14 September 2009

New-look Tube map

"Some say that his breath conforms to Euro 5-emission standards; and that if he headed the Competition Commission he'd stop being so utterly anal and move onto some other industry to persecute. All we know is, he's called The Stig!"

I'd like to thank the esteemed Editors for permitting me use of their organ for this, my opening gambit: The new Tube Map.

Transport for London (TfL) has released the latest version of its most popular publication, the Tube Map. Based on the iconic design by Harry Beck in 1931, the map has undergone numerous amendments, tweaks and upgrades to that on offer right now.

However, TfL's most recent offering is causing something of a storm. Some cartography boffins are referring to the latest version as "the biggest alteration to the map in two decades". Why? Well in order to make the map as clear and un-cluttered as possible, a few rather significant features have been removed - namely the River Thames. Prior to Beck's diagrammatic design, from 1924 all Tube Maps have shown the Thames - until now.

I can cope without the Thames I suppose, but in tandem with its banishment - possibly to the 'naughty step' - also removed are the zonal boundaries. Now this is significant! The casual London visitor often arrives at a London rail terminal and, having queued for 20 minutes to get to a ticket machine, is conscious of the melee continuing to ensue behind him/her and so wants to purchase the right ticket as quickly as possible. A Zones 1-2 or 1-4 pass? Is Tooting Bec in Zone 2 or will the Zones 1-4 be needed?

Other purposeful omissions include the East London Line bus links; walk distances between specific stations (Leicester Square-Covent Garden, for example); junctions that offer through services at limited times only (Chalfont & Latimer-Chesham, for example, is now shown as if all services travel through which is incorrect and the same for Mill Hill East); and also removed is the superfluous text information boxes within the map offering specific, important details about certain interchanges to be avoided.

Only four types of little blue symbol are now deemed necessary to convey additional information on the network diagram alongside the station names. The National Rail symbol is the most prolific, and then there are a few for connections to riverboat services; the Tramlink symbol, which on this map applies only to Wimbledon and absolutely nowhere else; and finally airports.

There are lots of other alterations, too. Now the Thames is no longer a requirement, stations either side of said water mass can be evened out, which has a knock-on effect. Following the eradication of the zones, simplification can be made to the suburbs: the Central Line to Epping and the Hainault loop now face north, for example.

As one of my associates said earlier this evening "You can screw with our Routemasters, but for God's sake leave our Tube Map alone!" (The Stig)