Here are six more cool maps of London’s transport network

Look, a bus! Image: RhysGeoffrey/Wikimedia commons.

Maps. Maps are great, aren’t they? We love maps.

Maps.

Sorry, lost my train of thought for a moment there. (Mmmm. Trains.) Anyway. Last week I published a faintly gratuitous piece rounding up 11 of the best rail maps from the mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. They were good maps.

But there’s more to that strategy than just the rail network. So here, because maps are great, are some more great maps.

1. The travel times map

First up, this map shows how long it takes to travel from every part of Greater London to the “central activities zone” (CAZ: the City, West End, South Bank and so forth). Basically, it’s a map of how well-connected different bits of the city are to the public transport network: the darker the shade of red, the quicker it is to get to somewhere that feels like central London.

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A couple of things leap out at me here. One is that being near to the right station can massively cut your travel times. Look at that red patch at the very eastern end of the map: that’s the area around Upminster station, right on the edge of London, but with enough fast trains to Fenchurch Street to be better connected than many places much closer to the CAZ. Wherever there’s an island darker than the land around it, that suggests the presence of a decent station.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that the tube is really much better than the alternatives. In north west London, which is heavily served by tube lines, the dark pink of a sub-45 minute travel time extends almost to the edge of the city. In the south east, which is almost tube free, the lighter pink which means journeys of up to an hour extends deep into inner London.

2. The access to jobs map

This is a variation on a theme, really, showing how many jobs you can get to within 45 minutes. In practice, the geography it reveals is not that dissimilar from the travel times map – which shows quite how many jobs lie within the Central Activities Zone.

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The only big difference I can see is that there are fewer of those ‘islands’ around stations. This, I suspect, is because the bar is effectively higher on this map. There will be many outer London stations from which you can get reach some part of central London within 45 minutes – but being able to reach a single point in central London is not the same as being able to reach the millions of jobs the entire CAZ contains.

3. The future access to jobs map

Our next map is similar, but more speculative. The transport strategy as a whole is making the case for a bunch of investment in London’s transport network. This map shows how many more jobs Londoners will be able to reach if the authorities actually get their way:

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And suddenly, that dark green area – which roughly translates as, “Wow, look at all those jobs!” – has massively expanded, to take in most of inner London. Build all these extra transport links, the map seems to say, and let the good times roll.

But not for everywhere. I said the dark green area now took in most of inner London, and that’s true, north of the river or west of Brixton. But south east London, once again, is a different world. Sorry, lads.

4. The bus map

This one tells us both about the existing bus network, and how it might develop in future.

The red lines show the busiest bus corridors. As one might expect, they’re largely in central and inner London, and there’s a bias towards the north east, where the tube network is a patchy. But there are very busy routes around many of London’s suburban town centres, too.

 

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The map also shows the four major suburban transport hubs that TfL is developing in zones 2 and 3; and, in yellow, the low emissions bus zons.

Perhaps the most interesting thing here, though, are the “express and limited stop corridors”. There are already a few routes serving such corridors, such as the X68, which runs from Croydon to Bloomsbury (shown here as a solid purple line). But the profusion of broken and dotted lines in violet suggest a major future expansion of that part of London’s transport network. These would be particularly useful as orbital connections – something that the outer London rail network rarely provides.

5. The Silvertown Tunnel bus map

Something that might help improve orbital connections, and better link south east London to the rest of the city, would be more Thames Crossings out east, where there are currently so few of them.

The most likely of these to go ahead is the Silvertown Tunnel, which would link the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks and relieve the Blackwall Tunnel in the process. This, the strategy suggests, would enable more buses from Eltham, Charlton and Greenwich on one side of the river, to Canary Wharf, Stratford and London City Airport on the other.

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This is one hell of an “if”, of course. There’s a fairly noisy campaign in South East London against the tunnel, on the grounds it will mainly serve to bring pollution and traffic. We shall see.

Still, you know what’s better than buses? Bikes.

6. The strategic cycle network map

This is the capital’s “strategic cycle network”. The thick red lines are the existing routes – the Cycling Superhighways and Quietways, that have been spreading across the capital over the last few years. The thin red lines are those that are currently planned, and the green dotted lines are possible later connections.

If all this is delivered, the strategy says, 70 per cent of Londoners would live within 400m of a cycle route – a distance you can cycle in a couple of minutes.

Click to expand.

I remain at least slightly sceptical. For one thing, the implementation of such routes is dependent on the enthusiastic cooperation of the boroughs, which control the capital’s local roads. Note the way those thick red lines just stop as you pass from Westminster to Kensington & Chelsea, a borough not known for its enthusiasm for cyclists.


The other source of my scepticism is that TfL has always been quite cagey about what the different grades of cycle route mean. Some of the cycling superhighways are proper segregated routes – but others, like CS1, share backstreets with motor vehicles. It’s not clear how that really differs from a Quietway – or, indeed, how Quietways differ from the long-standing but largely forgotten London Cycle Network.

