This map shows what London’s tube network would look like without any actual tube lines

What. Image: TfL.

Well. This is one of the weirder tube maps I’ve seen of late. And believe me, I see a LOT of tube maps.

It’s so weird, in fact, that it’s weird in two distinct ways. Firstly it’s geographically accurate: rather than adopting the Harry Beck-style diagram we all know and love, it uses a map of the London boroughs to show where the lines actually go.

Secondly, it shows just four lines: the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Circle and District. Effectively, it’s the lines which share track with the inner circle.

What’s really weird about it, in its way, is that it’s actually the work of Transport for London (TfL), rather than a bunch of nerds like, well, like me.

Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There is a method to this madness. Not all tube lines are actually tube lines: technically, that label should only apply to those which run through tunnels bored deep underground.

These others are technically “sub-surface” lines. They’re the oldest part of the network, built through the relatively primitive method of digging trenches, sticking tracks in them and then building over the top again. These have slightly bigger trains and, generally, better air-conditioning, too.


I’m not sure why TfL felt moved to produce this as a separate map. Perhaps it’s a useful aide-memoire for those working on the network. Perhaps it’s to show which stations are reachable directly via lines serving the inner circle, for some reason. Or perhaps it’s just because they know that someone like me would inevitably write about it, and they like the attention. Who can say?

One thing we can say, though, is that there is a weirdly long gap between Kings Cross St. Pancras and Farringdon, and they should build a station at Mount Pleasant to plug it.

You can see the whole thing here. Hat tip: Diamond Geezer.

UPDATE: Okay, guys, I’m going to level with you: I wrote the above, very quickly, on Friday afternoon in about three minutes because I thought there might be traffic in it. (Don’t judge me, you clicked, didn’t you?) I may not have dedicated quite the investigative energies to this story that a matter of such importance clearly deserves.

Anyway. Diamond Geezer has been in touch to point out that TfL have actually explained why the map exists. It’s to show the scope of this project:

We are transforming the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines. When the work is completed in 2023, increased capacity and boosted reliability will make journeys faster and more comfortable.

Because these lines share a lot of track and infrastructure, they are being modernised under a single combined and integrated project, Four Lines Modernisation (4LM).

The 4LM project will involve new trains, tracks and signalling, allowing shorter journey times a 33 per cent increase in peak-hour capacity on the sub-surface network. Which, since it makes up 40 per cent of the network, is a pretty big deal.

Cool.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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What’s behind the rise of the ornamental restaurant toilet?

Toilets at Sketch restaurant, London. Image: Nik Stanbridge/Flickr.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the toilets of a zeitgeisty new Italian restaurant in east London called Gloria. As with so many contemporary restaurant toilets, those in question were an aesthetic extension of the establishment’s soul. The inventive menu was matched by two-way mirrored toilet doors.

The setup was this: cubicle occupants could see out while the unisex crowd milling around the taps could check their outfits on the exterior mirrors. All fun and games, I thought. But then I found myself mid toilet with a guy peering into my door to change his contact lens. Either he had spectacularly bad manners or he was unaware of the two-way door thing. (Let’s hope it’s the latter.)

Gloria’s toilets aren’t unique in their attempt to be distinctive. The loos at nearby Mr Fogg’s Maritime Club & Distillery are adorned with specimen boards of dead spiders. Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s The Sun Inn invites patrons to pee in buckets, and trumpets double as urinals in The Bell Inn in East Sussex. Men can wee into the vista if they’re dining in the Shard. And Sketch’s ovum shaped loos are the stuff of urban legend.

Further afield, transparent doors become frosted only after they’re locked at Brussels’ Belga Queen. In Otto’s Bierhalle in Toronto, diners can press a button to activate their own private rave. And the toilets in Robot Restaurant in Tokyo have gold-plated interiors and dancing robots.

What’s behind this trend? Are quirky toilets just a bit of fun – or an unnecessary complication to the simple act of going for a wee and checking you don’t have tomato sauce on your chin?

Yotam Ottolenghi’s London flagship restaurant Nopi crops up often in conversations about restaurant bathrooms. A hall of mirrors glitters enticingly ahead of loo-bound diners. “The bathroom needs to be the nicest part [of] the whole place because that’s where you’re on your own,” says Alex Meitlis, the designer behind the space.

But no one is truly alone in 2019. If surveys are to be believed, nearly 65 per cent of millennials take their phone to the bathroom with them. Mike Gibson, who edits the London food and drink magazine Foodism agrees that the bathroom selfie – searches for which, incidentally, yield over 1.5m results on Instagram – is part of the reason that contemporary lavatory design is so attention seeking.


“Any new venue that's opening will be super aware that there's probably not an inch of their restaurant that won't be photographed or filmed at some point”, he says. But bathrooms like Nopi’s predate this trend. Indeed, Meitlis believes he has created a haven from the smartphone obsession; Nopi’s mirrors are angled in such a way that means you have to seek out your reflection. “You can choose whether to look for yourself in the mirror or not.”

Another driving force is the increasingly competitive restaurant landscape. “It’s almost like there’s some sort of ever-escalating competition going on amongst new openings, which makes every visit a faintly terrifying experience”, says food writer and New Statesman contributor Felicity Cloake. Gibson agrees. “Restaurants want an edge wherever possible, and design definitely comes into that.”

So novelty bathrooms get you noticed, promote social media engagement and entertain diners who are momentarily without the distraction of company. (Although, it must be said, quirky bathrooms tend to make the loo trip a more sociable experience; a Gloria spokesperson described the restaurant’s toilets as somewhere you can “have a good laugh and meet people along the way.”)

Nevertheless, I’m not the only one who finds bathroom surprises disconcerting.  One TripAdvisor user thought the Belga Queen loos were “scary”. And a friend reports that her wonderment at the Nopi bathroom was laced with mirror maze induced nausea – and mild panic when she realised she didn’t know the way out. Should restaurants save the thrills for the food?

“I think it's important not to be too snarky about these things – restaurants are meant to playful,” says Gibson. Cloake agrees that novelty is fine, but adds: “my favourite are places like Zelman Meats in Soho that have somewhere in the dining room where you can easily wash your hands before sitting down and tucking in.”

So perhaps we should leave toilets unadorned and instead ramp up the ornamentation elsewhere. Until then, I’ll be erecting a makeshift curtain in all mirrored toilets I encounter in future. An extreme reaction, you might say. But, as I wish I could have told the rogue contact lens inserter, it’s not nice to pry into someone else’s business.