Is this how the tube map will look in 2040?

Oooooooh. Image: Ali Carr.

Great news for fans of London transport, and also fans for whining about how London gets all the transport funding: TfL has big plans.

The capital’s transport authority is currently putting the finishing touches to its shiny new forelock-tugging east-west railway, the Elizabeth line. There are also proposals for a new branch of the Northern line to Battersea, and an extension to the London Overground to Barking Riverside, on the table; plus longer term plans including Crossrail 2, a Bakerloo extension into darkest south east London and, most excitingly of all, more trams.

It can be difficult to envision how all that looks on the map. Lucky for us, then, that an amateur designer has been busy showing us. Ali Carr posted the Unofficial 2040 Tube Map to the Rail UK Forums earlier this year. Here it is now:

Click to expand.

Carr’s map builds on the existing tube map to show a whole host of proposals of varying degrees of probability. It shows Crossrail 2 snaking its way across central London:

It shows the new, Old Oak Common station:

It shows a pair of Northern lines, with the Battersea branch completed and the resulting services split in two:

It shows the Bakerloo line continuing south to Hayes, an eastward Crossrail extension to Gravesend, and a southern London Overground one to Thamesmead:

 

There’s even some stuff I hadn’t realised was on the table, such as an Overground extension to Hounslow, and the Piccadilly line extending to Ealing Broadway to simplify services on the District:

There’s something else it shows, however – not an extended line, but an expanded problem. Through no fault of Carr’s, parts of the new map are a bit of a mess. Consider the areas around Farringdon, Euston and Kings Cross:

Or the new Tramlink route from South Wimbledon to Sutton, which doesn’t seem to interact with the existing one at all:

Or the whole confusing mess of north east London, where multiple tubes and Overground lines are now competing with Crossrail 2 for space:

 

As I say, I really don’t’ think the problem here is with Ali Carr’s handiwork. Rather, it’s because the new map uses the existing one as a template – and the profusion of lines either newly built or newly controlled by Transport for London is making the map unreadable. The map is already losing the cleanness and simplicity that made Harry Beck’s original design so iconic. And the more lines it includes, the more cluttered it becomes.

If even a fraction of TfL’s plans come off, it might be time for a radical rethink.

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

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All images courtesy of Ali Carr.

 
 
 
 

Transport for London’s fare zones secretly go up to 15

Some of these stations are in zones 10 to 12. Ooooh. Image: TfL.

The British capital, as every true-blooded Londoner knows, is divided into six concentric zones, from zone 1 in the centre to zone 6 in the green belt-hugging outer suburbs.

These are officially fare zones, which Transport for London (TfL) uses to determine the cost of your tube or rail journey. Unofficially, though, they’ve sort of become more than that, and like postcodes double as a sort of status symbol, a marker of how London-y a district actually is.

If you’re the sort of Londoner who’s also interested in transport nerdery, or who has spent any time studying the tube map, you’ll probably know that there are three more zones on the fringes of the capital. These, numbered 7 to 9, are used to set and collect fares at non-London stations where the Oyster card still works. But they differ from the first six, in that they aren’t concentric rings, but random patches, reflecting not distance from London but pre-existing and faintly arbitrary fares. Thus it is that at some points (on the Overground to Cheshunt, say) trains leaving zone 6 will visit zone 7. But at others they jump to 8 (on the train to Dartford) or 9 (on TfL rail to Brentwood), or skip them altogether.

Anyway: it turns out that, although they’re keeping it fairly quiet, the zones don’t stop at 9 either. They go all the way up to 15.

So I learned this week from the hero who runs the South East Rail Group Twitter feed, when they (well, let’s be honest: he) tweeted me this:

The choice of numbers is quite odd in its way. Purfleet, a small Thames-side village in Essex, is not only barely a mile from the London border, it’s actually inside the M25. Yet it’s all the way out in the notional zone 10. What gives?

TfL’s Ticketing + Revenue Update is a surprisingly jazzy internal newsletter about, well, you can probably guess. The September/October 2018 edition, published on WhatDoTheyKnow.com following a freedom of information request, contains a helpful explanation of what’s going on. The expansion of the Oyster card system

“has seen [Pay As You Go fare] acceptance extended to Grays, Hertford East, Shenfield, Dartford and Swanley. These expansions have been identified by additional zones mainly for PAYG caping and charging purposes.

“Although these additional zones appear on our staff PAYG map, they are no generally advertised to customers, as there is the risk of potentially confusing users or leading them to think that these ones function in exactly the same way as Zones 1-6.”


Fair enough: maps should make life less, not more, confusing, so labelling Shenfield et al. as “special fares apply” rather than zone whatever makes some sense. But why don’t these outer zone fares work the same way as the proper London ones?

“One of the reasons that the fare structure becomes much more complicated when you travel to stations beyond the Zone 6 boundary is that the various Train Operating Companies (TOCs) are responsible for setting the fares to and from their stations outside London. This means that they do not have to follow the standard TfL zonal fares and can mean that stations that are notionally indicated as being in the same fare zone for capping purposes may actually have very different charges for journeys to/from London."

In other words, these fares have been designed to fit in with pre-existing TOC charges. Greater Anglia would get a bit miffed if TfL unilaterally decided that Shenfield was zone 8, thus costing the TOC a whole pile of revenue. So it gets a higher, largely notional fare zone to reflect fares. It’s a mess. No wonder TfL doesn't tell us about them.

These “ghost zones”, as the South East Rail Group terms them, will actually be extending yet further. Zone 15 is reserved for some of the western-most Elizabeth line stations out to Reading, when that finally joins the system. Although whether the residents of zone 12 will one day follow in the venerable London tradition of looking down on the residents of zones 13-15 remains to be seen.

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