Literally just 11 London rail maps from the mayor’s transport strategy

Some of these lucky trains may one day get to go to Lewisham. Image: Getty.

“Transport doesn’t only shape our daily lives and determine how we get around London,” writes London’s mayor Sadiq Khan in the introduction to the transport strategy his office published last month. “It can create new opportunities for Londoners and shape the character of our city.” Which I’m sure would be a lovely message if I, like everyone else, hadn’t scrolled straight past in search of the good stuff.

There’s a lot in the full report: 322 pages, 26 policies, 108 proposals, and 59 different maps or figures. Some of this stuff will be shaping London’s transport network, and through that the life of the city, for decades to come. Some of it will probably be quietly forgotten and never heard of again.

But I’m going to ignore all that, and cut straight to the chase. Here are 11 of the coolest rail maps.

1. The Elizabeth Line

Let’s start with an easy one. Most of the rail projects described in the strategy are still pretty speculative. The artist formally known as Crossrail is the odd one out. Not only is it definitely happening: it’s nearly finished, and will start opening this December.

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This map overlays the route on a map which also highlights some economic aspects of the city: the “Central Activity Zone” of the City, West End and other commercially bits of central London; “opportunity areas”, which basically means “relatively scrubby bits we might be able to stuff more development into”; and Heathrow Airport. There’s also the “North Isle of Dogs”, which you probably know better as Canary Wharf, but that’s actually the name of a private estate: this is a slightly larger and less trademarked area.

The only really striking thing about the Crossrail part of the map is the inclusion of Old Oak Common, west of Paddington. The proposed station will serve the Elizabeth Line, Overground, and proposed High Speed 2 services to the north, as well as a big chunk of what is currently wasteland but will one day soon be offices and apartments. All the other rail infrastructure on this map is definitely happening – including, it seems, the pig-headed refusal to rename Acton Main Line. Bum.

2. More Elizabeth line

There is a more speculative map of the Elizabeth line further down the report. Sadiq Khan has been talking up proposals for extending its south eastern branch to Dartford and Ebbsfleet in Kent. This, the strategy says, would support 55,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs.

 

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The map’s rubbish though: it doesn’t even show the three stations in Bexley (Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green) that’d likely be served by any such extension. So let’s move swiftly on to something more fun.

3. Crossrail 2

That’s more like it: Crossrail 2, a whole new line which would link the Lea Valley lines in north east London to the Waterloo suburban services in south west London. This map shows the route consulted on in 2015, which is why in a couple of places it gets confused and shows two versions of itself:

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This one might never happen: such a route has been talked about in various forms for a hundred years without luck, and the current government has conspicuously failed to fund it. If London does get another multi-billion pound railway project, though, this – or some version of this- is likely to be it, and it could be finished as early as the 2030s.


“It is essential for the good of the nation that this project is delivered,” the strategy says. I’m sure that argument will go down brilliantly in, say, Sunderland.

4. The Bakerloo line extension

The other Big & Important Railway Project on the table is a southern extension of the Bakerloo line. The line as it stands is pretty imbalanced, running all the way into the suburbs of zone 5 in north London, but not even making it out of zone 1 in the south. It’s thus really the only tube line you could plausibly extend without worrying about worsening overcrowding for existing passengers.

If it does get an extra push it’ll likely be through new tunnels beneath the Old Kent Road, through the biggest railway desert that close to central London, to New Cross Gate and Lewisham. Beyond that, it could swallow up a part of the Southeastern Rail network, most likely to Hayes, although Dartford via Bexleyheath is also a possibility.

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This is unlikely to happen any time soon, however. Which does at least give the authorities time to come up with better names for stations than “Old Kent Road 1” and “Old Kent Road 2”. (More on this, from December 2016, here.)

5. Trams to Sutton

Modern trams first appeared on the street of London in the year 2000, under the name Croydon Tramlink. Since then, TfL has dropped the word “Croydon” from the name – I’m saying nothing – but has conspicuously failed to extend the network, despite numerous proposals.

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It still wants to, though, and a second line connecting South Wimbledon to Sutton, via the existing Morden Road stop, is top of the list. “In the longer term,” the report says, “a further extension beyond Sutton town centre to the planned London Cancer Hub at Belmont, which may accommodate up to 10,000 new jobs, will also be considered to support the full development of the site.” Lucky old Sutton, eh?

Okay, that’s not the most exciting map, but I promise this next one is wild.

