TfL produce a geographically accurate tube and rail map, but don't tell anyone about it

The magnified central London section of the secret London Connections map. Image: TfL.

Amazing the things you can find out using a Freedom of Information Request. James Burbage, a hero of whom we know sadly little, submitted one to Transport for London (TfL) in August 2014, asking:

Please supply a geographically accurate map of all the stations,platforms, lines and tracks that form the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and National Rail services where applicable, which is updated as of August/September 2014.

Well that sounds great, but wouldn't that be da-

Omit information which could pose a concern for health and safety.

Ah. Good man.


This sounds like a big ask: I mean, a busy transport authority like TfL is hardly going to draw a whole new map, just to satisfy an FOI request, is it?

But as it turns out – I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Burbage had some inside sources on this one – such a map already exists. TfL just don't talk about it very often.

It's the geographically accurate London Connections map. It shows all London's railways, including a few that haven't been built yet:

 

It shows Croydon’s tram routes:

 

It shows main roads, and major parks:

 

It shows where the built up area stops, and where motorways begin:

 

(That white bit on the A12, regular readers will be delighted to learn, is that bloody potato farm I never stop banging on about.)

The map gives equal prominence to TfL lines and those run by private national rail operators (although these are differentiated through the thin black bands around them). But it emphasises TfL's own stations by showing them in its official Johnston font, heavier and more striking than the narrow one used for national rail stations.

The map is really rather good if you're interested in abandoning the geometric purity of the stylised tube maps, and seeing where you train really goes. You can suddenly see quite how closely packed stations in the centre of town are, compared to those in the suburbs. These two extracts – one showing the City of London and its surroundings, the other the Essex-flavoured suburbs of Romford and Hornchurch – are to the same scale:

 

It's interesting, too, to see where the urban area stops. Look at all that white space around the edges:

 

But there's a slightly unfinished air to the whole thing. The map hasn't been updated since May 2014, meaning that the spate of rail lines TfL took over last May are still shown belonging to other operators (although dotted lines tell you the new services are on their way).


There’s a jarring change in the size of the fonts used in central London, although that part of the map is magnified in the bottom left hand corner. And at least one station is in the wrong place (Emerson Park, since you ask). On the whole, you can sort of tell this was never really intended for publication.

But it is nonetheless quite lovely, if you're into that sort of thing, which obviously we are. You can see the whole thing, and explore it at your leisure, here.

If you're the sort of person who likes Tube Maps, you can find a whole host of them here.

Or if you want more of this stuff you could just, y'know, like us on Facebook.

 

UPDATE, 17 September, 11am: 

This map seems to have gone down rather well – so well, in fact that this morning we received a statement from TfL telling us that it's decided to publish the thing on its own website as an official, non-secret map.

Here's the full statement:

Gareth Powell, director of strategy & service development at London Underground, said: “We create a wide variety of maps for our customers for planning and other uses. An extensive range of these, including walking maps and interactive maps, are available on our website and are used by millions of people every day. The most popular is the classic Tube map, which people are familiar with using to navigate London.

“This map was produced for engineering works planning and wasn't designed for customer use, however we are happy to make any maps available which help our customers to travel in London. This map will therefore be added to our website.”

(Hat tip: The excellent Mapping London blog.)

 
 
 
 

“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

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

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