This new take on London's tube and rail map is neat, clear and beautiful

Ooooh. Shiny. Image: Jug Cerović.

You know, somewhere out there in the great media blob that clings to this world like an overgrown squid, there are journalists receiving leaks from the highest levels of government. There are hacks to whom corporate whistleblowers are even now anonymously emailing proof of corporate misconduct.

Perhaps I could have been one of those guys once. Perhaps. But my life has taken a different path. Instead, I'm the guy to whom people send their new takes on the world’s metro maps.

Hi Jonn,

I have thoroughly updated my London subway map, I thought you would be interested.

I shouldn't complain, though, because this latest effort is a corker. It comes from Jug Cerović, a Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer; you may remember us singing rhapsodies about his version of tube map back in June.

In this latest version of the map, Cerović has, well, let's let him speak for himself:

I finally decided to give a go to a most dreaded prospect: mapping the whole London rail system, especially south of the Thames.

Whoa.

Putting together a full London rail map is a pretty big challenge for a designer – far bigger, in fact, than simply re-doing the tube map.


It's relatively easy to keep a map beautiful when the network it portrays is a simple one. The more complex a system becomes, however, the more difficult it is to keep things looking pretty. Instead of a visually pleasing spider's web, you end up with a plate of multi-coloured spaghetti. Even at the most basic level of distinguishing lines from one another, there's a danger of running out of colours.

Cerović has overcome the latter problem by using bright colours for the Tube network, and lighter, pastel ones for the National Rail network. This, he says, "gives the map a hierarchy and better legibility. You see the underground first, then the rest."

South of the river, where the network gets really messy, Cerović has gone further. Most maps of the current system show the whole of south London in one shade, and the whole of south east in another, to represent the fact each is dominated by a single train operating company.

The result is that, in place of easily traceable route maps, you get a whole quarter of the city’s rail network shown in just two colours. To make matters worse, both Southern and SouthEastern trains serve multiple bits of central London: from the map, it’s often not clear where you train will end up.

So this new map also divides them up by terminal station. The result looks like this:

There are a number of other features of the map worth nothing. It includes some of London's major parks to aid in orientation:

It uses bold type, to highlight key stations, and tiny numbers to tell you what travelcard zone you're in:

It uses multiple colours to show different DLR routes, too:

It even shows river boat services.

Inevitably, there are things we're less convinced by. The increasingly sprawling Overground network uses a single shade of pale orange, despite having about nine different routes now, which feels like the wrong decision. The choice of which ground level walking connections are shown seems a bit arbitrary, too.

And a few errors have crept in. The map shows Great Northern services from King's Cross leaving London via Highbury & Islington (they don't), and misses Drayton Park altogether.

But errors like these are perhaps inevitable on a design project of this scale – especially one covering a city with which the mapmaker isn't intimately familiar. No doubt, they’ll be corrected on a later draft.

Overall, Cerović's map is packed with information, beautiful to look at, and easier to follow than a network this complex has any right to be. Transport for London's cartographers should take note.


You can see the map in all its glory on Jug Cerović’s website.

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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.