TfL just released a map with three different Elizabeth Lines on it

What the- Image: TfL.

One of the sillier pieces I have written this year – and isn’t that a competitive title? - was, in effect, a lengthy dissertation on the word “line”. Was a line a line if it branched? Was the Northern line a line, or more of a network? And so forth. It’s amazing how many words you can get out of these things if you try.

Anyway. I'm not saying that Transport for London are deliberately trolling me, but I do think it might be stretching its the definition of the word “line” to the limit. Here’s a draft of its new tube map, reflecting services as they’ll be next December, showing the Elizabeth Line for the first time:

Click to expand.

It might not be immediately obvious what's weird about this – In which case, look more closely at Paddington, or Liverpool Street:

Click to expand.

More like the Elizabeth Lines, am I right?

The trio of different Elizabeth Lines is an artefact of the way TfL is assembling the route formally known as Crossrail in stages. The Liverpool Street-Shenfield section has been operated by MTR as part of the TfL Rail franchise since May 2015. Next May, the Paddington inner suburban services, currently branded as Heathrow Connect, will come under the same banner.


Seven months later, the first proper bit of Crossrail – the actual tunnel, or at least most of it – opens, providing services between Paddington and Abbey Wood via Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.

But that’s when things get complicated – because it won’t yet be ready to connect up to the services on either side. The Shenfield line is expected to join the line in May 2019; the Heathrow route, and the western arm out to Reading, the following December.

So that leaves TfL with a dilemma. Next December it’ll be running three separate services that will one day become part of the Elizabeth Line – but which won’t, yet, be considered a single line. The map suggests that the authority’s intended solution is to brand them all as Elizabeth line anyway.

I’m not entirely sold on this, I must say. I can see the logic in showing signs of progress, and they’ll all be part of the Elizabeth Line soon enough. But there is a danger, surely, that someone will want to get from, say, Ilford to Heathrow, glance at the map, and assume they can now do it with one train. In fact, it’ll take three – the same number as now – with two awkward changes, at Paddington and Liverpool Street. Seems to be asking for trouble.

Also, whatever the truth about the District and Northern lines, surely we can all agree that three train services operating entirely separately don't count as one line. Right? Right?

It’s only a draft map – perhaps this’ll change. And on the upside, it has given me something to write about, so.

Anyway, happy Christmas, you lot. Here’s a video of how the new tunnel looks from the inside:

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

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