Look! A new version of the London Tube & Rail map! This story isn’t about Brexit!

Mmmmm curvy. Image: Luke Carvill.

It’s bad, the world, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t want to overstate this, but on this specific day, at this particular point in history, the world is completely bloody awful.

So here’s a new take on the tube map to talk about. Tube map redesigns are my happy place, and don’t you judge me because by clicking this article you’ve implicitly admitted that they’re yours, too.

This one, actually of the London Tube & Rail Map, comes from Luke Carvill, who, like many a graphic designer before him, is using it to show off his skills.

Click to expand.

Here’s what he says about it:

“I think Harry Beck’s London tube map is one of the greatest pieces of graphic design in history, but he had no idea how large the network would become. I feel the current map is somewhat cluttered and intimidating to those unfamiliar with it. My redesign focused on simplicity, balance, and beauty.

“The map is mostly used by tourists, who start and/or end most of their journeys in Zones 1 and 2, in order to make the busiest part of the network easier to spot and read, I gave Central London a wide amount of space and framed in an Overground loop.”

Those are indeed the most obvious aspects of his redesign. I’m not entirely sold on the vastly bigger central London, whose acres of white space between lines ends up making the suburbs look cramped in places (the route to Gatwick Airport, included because it takes Oyster cards, ends up bending awkwardly round as if it heads west, not south).

Click to expand.

But turning the London Overground routes via Clapham and Highbury & Islington into a loop around central London is very pleasing indeed. And replacing the ugly grey shading to represent fare zones with tiny numbers is such an elegant solution that it remains a mystery why TfL has never done it.

Another minor detail of which I’m a big fan is the effort to map goes to show that Blackfriars station has an entrance on the South Bank:

Click to expand.

Carvill follows designers past in using bold, solid colours to represent the tube, and lighter, hollow lines in pastel shades to show National Rail. This is meant to “draw the attention of the eye towards the busier services”, and mostly works, although inevitably there are exceptions (far more mainline services at Wimbledon, say, then there are tube ones at Roding Valley). The map also uses slightly different colours for different Overground or tram services, to make it clear whether direct services do or don’t exist.

It’s not perfect. Like pretty much every other designer ever, he’s struggled to come up with a way of showing the way certain Elizabeth line stations will connect to multiple tube ones, which seems to bolster my case for renaming those stations. And the Bank/Monument interchange is something of a mess. But on balance, I’m a fan.

There. Wasn’t that more fun than reading about Brexit for a while? You can find more tube mappy goodness here.

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

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“You don’t look like a train buff”: on sexism in the trainspotting community

A female guard on London’s former Metropolitan Railway. Image: Getty.

I am a railway enthusiast. I like looking at trains, I like travelling by train and I like the quirks of the vast number of different train units, transit maps and train operating companies.

I get goosebumps standing on a platform watching my train approach, eyeballing the names of the destinations on the dot matrix display over and over again, straining to hear the tinny departure announcements on the tannoy.  I’m fortunate enough to work on the site of a former railway station that not only houses beautiful old goods sheds, but still has an active railway line running alongside it. You can imagine my colleagues’ elation as I exclaim: “Wow! Look at that one!” for the sixth time that day, as another brilliantly gaudy freight train trundles past.

I am also a woman in my twenties. A few weeks my request to join a railway-related Facebook group was declined because I – and I quote here – “don’t look like a train buff”.

After posting about this exchange on Twitter, my outrage was widely shared. “They should be thrilled to have you!” said one. “What does a train buff look like?!” many others asked.

The answer, of course, is a middle-aged white man with an anorak and notebook. Supposedly, anyway. That’s the ancient stereotype of a “trainspotter”, which sadly shows no sign of waning.

I’m not alone in feeling marginalised in the railway community. Sarah, a railway enthusiast from Bournemouth, says she is used to funny looks when she tells people that she is not only into trains, but an engineer.

She speaks of her annoyance at seeing a poster bearing the phrase: “Beware Rail Enthusiasts Disease: Highly Infectious To Males Of All Ages”. “That did bug me,” she says, “because women can enjoy trains just as much as men.”


Vicki Pipe is best known as being one half of the YouTube sensation All The Stations, which saw her and her partner Geoff Marshall spend 2017 visiting every railway station in Great Britain.

“During our 2017 adventure I was often asked ‘How did your boyfriend persuade you to come along?’” she says. “I think some found it unusual that a woman might be independently interested or excited enough about the railways to spend sixteen weeks travelling to every station on the network.”

Pipe, who earlier this year travelled to all the stations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, is passionate about changing the way in which people think of the railways, including the perception of women in the industry.

“For me it’s the people that make the railways such an exciting place to explore – and many of these are women,” she explains. “Women have historically and continue to play an important part in the railway industry – throughout our journey we met female train drivers, conductors, station staff, signallers and engineers. I feel it is important that more female voices are heard so that women of the future recognise the railways as a place they too can be part of.”

Despite the progress being made, it’s clear there is still a long way to go in challenging stereotypes and proving that girls can like trains, too.

I’m appalled that in 2019 our life choices are still subjected to critique. This is why I want to encourage women to embrace their interests and aspirations – however “nerdy”, or unusual, or untraditionally “female” they may be – and to speak up for things that I was worried to speak about for so long.

We might not change the world by doing so but, one by one, we’ll let others know that we’ll do what we want – because we can.