TfL releases new rail map showing scale of its Overground ambitions

Empire building. Image: TfL.

Christmas comes but once a year - but new tube maps pop up about once a fortnight. And that, my friend, is why Sadiq Khan is better than Santa.

Today's map isn't technically a tube map at all: rather, it shows what Transport for London's suburban rail network would look like, if it gets its way.

TfL has its eye on services currently run by operators including South West Trains, Southeastern and (spit) Southern. Its plans would mean swallowing suburban services that run into Moorgate, Waterloo, Victoria, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

The new map also shows Crossrail, and the proposed Overground extension to Barking Riverside. Here's the map:

Click to expand. If you want to see a really big version, expand it, right click and open the image in a new tab.

That's a large chunk of London's rail services. So it probably makes most sense to lay out what it doesn't include:

  • The Lea Valley line, from Liverpool Street or Stratford via Tottenham Hale;
  • The Chiltern lines into Marylebone, and C2C lines into Fenchurch Street;
  • The faster Southern trains through East Croydon to suburban destinations in Surrey like Tattenham Corner and Caterham;
  • Services on Thameslink, both north towards Luton or (in future) Finsbury Park and beyond, or south towards Sevenoaks and the Wimbledon/Sutton loop. (Though the loop itself, oddly, is shown.)

It's the last of these that is the oddest exclusion. Thameslink is a sort of Crossrail v0.5 - a heavy rail line that can double as part of the central London transport network.

But the reason for its exclusion from the map presumably reflects the limit of TfL's ambitions. TfL wants to run all suburban services, but has no interest in running longer-distance ones. On Thameslink, you can't really separate the two. 


In the same way, while C2C or Chiltern do stop at suburban stations, those services are primarily there to serve stations outside London's borders. Sadiq Khan has no plans to extend his empire to Aylesbury or Southend.

TfL is considering Khan's proposals. This map - and the excitement it generates among grumpy commuters - is presumably meant to generate some helpful public pressure before the government considers the full business plan later this month.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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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.