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.

 
 
 
 

To make electric vehicles happen, the government must devolve energy policy to councils

The future. Image: Getty.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that at least a quarter of councils have halted the roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure with no plans to resume its installation. This is a fully charged battery-worth of miles short of ideal, given the ambitious decarbonisation targets to which the UK is rightly working.

It’s even more startling given the current focus on inclusive growth, for the switch to EVs is an economic advancement, on an individual and societal level. Decarbonisation will free up resources and push growth, but the way in which we go about it will have impacts for generations after the task is complete.

If there is one lesson that has been not so much taught to us as screamed at us by recent history, it is that the market does not deliver inclusivity by itself. Left to its own devices, the market tends to leave people behind. And people left behind make all kinds of rational decisions, in polling stations and elsewhere that can seem wholly irrational to those charged with keeping pace – as illuminted in Jeremy Harding’s despatch from the ‘periphery’ which has incubated France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ in the London Review of Books.

But what in the name of Nikola Tesla has any of this to do with charging stations? The Localis argument is simple: local government must work strategically with energy network providers to ensure that EV charging stations are rolled out equally across areas, to ensure deprived areas do not face further disadvantage in the switch to EVs. To do so, Ofgem must first devolve certain regulations around energy supply and management to our combined authorities and city regions.


Although it might make sense now to invest in wealthier areas where EVs are already present, if there isn’t infrastructure in place ahead of demand elsewhere, then we risk a ‘tale of two cities’, where decarbonisation is two-speed and its benefits are two-tier.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Monday that urban mobility will be an issue for overarching and intelligent strategy moving forward. The issue of fairness must be central to any such strategy, lest it just become a case of more nice things in nice places and a further widening of the social gap in our cities.

This is where the local state comes in. To achieve clean transport across a city, more is needed than just the installation of charging points.  Collaboration must be coordinated between many of a place’s moving parts.

The DfT announcement makes much of open data, which is undoubtedly crucial to realising the goal of a smart city. This awareness of digital infrastructure must also be matched by upgrades to physical infrastructure, if we are going to realise the full network effects of an integrated city, and as we argue in detail in our recent report, it is here that inclusivity can be stitched firmly into the fabric.

Councils know the ins and outs of deprivation within their boundaries and are uniquely placed to bring together stakeholders from across sectors to devise and implement inclusive transport strategy. In the switch to EVs and in the wider Future of Mobility, they must stay a major player in the game.

As transport minister and biographer of Edmund Burke, Jesse Norman has been keen to stress the founding Conservative philosopher’s belief in the duty of those living in the present to respect the traditions of the past and keep this legacy alive for their own successors.

If this is to be a Burkean moment in making the leap to the transformative transport systems of the future, Mr Norman should give due attention to local government’s role as “little platoons” in this process: as committed agents of change whose civic responsibility and knowledge of place can make this mobility revolution happen.

Joe Fyans is head of research at the think tank Localis.