London’s tube map needs to rethink how it shows the Bank/Monument interchange

Bank station. Image: Getty.

The world is cold and dark and terrifying, and the British economy might be about to go off a cliff. So I’m retreating to my happy place: here is an unnecessarily detailed piece about the tube map.

Transport for London (TfL) is currently in the middle of rebuilding Bank station, its third busiest interchange, in a project it claims will increase its capacity by more than 40 per cent. The modernisation scheme will include two new lifts, two new moving walkways, 12 new escalators, and a whole new entrance to the station on Cannon Street.

There’ll also be a whole new stretch of tunnel for the Northern line, to allow for wider platforms. (Something similar happened in Angel in the early 1990s, which, if you were wondering, is why one platform is so incredibly wide.) You can’t really do this while trains run through – so the scheme will involve closing the entire branch for much of 2020, which I’m sure will be hilarious.

The proposed developments: note the layout of the lines, and the position of Cannon Street. Image: TfL.

What’s all this got to do with the tube map, I tell myself I can hear you ask in an attempt to convince myself I’m not wasting my life? Well, I’m very glad you asked.

Bank station, you’ll recall, isn’t just Bank station: it’s part of the same complex as Monument station, allowing interchange with the District and Circle lines, and TfL runs them as one. Historically, the map showed the two linked by an escalator, which at some point in the late 1980s I forced some tolerant relative or another to take me to. These days, it just shows up as an interchange.

The 1985 tube map. Note the escalator link. 

Here’s the thing, though: it’s often a rubbish interchange. The District and Circle platforms at Monument link are an easy walk from the Northern or DLR ones, which run under King William Street; but they’re a bloody long way from the Central and Waterloo & City ones, which don’t.


For those, in fact, you’re actually better off changing at Cannon Street – which is, surprisingly, rather closer to Bank junction – and nipping over the road to the new Walbrook entrance to Bank station. It’s at street level, but it’s a much shorter walk.

Since that new entrance opened, indeed, this latter interchange is actually officially recognised as an Out-of-Station interchange, meaning the ticketing system recognises it as a single journey. But it’s not on the map, despite the fact apps like CityMapper will tell you to use it all the time: follow TfL signage, indeed, and you’re likely to use the Bank-Monument link instead, and spend an eternity trudging along underground, because the link isn’t actually an escalator, it’s an insanely long tunnel, and my childhood self was so disappointed.

Anyway: I’ve been using the Cannon Street interchange recently, and it’s pretty good. So it strikes me that the Bank rebuilding project is an excellent excuses to rethink how the map shows this entire area.

Here’s an extract from the amateur tube map produced by Paris-based designer Jug Cerović last year:

Image: Jug Cerović.

And here’s a very slight amendment to it:

Image: Jug Cerović/CityMetric.

Okay, it’s scrappy, but do you see what I’ve done there? It now suggests that, from Cannon Street, there’s a direct street level interchange to the Central and Waterloo & City lines; for the DLR and Northern, though, you’re still better off at Monument.

This won’t be right for everyone – some people will still prefer to stay below ground and avoid traffic, even if it’s the longer way around – but it gives a better sense of how the junction actually works.

TfL could even go further, perhaps, renaming the DLR and Northern line stations Bank/Monument to give a better sense of the geography – this would make sense on the new double-ended Elizabeth line stations, too – but I know in my heart of hearts I’m never winning that argument. The map, though, would be a relatively easy fix. So why not?

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

 
 
 
 

To make electric vehicles happen, the government must devolve energy policy to councils

The future. Image: Getty.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that at least a quarter of councils have halted the roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure with no plans to resume its installation. This is a fully charged battery-worth of miles short of ideal, given the ambitious decarbonisation targets to which the UK is rightly working.

It’s even more startling given the current focus on inclusive growth, for the switch to EVs is an economic advancement, on an individual and societal level. Decarbonisation will free up resources and push growth, but the way in which we go about it will have impacts for generations after the task is complete.

If there is one lesson that has been not so much taught to us as screamed at us by recent history, it is that the market does not deliver inclusivity by itself. Left to its own devices, the market tends to leave people behind. And people left behind make all kinds of rational decisions, in polling stations and elsewhere that can seem wholly irrational to those charged with keeping pace – as illuminted in Jeremy Harding’s despatch from the ‘periphery’ which has incubated France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ in the London Review of Books.

But what in the name of Nikola Tesla has any of this to do with charging stations? The Localis argument is simple: local government must work strategically with energy network providers to ensure that EV charging stations are rolled out equally across areas, to ensure deprived areas do not face further disadvantage in the switch to EVs. To do so, Ofgem must first devolve certain regulations around energy supply and management to our combined authorities and city regions.


Although it might make sense now to invest in wealthier areas where EVs are already present, if there isn’t infrastructure in place ahead of demand elsewhere, then we risk a ‘tale of two cities’, where decarbonisation is two-speed and its benefits are two-tier.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Monday that urban mobility will be an issue for overarching and intelligent strategy moving forward. The issue of fairness must be central to any such strategy, lest it just become a case of more nice things in nice places and a further widening of the social gap in our cities.

This is where the local state comes in. To achieve clean transport across a city, more is needed than just the installation of charging points.  Collaboration must be coordinated between many of a place’s moving parts.

The DfT announcement makes much of open data, which is undoubtedly crucial to realising the goal of a smart city. This awareness of digital infrastructure must also be matched by upgrades to physical infrastructure, if we are going to realise the full network effects of an integrated city, and as we argue in detail in our recent report, it is here that inclusivity can be stitched firmly into the fabric.

Councils know the ins and outs of deprivation within their boundaries and are uniquely placed to bring together stakeholders from across sectors to devise and implement inclusive transport strategy. In the switch to EVs and in the wider Future of Mobility, they must stay a major player in the game.

As transport minister and biographer of Edmund Burke, Jesse Norman has been keen to stress the founding Conservative philosopher’s belief in the duty of those living in the present to respect the traditions of the past and keep this legacy alive for their own successors.

If this is to be a Burkean moment in making the leap to the transformative transport systems of the future, Mr Norman should give due attention to local government’s role as “little platoons” in this process: as committed agents of change whose civic responsibility and knowledge of place can make this mobility revolution happen.

Joe Fyans is head of research at the think tank Localis.