6. The West London Orbital

The London Overground has already done wonders for orbital travel in London, by enabling passengers to get from one bit of outer London to another without going all the way into zone 1. The West London Orbital Network, put forward by the originally named “West London Alliance Boroughs” would grow those opportunities further:

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This is not as radical an extension as it might at first look. The route is largely already in place – even if parts of it, like the Dudden Hill line between Cricklewood and the Old Oak Common junction, are currently freight-only. (Personally I’d take it one stop further, to Whitton, to simplify the service pattern around the Hounslow Loop, but that’s just me.)

What would be new are some of these stations, though. We’ve already talked about Old Oak Common. But this plan would see another a proposed new station at Brent Cross West, another at Lionel Road (possibly one which connects to Kew Bridge), plus orbital platforms at Harlesden and Neasden.

Apparently all this would also support the delivery of another 20,000 homes, which is pretty cool, but that’s going to take a while. So in the mean time, you know what else is cool? Maps. 

7. The South London Metro

One of TfL’s oft-stated ambitions is to take over the suburban services on most of the railway lines into London, and run them as part of the Overground. This map shows how that might look in the tube deserts of the deep south:

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Couple of things worth mentioning here. One is that this map goes to more effort to show the actual service pattern than the official London Tube & Rail Map does, which is really a sign of how bloody awful that map is.

Another is the proposals for new platforms at Brockley and Streatham Common. These are about enabling orbital journeys again: allowing more passengers to travel across south London without having to go all the way into town and then out again.

The other noteworthy thing is which lines get left out, something you can also see...

8. The full potential London Overground network

...here:

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In TfL’s ideal world, there would be far more London Overground lines in south London than there are in north London. But there’s a very good reason for this: there are simply fewer national railway lines in north London, in large part because the more extensive and more frequent tube network does the same job.

Nonetheless, there are three gaps in TfL’s ambitions. The absence of the C2C/Fenchurch Street and Chiltern/Marylebone lines are easily explained. Most of the suburban bits of those routes were actually taken over by TfL’s predecessors decades ago, as part of the District and Metropolitan line respectively. The few bits that weren’t, such as the Dagenham Dock line, tend only to be served by trains that terminate a relatively long way outside London, and so are a poor fit for the London Overground.

The more confusing and disappointing absence is Thameslink, a sort of Crossrail v0.5 whose north-south route through the City is currently being upgraded. Okay, Thameslink trains currently run to Brighton and Bedford, and other far flung destinations like Cambridge and Littlehampton are joining the network shortly. But why the suburban metro bits of the services can’t be disentangled and run by TfL is not so clear. Perhaps it’s because they use the same tracks.

9. Suburban rail hubs

The strategy also has a few maps showing what the result of all these changes would be. This one shows the various “hub” stations in outer London:

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There are about a dozen relatively small interchanges marked. The exciting ones, though, are the four major strategic interchanges, one at each corner of the capital: Stratford, Lewisham, Clapham Junction, and Willesden Junction/Old Oak Common. Under TfL’s plans, each of these would have trains heading in pretty much every direction you could imagine. Cool.

Stratford sort of already plays this role: it’s a sort of clearing house for journeys beginning or ending in the north eastern bit of London. Imagine how much easier it’d be to get around south east London if Lewisham did the same.

10. Overcrowding

Okay, this is technically two maps, but you need to compare them side by side to get the full impact.

This one is over-crowding on the network in 2041, if only the schemes that are already funding happen:

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And this is the same map, if the entire strategy goes ahead:

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TfL thinks (well it would, wouldn’t it?) its investment strategy would benefit passengers across the city: there are particularly noteworthy improvements for passengers in the West End, the Lea Valley and across South London. And if we don’t invest? Well, good luck getting onto that train.

One slightly depressing thing is that Crossrail/the Elizabeth line, which isn’t even open yet, will be heavily overcrowded regardless of what we do. So will the Central and Jubilee lines that it’s meant to relieve. Oh well.

11. The lot

Anyway: here’s a nice easy map of all TfL’s proposed changes to the rail network, starring Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo line extension, the South London Overground and new trams to Sutton. Also, look out for the Overground extension to Barking Riverside and potentially beyond, and the Northern line extension to Battersea.

 

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Don’t really have much to add at this stage, as I’ve written quite a lot of words already. So I’ll just end with: maps, eh? Maps are cool.

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

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In many ways, smart cities are really very dumb

Rio de Janeiro’s control centre. Image: Getty.

It’s not news that anything and everything is increasingly being prefaced with “smart”: phones, watches, homes, fridges, and even water (yes, smartwater exists). And it’s not unintentional either. 

