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.

 
 
 
 

The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

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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