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 funded 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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What Citymapper’s business plan tells us about the future of Smart Cities

Some buses. Image: David Howard/Wikimedia Commons.

In late September, transport planning app Citymapper announced that it had accumulated £22m in losses, nearly doubling its total loss since the start of 2019. 

Like Uber and Lyft, Citymapper survives on investment funding rounds, hoping to stay around long enough to secure a monopoly. Since the start of 2019, the firm’s main tool for establishing that monopoly has been the “Citymapper Pass”, an attempt to undercut Transport for London’s Oyster Card. 

The Pass was teased early in the year and then rolled out in the spring, promising unlimited travel in zones 1-2 for £31 a week – cheaper than the TfL rate of £35.10. In effect, that means Citymapper itself is paying the difference for users to ride in zones 1-2. The firm is basically subsidising its customers’ travel on TfL in the hopes of getting people hooked on its app. 

So what's the company’s gameplan? After a painful, two-year long attempt at a joint minibus and taxi service – known variously as Smartbus, SmartRide, and Ride – Citymapper killed off its plans at a bus fleet in July. Instead of brick and mortar, it’s taken a gamble on their mobile mapping service with Pass. It operates as a subscription-based prepaid mobile wallet, which is used in the app (or as a contactless card) and operates as a financial service through MasterCard. Crucially, the service offers fully integrated, unlimited travel, which gives the company vital information about how people are actually moving and travelling in the city.

“What Citymapper is doing is offering a door-to-door view of commuter journeys,” says King’s College London lecturer Jonathan Reades, who researches smart cities and the Oyster card. 

TfL can only glean so much data from your taps in and out, a fact which has been frustrating for smart city researchers studying transit data, as well as companies trying to make use of that data. “Neither Uber nor TfL know what you do once you leave their system. But Citymapper does, because it’s not tied to any one system and – because of geolocation and your search – it knows your real origin and destination.” 

In other words, linking ticketing directly with a mapping service means the company can get data not only about where riders hop on and off the tube, but also how they're planning their route, whether they follow that plan, and what their final destination is. The app is paying to discount users’ fares in order to gain more data.

Door-to-door destinations gives a lot more detailed information about a rider’s profile as well: “Citymapper can see that you’re also looking at high-profile restaurant as destinations, live in an address on a swanky street in Hammersmith, and regularly travel to the City.” Citymapper can gain insights into what kind of people are travelling, where they hang out, and how they cluster in transit systems. 

And on top of finding out data about how users move in a city, Citymapper is also gaining financial data about users through ticketing, which reflects a wider trend of tech companies entering into the financial services market – like Apple’s recent foray into the credit card business with Apple Card. Citymapper is willing to take a massive hit because the data related to how people actually travel, and how they spend their money, can do a lot more for them than help the company run a minibus service: by financialising its mapping service, it’s getting actual ticketing data that Google Maps doesn’t have, while simultaneously helping to build a routing platform that users never really have to leave


The integrated transit app, complete with ticket data, lets Citymapper get a sense of flows and transit corridors. As the Guardian points out, this gives Citymapper a lot of leverage to negotiate with smaller transit providers – scooter services, for example – who want to partner with it down the line. 

“You can start to look at ‘up-sell’ and ‘cross-sell’ opportunities,” explain Reades. “If they see that a particular journey or modal mix is attractive then they are in a position to act on that with their various mobility offerings or to sell that knowledge to others. 

“They might sell locational insights to retailers or network operators,” he goes on. “If you put a scooter bay here then we think that will be well-used since our data indicates X; or if you put a store here then you’ll be capturing more of that desirable scooter demographic.” With the rise of electric rideables, Citymapper can position itself as a platform operator that holds the key to user data – acting a lot like TfL, but for startup scooter companies and car-sharing companies.

The app’s origins tell us a lot about the direction of its monetisation strategy. Originally conceived as “Busmapper”, the app used publicly available transit data as the base for its own datasets, privileging transit data over Google Maps’ focus on walking and driving.  From there it was able to hone in on user data and extract that information to build a more efficient picture of the transit system. By collecting more data, it has better grounds for selling that for urban planning purposes, whether to government or elsewhere.

This kind of data-centred planning is what makes smart cities possible. It’s only become appealing to civic governments, Reades explains, since civic government has become more constrained by funding. “The reason its gaining traction with policy-makers is because the constraints of austerity mean that they’re trying to do more with less. They use data to measure more efficient services.”  

The question now is whether Citymapper’s plan to lure riders away from the Oyster card will be successful in the long term. Consolidated routing and ticketing data is likely only the first step. It may be too early to tell how it will affect public agencies like TfL – but right now Citymapper is establishing itself as a ticketing service - gaining valuable urban data, financialising its app, and running up those losses in the process.

When approached for comment, Citymapper claimed that Pass is not losing money but that it is a “growth startup which is developing its revenue streams”. The company stated that they have never sold data, but “regularly engage with transport authorities around the world to help improve open data and their systems”

Josh Gabert-Doyon tweets as @JoshGD.