Marketeers know that we, the public, are often stupid enough to believe that thanks to their technology, life is better now than it was way back in, say, the primitive Nineties. Imagine having to, like a Neanderthal, remember how to spell words without an autocorrecting algorithm, or open the fridge door to check if you’d run out of milk, or, worse still, interact with actual people.

So it’s hardly surprising that we’re now also witnessing the rise of the so-called “smart cities”; a concept which presupposes that cities that are not technologically  “smart” are dumb, which, as anyone interested in the millennia-old history of cities — from the crypto-currency grain storage algorythms of ancient Mesopotamia to the complex waste infrastructure of ancient Rome, to London’s public transport infrastructure — will know, is not true.

Deployed in these smart cities are cameras and other networked information-gathering devices, load cells and other “sensing devices” detecting passing pedestrians and vehicles, audio surveillance devices listening for gunshots – and even vending machines equipped with biometric sensors to recognise your face. This is not to mention beacon technology — tiny anonymous looking black boxes hidden in trees and on lampposts — which transmits advertising, offers and other information directly to smart phones in the vicinity. 

If that doesn’t seem sinister enough, take, for example, Rio de Janeiro, where, in 2014, the International Business Machines Corporation designed a mammoth “control centre” that integrates data from 30 agencies for the city’s police. 

Described by the Guardian as having “the functionality of a Bond villian’s techno lair”, the then local mayor, Eduardo Paes, claimed the centre was making the city safer while using technology to deploy its “special” police unit to carry out the state’s “pacification programme”. Launched in 2008, the programme, which aims to push out drug gangs from Rio’s favelas, has been criticised by Amnesty International: “in January and February 2017 in Rio de Janeiro alone, at least 182 people were killed during police operations in marginalized neighbourhoods (favelas) – a 78 per cent increase in comparison to the same period in 2016”.

Sinister or not, as smart cities grow, they create new problems. For example, as urbanist Adam Greenfield writes in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, neither the algorithms nor their designers are subject to the ordinary processes of democratic accountability – a problem that international academics are currently attempting to tackle.  


“We need to understand that the authorship of an algorithm intended to guide the distribution of civic resources is itself an inherently political act,” writes Greenfield. “The architects of the smart city have utterly failed to reckon with the reality of power.”

The Real Smart Cities project, founded by Dr Gerald Moore, Dr Noel Fitzpatrick and Professor Bernard Stiegler, is investigating the ways in which so-called “smart city” technologies present a threat to democracy and citizenship, and how digital tools might be used create new forms of community participation.

Fitzpatrick is critical of current discourses around smart cities, which he says “tend to be technical fixes, where technology is presented as a means to solve the problems of the city.” The philosophy underpinning the project is “that technologies function as forms of pharmacology”, he adds, meaning that they can be both positive and negative. “The addictive negative effects are being felt at an individual and collective level.” 

An example of this lies in the way that many of these smart cities replace human workers with disembodied voices — “Alexa we need more toilet roll” — like those used to control the Amazon Echo listening device — the high priestess of smart home. These disembodied voices travel at the speed of light to cavernous, so-called “fulfilment centres”, where an invisible workforce are called into action by our buy-it-now, one-click impulse commands; moving robotically down seemingly endless aisles of algorithmically organised products arranged according to purchase preferences the like of which we never knew we had — someone who buys a crime novel might be more likely to go on and buy cat food, a wireless router, a teapot and a screwdriver. 

Oh to be the archeologists of the future who while digging through mounds of silicon dust happen upon these vast repositories of disembodies voices. That the digital is inherently material and the binary of virtual/real does not hold — there is no cyberspace, just space. Space that is being increasingly populated by technologies that want to watch you, listen to you, get to know you and sense your presence.

One project looking to solve some of the problems of smart cities is that of the development of a “clinic of contribution” within Pleine Commune in greater Paris (an area where one in three live in poverty).This attempts to deal with issues of communication between parents and children where the widespread use of smartphones as parental devices from infancy is having effects on the attention of young children and on the communicative abilities between parents and children. 

This in turn forms part of a wider project in the area that Stiegler describes as “installing a true urban intelligence”, which moves beyond what he sees as the bankrupt idea of smart cities. The aim is to create a “contributory income” in the area that responds to the loss of salaried jobs due to automation and the growth and spread of digitisation. 

The idea being that an income could be paid to residents, on the condition that they perform a service to society. This, if you are unemployed, living in poverty and urban deprivation, sounds like quite a simple and smart idea to try and solve some of the dumb effcts of the digital technology that's implemented in cities under the ideology of being “smart”.