The new Manchester Metrolink map is both prettier and easier to use

The trams in action. Image: Getty.

In September 2016, in these pages, I asked a hugely important question: is it time to rethink the Manchester Metrolink map?

Back then, the official map was entirely in grey, making it both horribly ugly and remarkably difficult to follow. I argued that a new version, with actual colours, would be bother prettier and more useful.

Click to expand. Image: TfGM.

Six months later, I breathlessly reported that someone out there in the wilds of the internet had been smart enough to take my advice – and in the process, had made the map “much, much better”.

Click to expand. Image: Project Mapping.

And now, a mere 16 months after my initial thundering, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has finally redesigned its map – and it, too, has made it much, much better. Look upon my works, ye mighty:

Click to expand. Image: TfGM.

This is, to be fair, not quite the redesign I’d suggested. That would have seen routes colour-coded by the path they took through the city centre, mostly out of concern that showing them individually would have made the Cornbrook-St Peter’s Square section about eight lines thick.

As it turns out, that’s less of a problem than I’d feared – the service pattern has been simplified somewhat since the Second City Crossing via Exchange Square opened, which helps.

The new map instead gives each route its own colour – and it is significantly better looking. What’s more, a coloured-route map will be vastly easier to follow than one where all routes are in the same, dull grey, for almost everyone. The only exception I can think of is those who are colour-blind, but I can’t, off the top of my head, think why the new map would be any harder for them to read. 

My only slight objection is the choice of colours. Including two yellows and two greens on the map before colouring a line red makes it feel oddly unbalanced. My first thought was that perhaps the designer simply hates Manchester United, but on reflection this might also be an attempt to ensure usability for those colour-blind passengers I mentioned a mere one paragraph earlier.

There are other changes. The new map has replaced the letters labelling the routes on the last version of the map with numbers. It’s also tinkered with some of the routes slightly. Here, best I can tell, are the changes:

  • Route A – Altrincham to Bury – now route 1, unchanged
  • Route B – Altrincham to Etihad Campus – now route 2, Altrincham-Piccadilly
  • Route C – Bury to Piccadilly – now route 4, unchanged
  • Route D – MediaCityUK to Piccadilly – now route 7, MediaCity-UK-Etihad Campus
  • Route E – Eccles to Ashton-under-Lyme – now route 3, unchanged.
  • Route F – Manchester Airport to Deansgate-Castlefield – now route 6, extended across the city centre to Victoria via Shudehill
  • Route G – East Didsbury to Rochdale Town Centre – now route 5, unchanged
  • Route H – East Disbury to Shaw & Crompton – missing in action; but since this was a truncated version of route G, one assumes it’s effectively been subsumed into route 5.

So, to sum up: routes 2 & 7 have swapped eastern termini; route 6 has extended northwards to Victoria; and H has disappeared altogether.

I think that’s everything.


You see, this is what happens when people write in to complain I write too much about the tube map: lengthy, nerdy commentary about slight changes to the Manchester Metrolink map. Are you happy now, “not everyone lives in London” brigade? Are you happy?

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

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

The media scumbag’s route of choice: A personal history of London’s C2 bus

A C2 bus at Parliament Hill. Image: David Howard/Wikimedia Commons.

London’s C2 bus route, which runs from Parliament Hill, by Hampstead Heath, down to Conduit Street, just off Regent Street, is one of the bus routes recently earmarked for the chop. It has oft been noted that, of all the routes recently pencilled in for cancellation after a consultation late last year, it was the one most likely to survive, for the simple reason that it links liberal suburban north London with BBC Broadcasting House and Soho; it’s thus the route most likely to be used by people who can convince someone to let them report on its imminent demise.

So it would come as no surprise that former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger took to the Camden New Journal when the consultation began, arguing that it would be a disservice to the local community to discontinue a route where you can always get a seat – seemingly missing the point that the fact you can always get a seat is not a great sign of the route’s usefulness.