So, yes, a proper city-wide cycling network of this sort would be lovely. But I am not entirely convinced we are going to get one – even by 2041.

Still, though – maps, eh? Cor.

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

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Leeds is still haunted by its pledge to be the “Motorway City of the Seventies”

Oh, Leeds. Image: mtaylor848/Wikimedia Commons.

As the local tourist board will no doubt tell you, Leeds has much to be proud of: grandiose industrial architecture in the form of faux-Egyptian temples and Italian bell-towers; an enduring cultural legacy as the birthplace of Goth, and… motorways. But stand above the A58(M) – the first “urban motorway”  in the country – and you might struggle to pinpoint its tourist appeal.

Back in the 1970s, though, the city council was sufficiently gripped by the majesty of the motorways to make them a part of its branding. Letters sent from Leeds were stamped with a postmark proudly proclaiming the city's modernity: “Leeds, Motorway City of the Seventies”.

Image: public domain.

During the 1960s, post-war optimism and an appetite for grand civic projects saw the rapid construction of motorways across England. The construction of the M1 began in 1959; it reached Leeds, its final destination, in 1968. By the early 1970s the M62 was sweeping across Pennines, and the M621 loop was constructed to link it to Leeds city centre.

Not content with being the meeting point of two major motorways, Leeds was also the first UK city to construct a motorway through the city centre: the inner ring road, which incorporates the short motorway stretches of the A58(M) and the A64(M). As the council put it in 1971, “Leeds is surging forward into the Seventies”.

The driving force behind Leeds' love of motorways was a mix of civic pride and utopian city planning. Like many industrial cities in the North and Midlands, Leeds experienced a decline in traditional manufacturing during the 1960s. Its position at the centre of two major motorways seemed to offer a brighter future as a dynamic city open for trade, with the infrastructure to match. In response to the expansion of the roads, 1970s council planners also constructed an elevated pedestrian “skywalk” in an attempt to free up space for cars at ground level. Photos of Leeds from that time show a thin, white walkway running through blocky office buildings – perhaps not quite as extensive as the futuristic urban landscape originally envisaged by planners, but certainly a visual break with the past.

Fast forward to 2019 and Leeds’ efforts to become a “Motorway City” seems like a kitsch curiosity from a decade that was not always known for sustainable planning decisions. Leeds’s historic deference to the car has serious consequences in the present: in February 2019, Neville Street – a busy tunnel that cuts under Leeds station – was found to contain the highest levels of NO2 outside London.

City centre planners did at least have the foresight to sink stretches of the inner motorways below street level, leaving pedestrian routes largely undisturbed. Just outside the centre, though, the roads can be more disruptive. Sheepscar Interchange is a bewildering tangle of arterial roads, Armley Gyratory strikes fear into the hearts of learner drivers, and the M621 carves unsympathetically through inner-city areas of South Leeds with pedestrian access restricted to narrow bridges that heighten the sense of a fragmented landscape.

 

Leeds inner ring road in its cutting. Image: author provided.

 

The greatest problem for Yorkshire's “Motorway City” in 2019, however, is not the occasional intimidating junction, but the complete lack of an alternative to car travel. The dire state of public transport in Leeds has already been raised on these pages. In the early 20th century Leeds had one of the most extensive tram networks in the country. The last lines closed in 1959, the same year construction began on the A58m.


The short-sightedness of this decision was already recognised in the 1970s, as traffic began to build. Yet plans for a Leeds Supertram were rejected by successive Conservative and Labour governments unwilling to front the cost, even though smaller cities such as Newcastle and Sheffield were granted funding for light transport systems. Today, Leeds is the largest city in the EU without a mass transit system. As well as creating congestion, the lack of viable public transport options prevents connectivity: the city's bus network is reasonable, but weaker from East to West than North to South. As a non-driver, I've turned down jobs a short drive away that would be a logistical impossibility without a car.

Leeds' early enthusiasm for the motorway was perhaps premature, but there are things we can learn from the 1970s. Whatever else can be said about it, Leeds' city transport strategy was certainly bold – a quality in short supply today, after proposals for the supertram were watered down to a trolleybus system before being scrapped altogether in 2016. Leeds' rapid transformation in the 1960s and 70s, its grandiose visions of skywalks and dual carriageways, were driven by strong local political will. Today, the long-term transport strategy documents on Leeds City Council's website say more about HS2 than the need for a mass transit system within Leeds itself, and the council has been accused of giving up the fight for light rail and trams.

Whilst central government's refusal to grant funds is the greatest obstacle to Leeds' development, the local authority needs to be far more vocal in demanding the transport system the city deserves. Leeds' desire to be the Motorway City of the Seventies might look ludicrous today, but the political drive and utopian optimism that underpinned it does not.