It’s time to give London Overground different line names

Part of the deeply confusing London Overground map. Image: TfL.

So here’s a thing I’ve been thinking a lot of late: it’s time Transport for London stopped pretending the London Overground was one big thing and started giving its lines individual identities. Just as on the Underground, each route should have a colour and a name. It’d make the world better. Honestly.

In some ways, of course, this line of thinking is a sort of greed. I’ve always been in favour of TfL acknowledging the existence of more lines (my strong belief that the District and Northern lines should be two lines apiece, say), in large part because a metro network with 13 lines sounds cooler than one with 11. There’s a similar impulse at work in my sudden determination that the Overground should be many lines not one. London is big, and its transport network one of the best in the world. Stop talking LO down, TfL!

But that’s not the only reason I’m thinking this slightly mad thing: there is, believe it or not, an actual practical argument for it too. On several occasions of late I have needed to go from east London, where I live, to north London, where I want to be. There are a number of ways to do this, but not having a death wish I prefer to avoid the Central line at rush hour, so that limits my options. 

When I asked CityMapper for suggestions, the two fastest routes it offers are these:

Screenshot from CityMapper.

Now. You wouldn’t know it from that screenshot, but here CityMapper is suggesting I take three different lines. On one route, I could get the Overground from Shoreditch High Street to Highbury & Islington. On the other, I would instead head to Bethnal Green Overground station, get one train to Hackney and then change to another heading west. 

To find that out, though, I’d have to click through and frown at some maps and who has the time for that? If each of those lines had a different identity, which could be simply communicated through some combination of logo and colour, then my options would be obvious.

This sort of thing happens a lot. You know you can get the Overground at Whitechapel, and at Gospel Oak, but can you get there directly? No – but you’d need to know the map to get that. Because the different lines that serve those places use the same name and the same colour god it makes me so mad.

Anyway. Thanks to my irrefutable logic, you’re now convinced, I’m sure, I’m sure, of the case for breaking the Overground up. The next questions are – how many lines should it be? And what should we call them all?

A few years ago, in fact, TfL was considering doing, well, basically what I want it to: splitting the Overground into a handful of separate lines, and showing each of them on the tube map using different colour. To distinguish them from the Underground, and to make up for the fact the human eye can only distinguish about 15 different colours at a glance, each would have been shown using “hollow tram lines” – two thin coloured lines with a white space between them – rather than a solid block.


That never happened, obviously – TfL concluded that the status quo was better, although god knows why. (Rumour is that then mayor Boris Johnson preferred being able to point to a big and growing Overground network, rather than a handful of individual lines, some of which are crap.) And, from the glimpses of that map that have occasionally found their way onto the internet – I can’t find it anywhere now; if you can let me know and I’ll add it in – I’m also not convinced by the choices TfL made. 

For one thing, it treated all the Liverpool Street routes through Hackney as a single route, the Lea Valley Lines. To my mind, it’s obviously two – one to Chingford, and one via Seven Sisters which then splits at Edmonton Green – because they use different tracks, have only three stations in common before they split, and follow a different service pattern. (The Chingford trains don’t stop at Cambridge Heath or London Fields because of the aforementioned track thing.)

For another, TfL used really boring names. The East London Line and North London Line are established names, sure. But they’re also sort of colourless. Surely there are better names for them that that?

The full London Overground map. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

So here are my proposals for better names. Some of them I’m quite pleased with. Some of them I’m not. But this is what I’ve got at the moment:

The Brunel line – The extended East London line, from Highbury & Islington down to New Cross/Crystal Palace/West Croydon/Clapham Junction. Named after the Victorian engineer who designed the tunnel under the Thames it uses. 

The Broadway line – The old North & West London lines, from Stratford to Richmond and Clapham Junction. Bit of a reach, this one, but these lines used to run into Broad Street station, and it’s a cool name, and North London Line is misleading and too similar to Northern, and I can’t think of anything better, so.

The Goblin line – The Gospel Oak to Barking line is already known as such to pretty much everyone, and okay the Goblin line means including the “lin” bit twice but what the hell, it’s its name now.

The Harlequin line – Euston to Watford Junction. A name given to the line in the late 20th century, possibly on some kind of Bakerloo model, possibly after a shopping centre. Anyway, it’s a cool name and seems worth resurrecting.

The Forest line – London Liverpool Street to Chingford, which is in Waltham Forest and on the edge of Epping Forest.

The Tottenham line – London Liverpool Street to Enfield Town/Cheshunt. I toyed with Edmonton, but Tottenham is better known and the line serves several stations in it including the one for the football club’s stadium, and okay it doesn’t serve Tottenham Hale which is confusing but honestly you come up with something better.

The Emerson line – The Romford-Upminster shuttle only serves one other station, at Emerson Park, so this one is a boring no-brainer.

As I said above, some of these names are, well, not great – so please do email me better suggestions. No, we’re not just going to use letters or numbers, this is London for heaven’s sake.

Then, once we’re agreed amongst ourselves we march on TfL. We’ll win this one yet.

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

 
 
 
 

The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.


Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.