-wrangler, professional northerner, and author of some of the most interesting articles we’ve ever run on CityMetric – Is here for you. Earlier this week, he tweeted this:

And reader, he did not resist. He instead used publicly available timetable data to build a “reachable stations” tool, which allows you to click on any station in Great Britain, and instantly see where you can go without changing.

And if you’re in Basingstoke, you’ll be pleased to hear, you have options:

But you have more options if you’re starting at Birmingham New Street:

Here’s Liverpool Lime Street:

Other places, such as Hull, are served by a narrower range of trains, presumably because they’re a) smaller and b) a bit out of the way:

You can also use the tool to see the difference in service patterns from cities’ different stations. Compare Manchester Piccadilly, from which trains run all over the country:

...to Manchester Victoria, from which they mainly serve the north:

Honestly, I could keep doing this for hours. Probably will, too.

The tool isn’t perfect. It doesn’t label the stations – you have to zoom in on the map to work out what you’re looking at (when I clicked Basingstoke, I genuinely thought it was Reading). And sometimes the data is formatted unhelpfully in the databases from which Tom is drawing – there are currently two London Bridges for some reason:

But it’s still a fascinating tool, if you’re a rail nerd which obviously you are, so go have a play.


Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.