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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Marseille and Paris are crawling with rats. But it’s your problem too

A Parisian rat. Image: Getty.

You can very easily have a fine time in Marseille, but it is likely to be interrupted by rats.

The bloated and brazen beasts are so utterly convinced they own the place that they barely register any human presence to distract from their hedonistic excesses – throwing wild street parties, burrowing holes in overflowing bins, and darting in and out of exclusive harbourfront restaurants. We only really intrude when the occasional, blissfully oblivious rat is splattered across the cobblestones by a scooter.

For many residents, the whiskery foes have gone some way beyond a nuisance to represent a genuine menace. Rats have infested schools and taken over canteens. Pest control services claim they have broken into cars and gnawed through cables, which may have contributed to accidents. It is also alleged that they have caused Internet outages by attacking fibre-optic cables – continuing the venerable horror movie tradition of cutting the power seen in Aliens and Jurassic Park. Rats are also infamous and prolific traffickers of disease and have raised the threat of Leptospirosis.

Rat populations are fiendishly difficult to quantify, given their nocturnal lifestyle and that many live off-grid in the sewers; but by some estimates they now outnumber Marseille’s human inhabitants. Distress calls from the public to the city’s sanitation department and pest control services have increased, and the unofficial fifth emergency service has expanded its operations in response, laying poison traps and sweeping the gutters.

Several factors have contributed to the rat supremacy. Marseille’s Mediterranean climate has always been hospitable to rats, and a series of unusually warm summers – often passing 30°C – have made it more so. (Rats tend to stop breeding when it’s cold.)

City officials also bemoan the wanton waste disposal habits of their citizens, which have allowed large and easily accessible piles of appetising trash to accumulate. Marseille’s councillor for hygiene Monique Daubet recently complained the city has become a “five-star restaurant for rats”.

Others have suggested a series of strikes by garbage collectors gave the rat population a turbo charge it barely needed. A single pair of brown rats can spawn more than a thousand descendants within a year.

That formidable birth rate is one indicator of what the city is up against: the urban rat is almost a perfect predator. Millennia of human ingenuity has failed to remove them from our midst or negate the threats they pose. Rats are supreme survivors – scientists marvel at their survival on nuclear test sites – and they thrive in the most inhospitable environments. They can eat practically anything, but are neophobic, meaning they shy away from all but the most devious poison traps. The rodents are intelligent, resilient, and their ability to colonise new habitats rivals our own.

Faced with this adversary, the local authority has assigned more resources to the fight, through both the city’s sanitation department and the private extermination service A3DS. Both are reluctant to discuss their tactics and whether they are having an impact. But officials are also taking a tough line on public responsibility, insisting that residents dispose of trash after 7pm in sealed bags or face fines. The city has also proposed measures such as mobile dumps and new model bins that rats should find harder to access.

The Marseillais are also keeping a close eye on events in the capital: Paris’ rat problem may be even more severe, driven by flooding from the River Seine that has forced the rodents to seek higher ground. In recent years, rats have overrun the Louvre and forced the closure of public parks, as well as starring in viral video nasties that do little for the city’s image as the capital of romance.


Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has sounded the alarm and invested millions of euros in a campaign against rats, which has seen thousands of raids in hundreds of parks and buildings, as well as the introduction of more secure bins, and fines levied against people accused of feeding the enemy. Her administration has also despatched an envoy to New York to study the city’s approach to its own notorious rodent community.

An international approach makes sense given that rats are on the march all around the world. Reported sightings have shot up in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington. One study estimated that rats inflict $19 billion of economic damage each year in the US alone. London has also seen an increase in reported sightings. Leading rodentologist Bobby Corrigan says the same patterns are playing out in the major cities of the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

And for much the same reasons. Contributing factors include “too few resources allocated an organised program for rat control,” says Corrigan. “Also, more people in our cities means more refuse, more overloading of the city’s sanitation budgets, less thorough removal of the kind of food shrapnel that escapes typical garbage collection. Each rat only needs about 30 grams of food per 24 hours to thrive and reproduce.” A warming climate also plays a part.

Poison traps and culls can only go so far, says the rodentologist, arguing that a holistic approach is required to head off the growing threat. “The best measure is a city organised in addressing the rats across all agencies,” says Corrigan. That means mobilising departments of sanitation, parks, housing, health, and sewers, as well as mayoral administrations themselves.

Society-wide civic participation is also essential. “Controlling rats takes everyone: every homeowner, shop owner, restaurant, grocery store, airport, and so on. Not to do so invites the risk of a “new and/or highly virulent virus” developing among our old enemies, he adds.

Research into sterilisation programmes offers some hope of a new weapon to repel and reduce the rodent hordes. But not enough for us to evade responsibility while rat populations grow and the threat increases. “If we don’t work together as the wise species we claim to be and present a scientific, multi-faceted organised effort against this very smart and organised smaller mammal, we can have no hope of defeating it,” says Corrigan. Time to man the barricades.