TfL's new tube map shows walking distances in central London – and highlights the gaps in the network

A detail from the new walking time tube map. Image: TfL.

“Walking is a great way to get around London,” Transport for London's walking page proclaims, with cheerful inanity. “It's free, healthy and green.”

And - even though this is the sort of statement that feels like it should end in an exclamation mark, just so you can complain that it doesn't deserve an exclamation mark – TfL has a point. Walking is a great way to get around London.

For one thing, you find interesting places you wouldn't otherwise know about. You get to know how the city fits together in a way you never can underground. You get exercise and fresh air, and the chances of you ending up with your face pressed into a banker's armpit for 20 minutes while not actually moving a bloody inch are minimal.

Best of all, the distances between stations are often shorter than you think. To make this point – and, one assumes, to encourage people out of already over-crowded trains wherever possible – TfL has released yet another new tube map, showing the walking distances between Tube, Overground and DLR stations in the central zones one and two. Here it is:

(We're assuming it stops at Zone 2 because, beyond that, the distances start getting a bit “I'm not walking that far, are you mad?”)

The map has two functions. One is practical; the other is more for the map geek connoisseur (so, you lot).

The practical function is that it shows you which stations are so close together that it's basically almost always easier to walk. Covent Garden, for example, is only a 4 minute walk from Leicester Square: so close that it can be “exit only” for an extended period while they replace the lifts without really making a substantial difference to anyone's life.

Cannon Street is ridiculous close to both Monument (5 minutes) and Mansion House (4 minutes), which suggests that the only reason the District line stops there at all is because some awkward sod built a mainline terminus there.

Then there’s Embankment, which is so close to Charing Cross (3 minutes) that it used to be Charing Cross. Until 1974 that was what it was called: for most of its history, the tube station now known as Charing Cross was actually two stations, Strand (Northern line) and Trafalgar Square (Bakerloo).

That’s the useful stuff. The other, more geektastic role played by the map is in the way it accidentally highlights the gaps in the network.

You can suddenly see, for example, that there should really be a stop at between Farringdon and King's Cross on the Circle line (Mount Pleasant, perhaps). The 27 minute walk from King's Cross to Caledonian Road suggests there might be benefits to re-opening the old York Way station, too.

The 35 minute gap from King's Cross to Highbury & Islington is probably forgivable (the Victoria line is meant to be fast), as is the 36 minute gap between Imperial Wharf and Clapham Junction (the walking time is only that high because of the lack of conveniently located bridge).

But the 45 minute gap between Denmark Hill and Clapham High Street is just silly and should be rectified by the reopening of East Brixton as soon as humanly possible.

So what the hell. Here, in the form of red blobs, are a selection of extra stations that TfL might want to build in the event of a major lottery win:

(We haven't named them. That'd be presumptious.)

The map isn't perfect (what in this world of ours is). For practical reasons it only shows the distances between adjacent stations: that means that things like the 7(?) minute walk from Covent Garden to Tottenham Court Road go unmentioned.

Even weirder is what's happening in Docklands, where the map shows the walk from Canary Wharf to Heron Quays as being 10 minutes. This sounds on the high side, but more than that, Canary Wharf tube station is actually closer to Heron Quays DRL than it is to Canary Wharf DLR (the names on that part of the network could do with a lot of work). All of which means that, in that part of town, the map is actively misleading.

Nonetheless it looks like a good way to get people walking, and it's always nice when TfL graces us with a new map, so we say hurrah. You can see the full sized version here.

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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.