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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Podcast: The Great Northern Rail Crisis

Manchester Victoria station during a 2017 strike. Image: Getty.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it reading the news from London, but the north of England’s railway network is in a bit of a mess. Delayed electrification work, a new timetable, mass cancellations, the whole shebang.

To explain how bad things are, and how they got that way, I’m joined by Jen Williams, political and social affairs editor for the Manchester Evening News. She tells me why nobody seems sure who’s to blame for this mess, and whether there’s any realistic chance of anyone tidying it up any time soon. All that, and we talk about Andy Burnham, too.

The episode itself is below. You can subscribe to the podcast on AcastiTunes, or RSS. Enjoy.

Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.