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?