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.

 
 
 
 

Here’s how we plant 2 billion more trees in the UK

A tree in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Image: Getty.

The UK’s official climate advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), recently published a report outlining how to reduce the 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions that come from land use by two thirds by 2050. Alongside recommending cutting meat and dairy consumption by 20 per cent, the report calls for the annual creation of up to 50,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland for the next three decades. This would increase forest cover from 13 per cent to at least 17 per cent – a level not seen in Britain since before the Norman invasion.

Reforestation at that rate would mean creating roughly the area of the city of Leeds every year for the next three decades. At typical stocking densities of 1,500 stems per hectare, the ambition is to establish some 2.25 billion additional trees. Given that the UK, as with most of Europe, is in the grip of ash dieback, a disease likely to prove fatal for many millions of native ash trees, the scale of the challenge is massive.

On a crowded and intensively farmed island like Britain, unlocking a million and a half hectares of land will be no mean feat. But it’s not impossible – and is an unprecedented opportunity not only to tackle the climate crisis but also the biodiversity crisis that is every bit as detrimental to our wellbeing.

Trees and farms

One million and a half hectares is just 6 per cent of the mainland UK’s land area. To give some sense of perspective on this, 696,000 hectares of “temporary grassland” were registered in 2019. So if land supply is not the problem, what is? Often it’s cultural inertia. Farmers are firmly rooted to the land and perhaps understandably reluctant to stop producing food and instead become foresters. But the choice need not be so binary.

The intensification of agriculture has caused catastrophic declines in many species throughout the UK by reducing vast wooded areas and thousands of miles of hedgerows to small pockets of vegetation, isolating populations and making them more vulnerable to extinction.

Integrating trees with the farmed landscape delivers multiple benefits for farms and the environment. Reforestation doesn’t have to mean a return to the ecologically and culturally inappropriate single-species blocks of non-native conifers, which were planted en masse in the 1970s and 1980s. Incentivised under tax breaks to secure a domestic timber supply, many of the resulting plantations were located in places difficult or in some cases impossible to actually harvest.

Productive farmland needn’t be converted to woodland. Instead, that 4 per cent of land could be found by scattering trees more widely. After all, more trees on farmland is good for business. They prevent soil erosion and the run-off of pollutants, provide shade and shelter for livestock, a useful source of renewable fuel and year-round forage for pollinating insects.

The first tranche of tree planting could involve new hedgerows full of large trees, preferably with wide headlands of permanently untilled soils, providing further wildlife refuge.


Natural regeneration

Where appropriate, new woody habitats can be created simply by stopping how the land is currently used, such as by removing livestock. This process can be helped by scattering seeds in areas where seed sources are low. But patience is a virtue. If people can learn to tolerate less clipped and manicured landscapes, nature can run its own course.

A focus on deliberate tree planting also raises uncomfortable truths. Most trees are planted with an accompanying stake to keep them upright and a plastic shelter that protects the sapling from grazing damage. All too often, these shelters aren’t retrieved. Left to the elements, they break down into ever smaller pieces, and can be swept into rivers and eventually the ocean, where they threaten marine wildlife. Two billion tree shelters is a lot of plastic.

The main reason for using tree shelters at all is because the deer population in the UK is so high that in many places, it is all but impossible to establish new trees. This also has serious implications for existing woodland, which is prevented from naturally regenerating. In time, these trees will age and die, threatening the loss of the woodland itself. Climate change, pests and pathogens and the lack of a coordinated, centrally supported approach to deer management means the outlook for the UK’s existing treescape is uncertain at best.

An ecologically joined-up solution would be to reintroduce the natural predators of deer, such as lynx, wolves, and bears. Whether rewilding should get that far in the UK is still the subject of debate. Before that, perhaps the focus should be on providing the necessary habitat, rich in native trees.

A positive response would be to implement the balanced recommendations, made almost a decade ago in a government review, of creating more new habitat, improving what’s already there, and finding ways to link it together. Bigger, better, and more connected habitats.

But the UK is losing trees at increasing rates and not just through diseases. The recent removal of Victorian-era street trees in Sheffield and many other towns and cities is another issue to contend with. As the climate warms, increasing urban temperatures will mean cities need shade from street trees more than ever.

Trees aren’t the environmental panacea that the politicians might have people believe – even if they do make for great photo opportunities – but we do need more of them. Efforts to expand tree cover are underway across the world and the UK will benefit from contributing its share. Hitting the right balance – some commercial forestry, lots of new native woodland and millions of scattered trees – will be key to maximising the benefits they bring.

Nick Atkinson, Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Conservation, Nottingham Trent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.