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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Why is The West Midlands so much bluer than England’s other metropolitan counties?

Newly elected Midlands mayor Andy Street, with unsuccessful Labour opponent Sion Simon trailing in his wake. Image: Getty.

For a long time, the Tories have had a strong base of support across the metropolitan parts of the West Midlands. Up until the 2018 Birmingham City Council election, they held wards throughout the city, from inner city Edgbaston, to Bournville, which sits about halfway between the centre and the southern edge of the city, as well total dominance in the northern suburb of Sutton Coldfield

These particular areas, for long time, have had a concentration of demographics that favoured Conservatives: middle class, wealthy, predominantly-white British. Birmingham is, in truth, a very diverse city, but not an integrated one. As a result, neighbouring wards sometimes had staggering support for opposing parties – something which often correlated with high concentration of one class or ethnic group or an intersection of the two.

However, many of the seats in these wards were lost to the Tories this year. At the same time, they gained others, mostly in the poorer parts in the south of the city and in the Black Country. This was no real surprise considering last year’s general election results; the West Midlands was the one region in the UK where the Conservatives had a net gain of seats against Labour in 2017.

The West Midlands also had one of the widest overall margin of support for Brexit in the country: almost 60 per cent. That is one of the main reasons the Tories lost in places like Edgbaston (where you’ll find a major university and hospital, as well as concentrated support for Remain), while gaining in the Black Country, where support for Brexit was close to 70 per cent.

The Brexit referendum result in the West Midlands region: only Warwick District Council, in yellow, had a clear majority for Remain. Image: Wikipedia.

So was this just a simple case of voters switching support between parties based on where they stand on the defining issue of our time? Or does this speak to something deeper?

The region’s post-industrial economic decline was most acutely felt in majority-working class areas, like those found in Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke, and the Black Country where support for Brexit was staggering. The fall of living standards, even before the economic crash, certainly contributed to voter – many of whom had supported Labour for generations – going on to vote for Brexit because they wanted change. The Conservatives were smart to target this group: huge numbers of these voters had become disillusioned with a Remain-supporting Labour party which they felt hadn’t done enough to address their concerns while in office.


While plenty of urban areas in England had a majority vote for Brexit, none were as consistently high in their support as the West Midlands, particularly in the Black Country and Stoke. The metro areas in the West Midlands, much like those in the North of England are often labelled as Labour heartlands – usually by those who subscribe to a belief in “traditional Labour voters", a coded way of saying “white and working class”, or simply those who defaulted to Labour because they trended poorer and less educated.

While this is a gross oversimplification and misunderstanding of social and economic class in this country, the biggest electoral problem here is entitlement. Assuming that Labour, or former Labour, voters who opted for Brexit would return after the referendum and collapse of UKIP was as foolish as the Conservatives thinking the same for themselves about Tories who voted Remain. As the last election showed, class is no longer a reliable indicator of voting intention – but support for Brexit is, and the Tories are gaining in towns where support for Brexit was at its highest.

Brexit can’t be the only factor in the Tories’ growing foothold in the Midlands, not least because it’s both a cause and effect. But it certainly correlates with a more general realignment that comes with gains for both parties at each other’s expense. And while voters are moving in both directions, the shifts are not always equal. In Birmingham, the current council is almost exactly the same in composition after this year’s election compared to the previous one despite seat changes – but in the more Brexity Black Country, the Conservatives had far more opportunity to gain. And so, they did.

Why is it so different in the Black Country to Birmingham itself? The West Midlands recently has one of the highest shares of its population claiming unemployment benefits of anywhere in England. If anywhere fits into the “left behind” narrative, it’s here.

And although Birmingham’s GPD is second only to London’s, it also has greater inequality than in any other major English city. Birmingham saw mass unemployment even before the financial crash, with factories closing, like the Longbridge Rover plant, predating the recession. Levels of unemployment are currently among the highest in the country; and, in terms of income and employment deprivation, Birmingham is the most deprived local authority in the entire country.

Parliamentary constituencies in the West Midlands Combined Authority area. From west to east, the area contains Wolverhampton, the Black Country, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

That said, Birmingham is also very diverse. That may well explain why support for Brexit was almost exactly 50-50 (significantly lower than its neighbours), and why the political balance has remained the same for the past two elections.

The Black Country is economically similar, with all the above problems; but it’s far less diverse and has seen even less infrastructure spending. Unemployment is twice the national average across the Black Country; other measures of deprivation are also high. Like Birmingham, this was once the home of the industrial revolution, and when those industries waned, people got poorer and poorer. A vote for change was inevitable.

In the wider West Midlands, the area with the highest level of support for Brexit was the city of Stoke-on-Trent: 69.4 per cent. The Conservatives gained an MP here in 2017 with a 16 per cent increase in their vote. From pottery, to coalmining, to steelworks, Stoke-on-Trent has seen industries that employed huge swathes of its population vanish, mostly in the past few decades. With nothing in place to replace them, Stoke has, unsurprisingly, suffered from levels of unemployment that are hard to comprehend. Recently, in one suburb, fully half of all working-age adults were reliant on Job Seeker’s Allowance.

These are places where Labour once commanded staggering majorities but the Conservatives are now thriving. And while Brexit is a symptom as much as a cause, it has provided a gateway for the Conservatives to re-establish themselves in more urban areas where turnout is lower, more than offsetting their losses elsewhere.


As in the rest of the country, the Conservatives are haemorrhaging support in the more socially liberal built-up areas, particularly ones that trended Remain, like Warwick. But Labour face the opposite problem in socially conservative Leave areas – which, unfortunately for the left, comprise the majority of the West Midlands.

And while Labour dominates in the cities, it struggles in towns. And the metropolitan areas in the West Midlands happen to include a lot of large towns, like Dudley, where the two major parties are neck and neck. In the most recent general election, Labour only held onto Dudley North by only 22 votes. 

Through decades of underinvestment and stagnation, appetite for change has grown amongst an electorate which once supported Labour but which voted for Brexit in staggering numbers. And unlike in most Northern metro areas, the Conservatives already had a large base of support and party infrastructure in the West Midlands through which they could target vulnerable seats as others drifted from them.

Of course a Leave-supporting Tory Party promising change is tempting to these Leave voters in the West Midlands. And until the Brexit issue is resolved, it will continue to underpin how we all vote.