The UK’s new passport includes a bizarrely error-strewn tube map

A detail from the new UK passport. Image: Home Office.

Everyone loves a good Tube map – so much so that the government included one in the revamped UK passport designs it released yesterday.

And yet, mere moments after images were released by the Home Office, people were already taking to social media to point out some odd mistakes.

The good people at the London SE1 website noted, with bafflement, that Southwark station had not been deemed worthy of inclusion. What’s more, the government seems to be unaware of the existence of today’s London Overground, believing instead that the East London Line (as was) still terminates at New Cross Gate.

A second map, which shows the streets and railway lines of inner south London, seems a bit hit and miss as to what it shows. It includes DLR stations and mainline ones, but not Tube or Overground ones, except, for some reason, Surrey Quays. It also made another mistake which is just weird

(Queen’s Road Peckham is in the wrong place too, incidentally.)

Along with landmarks from around the country, the 34-page passport includes images of British historical figures. But it has attracted criticism because of features just two women, compared to seven men.


Her Majesty’s Passport Office said: “Not only are we constantly striving to stay one step ahead of those who seek to undermine the passport, but we have created a document that marks just some of the greatest creative achievements in the UK.” Which wasn’t quite as convincing a response as they seemed to think.

It’s possible, of course, the apparent cartographical errors were included deliberately, serving as an anti-fraud device. Surely Southwark’s omission can’t be anything to do with its perceived importance?

You can find out more about the new designs here.

 
 
 
 

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.