This unofficial take on London’s rail map is so much better than the real thing that it’s almost depressing

It’s so, so beautiful. Image: Jug Cerović.

London’s rail network is complex, and becoming more so. One shouldn’t complain about this – honestly, have you tried living in Literally Any Other British City? – but one of the slight downsides is that it’s made the map of the capital’s rail network increasingly bloody ugly.

Luckily, there are people trying to fix this, purely out of the goodness of their heart and not in any way because it might get someone like us to shower them with free publicity. One such hero is Jug Cerović, the Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer, who long-time readers might recall as the

a) author of this piece about the source of station names on the Paris’ metro;

b) bloke who got his unauthorised redesign adopted as the official bus map of Luxembourg; and

c) creator of this unofficial take on the tube map from 2015.

Click to expand.

 

He’s now taken another pass at tidying up the tangle of spaghetti that makes up London’s rail network. And, at risk of being nice about something for once, it’s bloody lovely – an improvement, even, on his last go.

Click to expand.

Some things I really like about this map. It’s gone back to harry Beck’s classic design principle of largely using 45 degree angles to keep the map neat and legible.

Click to expand.

Jug’s last effort experimented with curves: this effort largely dispenses with them, except in the portrayal of the River Thames, thus highlighting the fact that it’s a different sort of thing.

(Actually, that’s not quite true, there are a few other curves like the Heathrow loop and the eastern end of the Circle line – but these can be justified by reasons of expedience so I don’t mind them so there.)

It also uses stronger, brighter colours for the tube lines than the rail ones. That means that, even though both are shown, the eye is drawn to the higher frequency bits of the network. And it colours the National Rail lines by terminal station, rather than train operating company, so that it’s easier to see the shape of the network. 

Click to expand.

Best of all, it’s dispensed with the ugly, grey scale zonal network that has dominated London’s official rail map for years, replacing it with tiny numbers telling you the zone of each individual station.

In a few places, the map takes much greater care to show geographic reality than the official version: Regent’s Park station is basically above the Circle line; Bethnal Green Overground is south of Bethnal Green Underground; and so on. It even shows London’s larger parks, which is just lovely.

It’s not perfect – what is? The relatively long-distance western end of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail sits oddly on a map that largely restricts itself to Greater London and its immediate surroundings, and so bends awkwardly in an attempt to keep it visible.

The way a single Elizabeth line station will serve both Farringdon and Barbican has been forgotten, and while conflating the various Kings Cross/St Pancras stations into a single lump makes for clear design I’m not sure it’d be that useable for those unfamiliar with reality.

Click to expand.

And I’m not entirely sure it’s got the Thameslink service pattern correct – although since Thameslink never seems to have managed its timetabled service pattern it’s incredibly difficult to be sure.


But these are mere details. This map is both beautiful and useable in exactly the way the official versions currently aren’t.

You see? It can be done. Come on TfL, get your act together.

If you’d like to read more about the map and the design process, you can do so on Jug Cerović’s website here.

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

All images courtesy of Jug Cerović.

 
 
 
 

“Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis”

You BET! Oh GOD. Image: Getty.

Today, the mayor of London called for new powers to introduce rent controls in London. With ever increasing rents swallowing more of people’s income and driving poverty, the free market has clearly failed to provide affordable homes for Londoners. 

Created in 1988, the modern private rented sector was designed primarily to attract investment, with the balance of power weighted almost entirely in landlords’ favour. As social housing stock has been eroded, with more than 1 million fewer social rented homes today compared to 1980, and as the financialisation of homes has driven up house prices, more and more people are getting trapped private renting. In 1990 just 11 per cent of households in London rented privately, but by 2017 this figure had grown to 27 per cent; it is also home to an increasing number of families and older people. 

When I first moved to London, I spent years spending well over 50 per cent of my income on rent. Even without any dependent to support, after essentials my disposable income was vanishingly small. London has the highest rent to income ratio of any region, and the highest proportion of households spending over a third of their income on rent. High rents limit people’s lives, and in London this has become a major driver of poverty and inequality. In the three years leading up to 2015-16, 960,000 private renters were living in poverty, and over half of children growing up in private rented housing are living in poverty.

So carefully designed rent controls therefore have the potential to reduce poverty and may also contribute over time to the reduction of the housing benefit bill (although any housing bill reductions have to come after an expansion of the system, which has been subject to brutal cuts over the last decade). Rent controls may also support London’s employers, two-thirds of whom are struggling to recruit entry-level staff because of the shortage of affordable homes. 

It’s obvious that London rents are far too high, and now an increasing number of voices are calling for rent controls as part of the solution: 68 per cent of Londoners are in favour, and a growing renters’ movement has emerged. Groups like the London Renters Union have already secured a massive victory in the outlawing of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. But without rent control, landlords can still unfairly get rid of tenants by jacking up rents.


At the New Economics Foundation we’ve been working with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to research what kind of rent control would work in London. Rent controls are often polarising in the UK but are commonplace elsewhere. New York controls rents on many properties, and Berlin has just introduced a five year “rental lid”, with the mayor citing a desire to not become “like London” as a motivation for the policy. 

A rent control that helps to solve London’s housing crisis would need to meet several criteria. Since rents have risen three times faster than average wages since 2010, rent control should initially brings rents down. Our research found that a 1 per cent reduction in rents for four years could lead to 20 per cent cheaper rents compared to where they would be otherwise. London also needs a rent control both within and between tenancies because otherwise landlords can just reset rents when tenancies end.

Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis – but it’s not without risk. Decreases in landlord profits could encourage current landlords to exit the sector and discourage new ones from entering it. And a sharp reduction in the supply of privately rented homes would severely reduce housing options for Londoners, whilst reducing incentives for landlords to maintain and improve their properties.

Rent controls should be introduced in a stepped way to minimise risks for tenants. And we need more information on landlords, rents, and their business models in order to design a rent control which avoids unintended consequences.

Rent controls are also not a silver bullet. They need to be part of a package of solutions to London’s housing affordability crisis, including a large scale increase in social housebuilding and an improvement in housing benefit. However, private renting will be part of London’s housing system for some time to come, and the scale of the affordability crisis in London means that the question of rent controls is no longer “if”, but increasingly “how”. 

Joe Beswick is head of housing & land at the New Economics Foundation.