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

 
 
 
 

London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

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