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.

 
 
 
 

To boost the high street, cities should invest in offices

Offices in Northampton. Image: Getty.

Access to cheap borrowing has encouraged local authorities to proactively invest in commercial property. These assets can be a valuable tool for cities looking to improve the built environment they offer businesses and residents.

Councils are estimated to have spent £3.8bn on property between 2013 and 2017, funded through the government’s Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) at very low interest rates. Offices accounted for half of this investment, and roughly a third (£1.2bn) has been spent on retail properties. And local authorities were the biggest investor group for UK shopping centres in the first quarter of 2018.

Why are cities investing? There are two major motivations.

First, at a time when cuts are squeezing council revenue budgets, property investments can provide a long-term revenue stream to keep quality public services up and running. Second, ownership of buildings in areas marked for redevelopment allows councils to assemble land more easily and gives them more influence over the changes taking place, allowing them to make sure the space evolves to meet their objectives.

But how exactly can cities turn property ownership into successful place-making? How should they adapt the buildings they invest in to improve the performance of the economies?

Cities need workers

When developing the city’s property offer, the aim should be to get jobs back into the city centre while reducing the dominance of retail space. For councils who have invested in existing retail space and shopping centres, in particular, the temptation may be to try and retain their existing use, with new retail strategies designed to reduce vacancies.

But as the Centre for Cities’ recent Building Blocks report illustrates, the evidence points to this being a dead-end. Instead, cities may need to convert the properties they own so they house a more diverse group of businesses.

Many city centres already have a lot of retail – and this has not offered significant economic benefit. Almost half (43 per cent) of city centre space in the weakest city economies is taken up by shops, while retail only accounts for 18 per cent of space in strong city centre economies. And many of these shops lie empty: in weaker city centres vacancy rates of high-street services (retail, food and leisure) are on average 16 per cent, compared with 9 per cent in stronger city economies. In Newport, nearly a quarter of these premises are empty, as the map below shows.

The big issue in these city centres is the lack of office jobs – which are an important contributor to footfall for retailers. This means that, in order to improve the fortunes of the high street, policy will need to tackle the barriers that deter those businesses from moving to their city centres.

One of these barriers is the quality of office space. In a number of struggling city centres, the quality of office space on offer is poor. But the low returns available for private investors mean that some form of public sector involvement will be required.


Ownership of buildings gives cities the opportunity to reshape the type of commercial space on offer. Some of this will involve improving the existing office stock available, some will involve converting retail to office, and some of will require demolishing part of the space without replacing it, in the short term at least. Without ownership of the land and buildings on it, this task becomes very difficult to do but will be a fundamental part of turning the fortunes of a city centre around.

Cheap borrowing has provided a way not only for local authorities to generate an income stream through property investment. but also opens up the opportunity to have greater control over the development of their city centres. For those choosing to invest, the focus must be on using ownership to make the city centre a more attractive place for all businesses to invest, rather than hoping to revive retail alone.

Rebecca McDonald is an analyst at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article first appeared.