TfL has unveiled London’s new “Night Tube Map” and it is beautiful

The central section of London's new Night Tube Map. Image: TfL.

You know what we could do here in London? A new tube map. Haven't had one of those* in ages.

To be fair to the city's latest exciting contribution to transport design, this one, unlike the last couple we've reported on, has the advantage of being an official Transport for London effort.

The new map, which will begin appearing at tube stations at some time before the autumn, shows the “Night Tube” service that'll run later this year. At the moment, most tube lines pack up at some point before 1am: from 12 September, though, selected trains will run all night.

Not every night, of course: a lot of important maintenance tends to go on in the early hours, so the Night Tube will run on Fridays and Saturdays only. Nor will it simply be a matter of extending the existing network to 24 hour service. The Night Tubes will be less frequent than their diurnal equivalent, and will initially cover only all or part of five lines.

Here's what you're getting, London.

Jubilee line: One train roughly every 10 minutes, the entire length of the line. (Woo.)

Victoria line: ditto. (Hoo.)

That’s the easy ones dispensed with.

Central line: In the core section from White City to Leytonstone, it’ll be one train every 10 minutes again.

Not so on the outer branches, however. At the eastern end of the line, about half the trains will continue to Epping, and half to Hainult via Newbury Park. At the western end, about half the trains will continue to Ealing Broadway, while the other half will turn back at White City.

Want a train on the West Ruislip or Chigwell branches? You'll be waiting a long time. Until the day time service kicks off again, in fact.

Piccadilly line: One train every 10 minutes or so between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5. Nothing on the Terminal 4 loop, though, or on the branch from Acton Town to Uxbridge.

Northern Line: One train every eight minutes between Morden and Camden Town. About half of these will continue to High Barnet, the other half to Edgware.

No service on the Mill Hill East branch, which makes sense because there's nothing there.

No service on the Bank branch, which makes less sense, since that goes to Old Street and London Bridge, and if the purpose of the exercise is to provide better transport for London's night time economy you might think those would be places worth sending trains to. But apparently not.

This, as we've noted before, means that the Night Tube will serve Epping Forest, Canary Wharf and four different stations in that ultra-hip night spot Acton. But it won't serve large chunks of town (Shoreditch, Farringdon) where people tend to stay up all night dancing. Never mind, we're sure they know what they're doing.

To be fair to TfL, this is just phase one, and further services will be rolled out in the years to come. According to a statement:

We also plan to expand the night time service to parts of the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines once our modernisation programmes are complete. Additionally, services could operate on parts of the London Overground in 2017 and the Docklands Light Railway by 2021.

That just leaves the Waterloo & City and Bakerloo lines out in the cold, where they’re likely to stay for some time. A spokesperson told us in February that “we don't think there will be demand for it”.

So much for the network. What of the map itself?

It's... rather lovely we must say. Here it is:

The use of two tones of blue to highlight both fare zones and night-iness is very effective, and a massive improvement on the white/grey combo you get on the day time map. The white text is nicely readable, while the thin white borders makes the lines themselves stand out nicely. 

The stripped down colour palette that the limited services allows is also quite easy on the eye. There’s no longer a cramped tangle of overlapping lines in the north eastern quadrant. And call us soppy, but we just love this guy:

To be fair, it is much, much easier to make a decent map of a simple network than it is to do the same with a complex one. Perhaps the increasing bleurgh-iness of the main tube map is simply an inevitable result of the fact it’s trying to communicate vastly more information than this one.

Nonetheless, the night tube map suggests that TfL can still make its maps beautiful when it tries. So, yay.

 

*This is an example of the rhetorical device known as “irony”. Here are some other new tube maps we have reported on over the last few weeks.

Transport for London's zoomable new tube map is completely terrible

This amateur London Tube map someone posted on Wikipedia is far better than the real thing

Here's another unofficial tube map that might be better than the real thing

 
 
 
 

Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit citymonitor.ai to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.