This new map shows how the Elizabeth Line will look on the tube map. It's rubbish

Oh, well that's... oh. Image: TfL.

You know, it's been ages since we ran a story about London's tube map. So long, in fact, that we've begun to get letters ("Are you okay?" and so forth).

Luckily, though, as with the Hammersmith & City line, just as you're giving up hope, another one finally pulls into view. This one shows how the line we used to know as Crossrail – but will in future know, nauseatingly, as the Elizabeth line – will look on the tube map.

Well, sort of. In fact, it's so keen to show how the new line will look on the map that it seems rather less bothered about showing, well, the map. All the other lines – tube, DLR, Overground – are shown in shades of grey.

Click to expand.

What you can see, though, is that TfL is planning to show the new line in its entirety. Earlier versions had suggested that the western arm – which will terminate in Reading some 25 miles outside Greater London – might get truncated. It won’t, but fitting it all on will require an entirely un-geographical downward turn.

It's not, if we're honest, the prettiest of maps, even if you ignore the greyscale problem and imagine it in glorious technicolour. The fact that line goes through two right-angles between Whitechapel and Canary Wharf isn't great. Nor are the five kinks in the line's central section between Ealing Broadway and the East End. The whole thing feels a little tortured.

Some of the station blobs are getting misleading, too. At Liverpool Street and Farringdon this results from the fact the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line stations will connect with two existing tube stations each (the extras are Moorgate and Barbican respectively). Those could be fixed by renaming the stations, as we've suggested before.

But others are more complicated. Paddington is a messy station, where one set of tube platforms (the ones to Hammersmith) are miles from the rest – but this map makes little effort to communicate this fact. Canary Wharf, meanwhile, will effectively have three entirely separate stations, connecting to three different DLR stations between them. It doesn't bother explaining that either.

Oh, and Woolwich's new station gets a British rail symbol, which implies you'll be able to change to National Rail at Woolwich Arsenal. Except Woolwich Arsenal is already on this map and the new Woolwich station is nowhere near it. Baffling.

The Elizabeth line won't open properly for another three years yet: it's entirely possible this won't be the final map. But that's good because – as it stands – it's rubbish.

 (Kudos to UCL's Oliver O'Brien for managing to dig it out of the back of a dark corner of TfL's website at all. You can see the original here.)

Anyway – enough grumpiness. This engineer from consultancy Arup tweeted a version of the map drawn by his six year old.


I mean, it seems to have forgotten to include large chunks of the Overground, while wrongly locating the East London Line on the Isle of Dogs. But all the same: adorable.

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.