Should London demand better names for its tube lines?

Yawn. Image: TfL.

In the heat of the craze for Egyptology that followed the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, it was seriously suggested that the London Underground route from Morden to Edgware be called the Tutancamden (Tootancamden in some tellings) line. The name used the same awkward portmanteau language that brought us “Bakerloo”, to commemorate the exotic thrill of both the boy king’s tomb and the new ability to travel between Tooting and Camden through a tunnel.

The portmanteau word is awkward, more so even than Bakerloo, and it is a little hard to see the connection between the majestic, ancient majesty of the pyramids and either Tooting or Camden. But still, it’s a more interesting name than the Northern line, and might have provided the pretext for the stations on the route to have an Ancient Egypt-influenced Art Deco look. The current decor of Kentish Town and Mornington Crescent stations has its charms – but imagine them with the odd blue scarab or red lotus motif? 

The Northern line isn’t the only one to have more exotic name suggestions rejected. The portmanteaus Warvic (Walthamstow to Victoria) and Viking (Victoria to Kings Cross) were suggested for what instead became the Victoria line in 1955. Although the name is actually only a third-hand tribute to Queen Victoria – the line is named after the London Victoria station, itself named for its placement on Victoria Street which was named after the Queen in 1851 – it still has the same aura of fatuous forelock-tugging.

And on balance, weren’t the Vikings a less destructive force in the world than Queen Victoria? And more deserving of a tube line named after them? While the 1950s were a time of less vigorous cultural appropriation than the 1920s, there might also have been some inspiration to be had when designing a Viking themed tube line.


Sadly, none of the other tube lines seem to have solicited such interesting/stupid suggestions for names as Viking or Tutancamden. Instead they gained uncontroversial names based on some combination of the names of the companies that owned the line prior to London Underground’s formation, description or geography. The main exception to this was the Jubilee line, an authentic expression of contemporary royal fervour in exactly the way the naming of the Victoria line wasn’t.

Are these banal names a problem, and should we demand better? A nod to Tutankhamun in the name of the Tutancamden line might bring a welcome evocation of the Nile’s fertile banks to a mundane trip to Archway; while the Viking line would, if nothing else, give a hint of the kind of bustle you’ll experience changing at Victoria in the rush hour. But would it be useful or helpful for the tube lines to have better, cooler, more interesting names? 

I’m not sure. The names of the tube lines themselves are, in practice, largely irrelevant to a system primarily navigated by tracing coloured lines on a map, so snappier names wouldn’t necessarily provide any recognition value for newcomers to the city. It’s also arguable that giving each line more character would be counter-productive – the identity of the London Underground is it’s the Underground. It’s the tube: that’s the identity that matters.

Also, goddamit, those names may be boring but there’s plenty of solid, admittedly slightly dull history in each of those tube line names. The abandoned Northern Heights plan to extend the Underground from Edgware to Bushey Heath might not be quite as exciting as cracking open the tomb of a long lost pharaoh to discover the treasure within, but its worthy of commemoration in its own way; even the layered logic of naming a line after a station after a street after a queen has a story of its own to tell.

They may not be very exciting historical stories, but they’re ours, and I can’t think of anything more authentically British than that.  

If you have strong feelings about possible names of the tube lines, tweet us.

 
 
 
 

Meet Abu Dhabi’s blockchain and decentralisation wunderkind

“All industries are the same – you have to stay away from the people who have a propensity toward jargon and toward trying to create their little islands of expertise. Instead, just think about what a company actually does – there’s no need to complicate it.”

If ever a quote summed up 2020 and the world’s hyper-fast transformation into a more practical approach to employees working from home and the realisation that the building blocks of technology are now the building blocks of society, it’s this wisdom from Derick Smith, founder and CEO of AmmbrTech Limited.

The company, founded in Luxembourg in 2016, has now moved its headquarters to Abu Dhabi, which has been in the news a lot lately for attracting globally enduring technology companies many of which have been snapped up by the likes of Uber and Amazon.

Smith, who opened his first company at the age of 19, says one of the reasons for the move was the UAE’s forward thinking: “I was monitoring the evolution of crypto and blockchain for some years, and as things started to evolve, Abu Dhabi Global Market caught my eye. They have some really elegant, well-thought-out crypto regulations being developed in their jurisdiction,” he explains.

Blockchain in Abu Dhabi

The UAE is the seventh country that Smith, originally from South Africa, has opened up a company in and he says it’s been the best in terms of both infrastructure and regulations.

The UAE has been by far the easiest to do business in so many ways,” says Smith. “Working with Hub71 was absolutely sterling – the support, the speed at which things happen. It was so smooth. The visas, the willingness of people to talk to you, have meetings, assist you – all of that was brilliant.

“The office was ready the day we landed. And to be honest, they’re getting better all the time so someone joining Abu Dhabi’s tech or AI and blockchain scene now would find it even easier.”

AmmbrTech’s offering was intriguing pre-Covid-19, but now with digital transformation and decentralisation at the forefront of most companies’ minds, the move to a country that has a push to create new technology as part of its government’s goals from now until 2030 seems a smart one.

The company’s remit is twofold: firstly, to provide broadband to underserved countries and secondly, developing an edge-cloud infrastructure that’s highly inclusive of local communities and businesses. And it deploys a raft of leading technology, including AI and blockchain to do it.

Smith explains: “We want to get broadband in the hands of people who are underserved today – which is pretty much half the planet – as we enter new markets, if we come across customers or areas where there’s no broadband, we can quickly scale it out.

Edge-cloud solutions

“Regarding the edge-cloud, it’s very much built around the principle of self-sovereign digital identity. Where your identity – the private key that manages your credentials rests with you – our entire organisation is built around those principles and operates on them. We’re able to build hyper-local markets and shorter supply chains. And that’s the big lesson from Covid – you’ve got to shorten the supply chain and become more self-sufficient. The edge-cloud infrastructure and decentralised marketplace allows us to achieve greater diversity of marketplaces, cultures and localities,” says Smith.

And that commitment to diversity is something that both the Abu Dhabi government and AmmbrTech share, he summarises: “Abu Dhabi is doing an exceptionally good job attracting talented people to come here and make sure a lot is happening in the tech scene. The team at Hub71 went above and beyond to introduce us to corporates and decision-makers and to the help us network. The dialogue is there if you want to pick it up, it’s up to you.”