Transport for London's zoomable new tube map is completely terrible

TfL's new Underground map. Image: TfL.

This week, two new London transit maps appeared. We've already aired our thoughts on the train map (tl;dr: TfL is gradually eating the entire London train network), but there's also a few things worth pointing out about the design of the new Tube map, which you can now scroll around and zoom into on the TfL website. Spoiler: they're all pretty negative.

All the overlapping Overground lines are confusing 

East London has now lost any semblance of the colour system used on the rest of the map, thanks to a bird's nest of orange Overground lines:

Couldn't you, like, space them out a bit better? This is just agony.

The Central line has got all kinky


This is presumably to leave space for Crossrail, but that isn't opening for four years, and at the moment it just looks awful.

Things keep going missing

Honestly, what's happened to the Kensington Olympia branch? The station blog is still there, but no trains are serving it. What the hell?

On the upside, the Emirates Airline – which, remember, doesn't count as a transport link – has had the same treatment.

It doesn't work on Safari 

Because no one will ever need to look at the map on an iPhone, right? Barely anyone uses iPhones these days. 

They've made the font more spindly

We've gone from this:

To this: 

The old font was smaller, rounder, and much more thickly set. The new one is thinner yet, possibly due to its size, actually looks more cramped. The text around Kensington is a real mess.

The text just keeps crashing into things


Harry Beck must be turning in his grave. 

Now, we know a few of points may sound a little pernickety. And we appreciate that this is an electronic version, produced for web users, rather than the final version that'll actually be appearing at stations.

But increasingly people do plan their travel using electronic maps. Imagine how much these problems would affect you if you don't have brilliant eyesight, or are a visiting tourist.

The best thing about London's tube network and its famous map has always been its focus on clarity and usability. It seems a shame to ditch all that, just for the sake of a shiny new zoom function.


17 things the proposed “Tulip” skyscraper that London mayor Sadiq Khan just scrapped definitely resembled

Artist's impression. See if you can guess which one The Tulip is. Image: Foster + Partners.

Sadiq Khan has scrapped plans to build a massive glass thing in the City of London, on the grounds it would knacker London’s skyline. The “Tulip” would have been a narrow, 300m skyscraper, designed by Norman Foster’s Foster & Partners, with a viewing platform at the top. Following the mayor’s intervention, it now won’t be anything of the sort.

This may be no bad thing. For one thing, a lot of very important and clever people have been noisily unconvinced by the design. Take this statement from Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, from earlier this year: “This building, a lift shaft with a bulge on top, would damage the very thing its developers claim they will deliver – tourism and views of London’s extraordinary heritage.”

More to the point, the design was just bloody silly. Here are some other things that, if it had been built, the Tulip would definitely have looked like.

1. A matchstick.

2. A drumstick.

3. A cotton ear bud.

4. A mystical staff, of the sort that might be wielded by Gandalf the Grey.

5. A giant spring onion.

6. A can of deodorant, from one of the brands whose cans are seemingly deliberately designed in such a way so as to remind male shoppers of the fact that they have a penis.

7. A device for unblocking a drain.

8. One of those lights that’s meant to resemble a candle.

9. A swab stick, of the sort sometimes used at sexual health clinics, in close proximity to somebody’s penis.

10.  A nearly finished lollipop.

11. Something a child would make from a pipe cleaner in art class, which you then have to pretend to be impressed by and keep on show for the next six months.

12. An arcology, of the sort seen in classic video game SimCity 2000.

13. Something you would order online and then pray will arrive in unmarked packaging.

14. The part of the male anatomy that the thing you are ordering online is meant to be a more impressive replica of.

15. A building that appears on the London skyline in the Star Trek franchise, in an attempt to communicate that we are looking at the FUTURE.

14a. Sorry, the one before last was a bit vague. What I actually meant was: a penis.

16. A long thin tube with a confusing bulbous bit on the end.

17. A stamen. Which, for avoidance of doubt, is a plant’s penis.

One thing it definitely does not resemble:

A sodding tulip.

Anyway, it’s bad, and it’s good the mayor has blocked it.

That’s it, that’s the take.

(Thanks to Anoosh Chakelian, Jasper Jackson, Patrick Maguire for helping me get to 17.)

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

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