London's trams are finally joining the tube map

A detail from the new tube map showing the trams. Image: TfL.

Yesterday, Geoff Marshall from Londonist wrote this article, outlining what he’d learned from his “exclusive first peak” at the new tube map, which will be officially released over the next few days.

That’s great for Geoff. Really great. “An exclusive”! Well done, Geoff. Well done.

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Anyway, the reason Geoff (lucky Geoff) got this exclusive (not bitter) is because he went to meet Transport for London’s head designer Jon Hunter to talk about the process of changing the new tube map.

There’s a video of the interview on Londonist here, which is well worth watching, not least because it features a discussion of how many colours the map could conceivably contain, and TfL changing the central line to green for a giggle.

But how, you want to know, has the map changed?

The big difference is that South London’s Tram network, which stretch from Wimbledon in the west to Beckenham Junction and New Addington in the east, has been included on the map for the first time. Here’s the central section, around London’s answer to Barcelona, Croydon:

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The tram networks has been running since 2000, when it opened under the name Croydon Tramlink. The network was swallowed up by TfL in 2008, and hasn’t grown significantly since.

Hunter says the trams have been added to the map now because they’ve just been added to the real time information system at stations (“rainbow boards”). But why TfL never featured them before is a bit of a mystery.

The other significant change is that the Gospel Oak to Barking bit of the London Overground is going to be electrified. This will be good once it’s done, but bad in the mean time because it means the thing is shutting in stages.

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You can see the whole thing here.

Geoff (oh, lucky, lucky Geoff) notes that only 238 of the 440 stations now shown on the map are actually tube stations. “Is it time to re-name the tube map to reflect what it really is — the TfL services map?” he asks.

I’d agree (have done at some length, in fact; he’s nicking my ideas; bloody Geoff). The tube map is no longer comprehensive in its coverage; nor does the presence of a line upon it guarantee any particular level of service quality. “The TfL services map” would be a far more honest description.

More than that, though – the new tube map implies that the best way from Beckenham to Victoria is via Croydon and Whitechapel, rather than, say, the direct and speedy train. It's not entirely clea the map is fit for purpose any more.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

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