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


In South Africa's cities, evictions are happening despite a national ban

An aerial view shows a destroyed house in Lawley, south of Johannesburg, on April 20, 2020. The city has been demolishing informal structures on vacant land despite a moratorium on evictions. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

On the morning of 15 July, a South African High Court judge ruled that the city of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit had illegally evicted a man when it destroyed the shack where he was living.

That afternoon, the Anti-Land Invasion Unit was out again, removing shacks in another informal settlement.

Evictions were banned in South Africa for nine weeks, after the national government placed the country under a strict Covid-19 lockdown in late March. At present, eviction orders are automatically suspended until the country moves to a lower “alert level” and can only be carried out with a special order from a judge.

Yet major cities including Cape Town, Johannesburg and eThekwini (created through the merger of Durban with several surrounding communities), have continued to use municipal law enforcement agencies and private security companies to remove people from informal housing. In many cases those operations have been conducted without a court order – something required under regular South African law.

Around 900 people were evicted from three informal settlements in eThekwini during the eviction ban, according to the Church Land Programme, a local NGO. Its director, Graham Philpott, says it’s also aware of evictions in other informal settlements.

While evictions aren’t a “new experience” in these communities, the NGO released a report on lockdown evictions because they were “so explicitly illegal”. “There was a moratorium in place,” Philpott says, “and the local municipality acted quite flagrantly against it. There’s no confusion, there’s no doubt whatsoever, it is illegal. But it is part of a trend where the eThekwini municipality has acted illegally in evicting the poor from informal settlements.”

Evictions also took place in Cape Town and Johannesburg during so-called “hard lockdown” according to local activists. In eThekwini and other municipalities, the evictions have continued despite restrictions. In Cape Town, authorities pulled a naked man, Bulelani Qholani, from his shack. That incident, which was captured on video, drew condemnation from the national government and four members of the Anti-Land Invasion unit were suspended. 

The cities say they’re fighting “land invasions” – illegal occupations without permission from the land owner.

“Land invasions derail housing and service projects, lead to the pollution of waterways, severely prejudice deserving housing beneficiaries and cause property owners to lose their investments over night,” Cape Town’s executive mayor, Dan Plato said in a statement. (Plato has also claimed that Qholani did not live in the shack he was pulled from and that he disrobed when municipal authorities arrived.)

South African municipalities often claim that the shacks they destroy are unoccupied. 

If they were occupied, says Msawakhe Mayisela, a spokesman for the eThekwini municipality, the city would get a court order before conducting an eviction. “Everything we’re doing is within the ambit of the law,” Mayisela says. But “rogue elements” are taking advantage of Covid-19, he added.

“We fully understand that people are desperately in need of land, but the number of people that are flocking to the cities is too much, the city won’t be able to provide housing or accommodation for everyone overnight,” he says. 

While eThekwini claims to be a caring city, local activists say the evictions show otherwise.

In one case, 29 women were evicted from shacks during the hard lockdown. With nowhere to go, they slept in an open field and were arrested by the South African Police Service for violating the lockdown, Philpott says.

“These evictions are dehumanizing people whose dignity is already compromised in many ways,” says S’bu Zikode, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a community organization whose Zulu name translates to “the people of the shacks”. 

“It has reminded us that we are the people that do not count in our society.”

Municipal law enforcement and private security contractors hired by cities regularly fire rubber bullets, or even live ammunition, at residents during evictions. Some 18 Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed since the organization was founded in 2005, Zikode says, most by the eThekwini Land Invasion Unit and Metro Police.

(Mayisela says that if city employees have broken the law, Abahlali baseMjondolo can file a complaint with the police. “There is no conclusive evidence to the effect that our members have killed them,”  he says.)

Other Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed by what Zikode calls “izinkabi,” hitmen hired by politicians. Two eThekwini city councillors were sentenced to life in prison 2016 after they organized the killing of Thuli Ndlovu, an Abahlali baseMjondolo organizer. A member of the Land Invasion Unit who is currently facing a charge of attempted murder after severely injuring a person during an eviction remains on the job, Zikode says.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution is intended to protect the public from arbitrary state violence and guarantees a right to housing, as well as due process in evictions. But for Zikode, the South African constitution is a “beautiful document on a shelf”.

“For the working class and the poor, it’s still difficult to have access to court. You’ve got to have money to get to court,” he says. 

The actions by municipal law enforcement are breaking down social trust, says Buhle Booi, a member of the Khayelitsha Community Action Network, a community group in the largest township in Cape Town.

“There’s a lack of police resources and those very few police resources that they have, they use to destroy people’s homes, to destroy people’s peace, rather than fighting crime, real criminal elements that we see in our society,” Booi says.

For him, it’s a continuation of the practices of the colonial and apartheid governments, pushing poor people, most of whom are Black, to the periphery of cities.

Around one-fifth of South Africa’s urban population live in shacks or informal dwellings, according to a 2018 report by SERI. Many more live in substandard housing. City governments maintain that the shacks destroyed during anti-land invasion operations are unfinished and unoccupied. But Edward Molopi, a research and advocacy officer at SERI, says that this claim is an attempt to escape their legal obligations to get a court order and to find alternative accommodation for affected people. 

The roots of the current eviction crisis go back to apartheid, which barred non-white people from living in cities. Between the 1940s and 1970s, tens of thousands of people were forcibly relocated from neighbourhoods like Johannesburg’s Sophiatown and Cape Town’s District Six to remote townships.

In the 26 years following the end of apartheid, deepening economic inequality and rampant unemployment have limited access to formal housing for millions of South Africans. Government housing programs have mostly focused on building small stand-alone homes, often on the peripheries of cities far from jobs and amenities.

While these well-intentioned projects have built millions of homes, they’ve failed to keep up with demand, says Marie Huchzermeyer, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Government-funded housing projects “will never on it’s own be enough,” she says. “It has to be accompanied by land release.”

Government policies call for the “upgrading” of informal settlements and the formalization of residents’ occupation. But “there are still very, very, very few projects” of that nature in South Africa, Huchzermeyer says. “Even if it’s an informal settlement that’s been around for 20 years, there still seems to be a political wish to punish people for having done that.” The government wants people to go through the formal process of being given a house, she says – and for them to be thankful to the government for providing it.

At the municipal level, change will require “real leadership around informal settlement upgrading and around ensuring that land is available for people to occupy,” she says. 

Despite the end of enforced racial segregation, spacial apartheid remains a factor in South Africa. There are few mixed-income neighbourhoods. Those who can afford to often live behind walls in sprawling low-density suburbs, while the poor live in overcrowded slums and apartment buildings.

The creation of the apartheid city “didn't happen by chance,” says Amira Osman, a professor of architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology. “It was a deliberate, structured approach to the design of the city. We need a deliberate, structured approach that will undo that.”

Since last fall, Johannesburg’s Inclusionary Housing Policy has required developments of 20 or more units to set aside 30% of those units for low-income housing.

The policy, which faced significant opposition from private developers, won’t lead to dramatic change, says Sarah Charlton, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies, but it is “an important and significant step.”

Zikode isn’t optimistic that change will come for shack dwellers, however.

“People in the high positions of authority pretend that everything is normal,” he says. “They pretend that everyone is treated justly, they pretend that everyone has homes with running water, that everyone has a piece of land – and hide the truth and the lies of our democracy.”

Jacob Serebrin is a freelance journalist currently based in Johannesburg. Follow him on Twitter.