Image shows new TfL London Overground naming by Dnco in a series of posters

How London Overground’s new names were chosen

The London Overground network, which previously had no specific names for routes, has revealed six names dedicated to historic stories and underrepresented communities

Despite being used by over half a million people on the average weekday, up until now the six London Overground routes didn’t have dedicated names, often creating confusion for travellers and a gulf with the rest of the network.

After a mammoth consultation process (and a reported £6 million spend to complete all changes) Transport for London (TfL) has revealed new names for all six routes due to be implemented by the end of the year: Mildmay, Liberty, Lioness, Suffragette, Weaver, and Windrush. Although the overall Overground network will retain its orange-accented branding, a secondary colour system has also been introduced by TfL, meaning each route will now have its own individual shade.

The new names are closely aligned with the routes. The Windrush line, for instance, runs through parts of London that have “strong ties to Caribbean communities today”, according to TfL, while the Suffragette line was chosen to commemorate Annie Huggett, who lived, died, and campaigned for the women’s rights movement while a resident of Barking, one end of that route.

TfL London Overground naming by Dnco
Top: Image courtesy TfL; Above: Image courtesy DNCO

The Mildmay line has been named in honour of the Mildmay NHS hospital, first opened in the 1860s, which became Europe’s first hospital dedicated to treating HIV and AIDS patients. The Weaver line celebrates east and north London’s longstanding affiliation with the textile trade, while the Lioness line cuts through Wembley, where the England women’s football team won the Women’s Euros in 2022.

Finally, the Liberty line was chosen to highlight the “freedom” that defines London generally while nodding to several locations within the borough of Havering with Liberty in their names, including a school and a shopping centre. It’s the most tenuous geographic link of them all, but arguably the most likely to roll off the tongue.

As the names suggest, the process was taken as an opportunity to tap into the histories of London, England, and Britain. “There are so many fascinating, and often forgotten, stories from our city that should be told and remembered,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan. “Naming the lines will not only help educate visitors about our amazing city and its incredible history but will also make it easier for people who live, work or visit London to navigate the city.”

The names were devised in partnership with creative studio DNCO, which specialises in creating brands for destinations in the UK and internationally. The studio has a strong place naming pedigree, having previously led the naming for Brent Cross Town and the street name home to the new London City Hall building. However, this project was entirely unlike anything the team had done before.

“This brief is truly a first-of-its-kind – opening up the naming of a public infrastructure to the entire city, and using the opportunity to reflect London’s diverse histories and narratives,” according to DNCO strategy director Simon Yewdall, who hopes it will set a benchmark for how significant naming projects such as this are carried out in the future. The idea was to “unearth untold stories, with a keen focus on connecting with underrepresented groups across London”.

While metro systems in many other cities use a numeric system to signal different lines, London’s network uses names, meaning there was very little precedent for this kind of exercise, so the team needed to establish a robust process of their own. “One of the challenges was also in how we frame the challenge and how we communicate the benefits of the line naming,” Yewdall explains. “There was no previous example or reference to go by, so we had to think of creative ways to frame our questions and workshop exercises.”

This was especially important considering the wide pool of people who were consulted. Through a variety of interviews, workshops, and surveys, the team heard from Overground staff and the wider TfL network, academics, historians, transport specialists, writers, poets, and wordsmiths.

The rollout of the project goes beyond updating maps and signage, with plans to share more of the stories that DNCO has unearthed during the process.

Yewdall says it has been an opportunity to place the city’s cultural and historic identity front and centre. “It is about time that we have names that celebrate the importance of workers and women’s rights, queer histories, and the phenomenally positive impact of migrants on London’s culture, food, music, fashion, healthcare and innovation. It’s a chance to remember what has been achieved, and consider what we can achieve as Londoners.”