A new Tube map, but no Thames

The latest London Underground map issued by Transport for London is a cleaner, stripped down version of the previous one. But TfL has deemed it necessary to do away with one little aspect that, for many, is a key navigational part of the map. The river Thames…

The latest London Underground map issued by Transport for London is a cleaner, stripped down version of the previous one. But TfL has deemed it necessary to do away with one little aspect that, for many, is a key navigational part of the map. The river Thames…

When you compare the two, it’s a bit of a mess isn’t it? But why take the Thames out?

Ben Terrett emailed us yesterday with news of the redesign and, on first inspection, the map looks decidely less cluttered and is easier to read than earlier editions. So, we wondered, what exactly has been changed?

Well, first and foremost, the river Thames has gone. There it is on the map from March this year (below, top) and now, in the September edition (below, bottom). Its cartographical journey from Kew Gardens in the west, to Woolwich Arsenal in the east has been, as they say, redacted. 

Now you see it…

… and now you don’t

But is a river truly necessary on a map of a subterranean travel network anyway? Well, we’re of the belief that, actually it is. It’s a key signifier of the true geography of the city and many journeys involve working out whether you’re going north of south of the river (just ask a cabbie).

Also, a high proportion of the capital’s landmarks are dotted along its muddy banks (St Paul’s cathedral, the Design Museum, galleries Hayward, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the bridges themselves(!) to name but a few), so it seems a strange decision to remove something that plenty of travellers will inevitably navigate by.

And in news just in, it’s not a decision that’s been welcomed by Mayor Boris Johnson either, who has been keen to promote the river as a transport option. In a blustery tweet from the man himself, the MayorOfLondon writes: “Can’t believe that the Thames disappeared off the tube map whilst I was out of the country! It will be reinstated….” (see Boris’s Twittering here). So is a reprint imminent?

In other less inflammatory changes, the East London line has finally been renamed as the segment of London Overground that is “under construction”; and the clever interchange symbol has been used on a few stations where, technically, there’s a bit of a walk involved. 

Edgware Road’s Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines may connect up within a single covered station, but it’s still a few minutes walk to the Bakerloo line version. That said, a tourist new to the city would probably now be disuaded from making a lengthy round trip if trying to reach the Edgware Road Circle line branch from Marylebone.

Old map – Edgware Road stations are separated

New map – Edgware Road is one big, happy, inter-connected station

And perhaps even more controversial than the Thames’ omission: the travel zones have been removed too. While this design decision greatly declutters the background on which the map itself sits, it also very likely means that many a traveller will stray into a zone that they may not have the required ticket for.

What zone is Holland Park in? You can’t tell anymore

Well it’s actually in zone two… so watch out zone-one-only ticket people

But it’s not all minimalism and reductivism – check out the Docklands Light Railway (see the bottom right quarter of the very top image).

While it’s wholly accessible to wheelchairs (obviously a good thing), this is now made abundantly clear via a wheelchair access symbol on each and every icon-laden stop. Graphically, it looks a bit overdone. In fact, it even serves to highlight how woefully ill-equipped for disabled passengers the rest of the Tube network is by comparison.

To recap then.

Zonal problems will abound. And we want the river back. Come on Boris…

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