It wasn’t always that way. When I left university in 2000, and moved from accommodation near college to up to a rented shared house in N6, the C2 was my bus. I commuted to Soho for sixteen years: for more than a decade from flats around the Swain’s Lane roundabout, and for five years from Kentish Town. While my place of work bounced around from Golden Square to Lexington Street to Great Marlborough, it was always the most convenient way to get to, and from, work; especially given the difference between bus and tube prices.

So when it comes to the C2 I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and bought the bus pass. And by bus pass, I mean those little paper ones that still existed at the beginning of this century. Not just before contactless, but before Oyster cards.

More importantly, it was before London buses operated a single zone. There was an outer zone, and an inner zone, with different prices. To travel from one zone to another cost £1.30, meaning an all cash commute was £2.60, whereas a paper bus pass was £2.00. That made it worth your while to divert to an early opening newsagents on your way to the bus stop (GK, in my case), even if you only got two buses a day.

It’s a measure of how greatly London’s buses have improved over the last twenty years, since first brought under control of the mayoralty, that pretty much everything about this anecdotage, including the prices, seems faintly mad. But there’s more: back when I started getting that bus down to Stop N, literally at the very end of the route, the C2 used single decker buses with a single door. It’s an appalling design for use in a crowded city, which meant most of any journey was, for most passengers, spent fighting your way up and down the middle of the bus to find a seat, and then back again to get off; or – and this was more likely – fighting your way up the bus to get into standing space the driver insisted was there, before fighting your way, etc.

Such buses – and in my former life in the English Midlands I went to school on one of these buses every day – are perfectly functional where bus stops are infrequent and buses rarely standing room only. But running through Camden Town at rush hour, they’re wholly unfit for purpose.

A Citypacer. Image: RXUYDC/Wikimedia Commons.

It could have been worse. I didn’t know this at the time, but a few years before the C2 route had been run using Optare City Pacers. Those are, let us be frank, not really buses at all, but minibuses. That’s something the reveals the C2’s origins, as a hopper route to the west end largely intended for the daytime use of Gospel Oak’s pensioners in the years immediately before bus privatisation. (The C11 has a similar origin, taking the same constituency from Archway to England’s Lane.)

Once responsibility for London Buses was moved to the newly established mayoralty, things improved dramatically. Under Ken Livingstone it went double decker in 2005, and 24 hour in 2007. Under Boris Johnson it was extended from its once, and future, terminus of Conduit Street to Victoria Station, swallowing up the cancelled sections of the 8 bus; this extension was quietly disposed of a few years later, once it was clear no one would notice. (I did.)


In those years I must have taken a C2 the best part of ten thousand times; but for all the years when I wouldn’t have been able to live without the C2, times have reduced its utility, and not just for me. I’m now a 214 sort of guy: these days the top chunk of the C2 route is duplicated exactly by that other bus, which starts up in Highgate Village and, once it gets to Swain’s Lane, follows the same path until the fork of Kentish Town Road and Royal College Street, opposite the long defunct South Kentish Town tube station.

From a few hundred metres below that point, at Camden Gardens, stop C, the 88 starts. That duplicates the rest of the C2’s route, with the exception of the run down Albany Street and onto Great Portland, for much of which the C2 is the only bus.

So the C2, old friend that it is, is pretty redundant in the age of the hopper fare, which allows you to change buses without paying a second fare. That’s even more true now the C2’s otherwise un-serviced stops are being giving over to a re-routed 88, which will pick up the C2’s most northern leg, by not finishing at Camden Gardens anymore and instead going all the way to Parliament Hill Fields. Which will be nice for it.

All this, however, ignores the best reason for getting rid of the C2 (or rather for merging it with the 88, which is what’s actually happening): that first character. The letter. Who wants a bus route with a letter in front of it when even half the night buses don’t have the N anymore? It’s relic of the route’s aforementioned origins as a ‘Camdenhopper’.

That C is twenty five years past its own utility. It’s just untidy. City Metric hates that sort of thing. Get rid.