diamond geezer

 Thursday, December 13, 2018

Is Brexit the perfect problem?

The 2016 referendum split the country almost exactly down the middle, along a fault line which hadn't been tested before.


Unlike most political issues, positions are entrenched. It's obvious that the other side is wrong, and a second Leave/Remain referendum would likely split the country as before.

But now we have three options, and that's potentially even worse.


You can't offer a choice of three in a People's Vote, because none of the outcomes would command a majority.

So eventually the decision's going to have to come down to a choice of two, be that in government, in parliament or across the electorate.

And that's potentially worse still, because which option do you ditch?


If staying in the EU is off the table, the choice is between a fudged compromise and a cliff edge. Obviously one of those is hugely more sensible than the other, but it depends on who you are which one of those it is. In recent polling, offered this particular choice, a majority of those surveyed picked DEAL (because Remainers piled in with the least dramatic option).


If a negotiated deal is off the table, the choice is between a cliff edge and the status quo. Obviously one of those is hugely more sensible than the other, but it depends on who you are which one of those it is. In recent polling, offered this particular choice, a majority of those surveyed picked NO DEAL (because the priority is to enact the result of the referendum).


If exiting without a deal is off the table, the choice is between the status quo and a fudged compromise. Obviously one of those is hugely more sensible than the other, but it depends on who you are which one of those it is. In recent polling, offered this particular choice, a majority of those surveyed picked REMAIN (because Leavers found the Chequers sellout unpalatable).

So we have three options, each of which wins against one alternative but loses to the other.

It's like the political version of Rock Paper Scissors.

An impeccably balanced predicament.

Wherever we end up, and whoever's in charge when we do, it seems the perfect problem isn't going to go away.

 Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It's been two years since I discovered that the Metropolitan line extension had been scrapped.

It's been three years since TfL said the extension would open in December 2019. It's been five years since TfL said the extension would open in December 2016. It's been seven years since the Government gave the go-ahead for the scheme. It's been more than 20 years since trains last ran down the line. It's been over 40 years since the extension was originally proposed.

It's been nine months since TfL washed their hands of the project, and six months since the Metropolitan line extension webpage was deleted from the TfL website. At least Crossrail will eventually happen. This one's dead.

Which is awkward, because it leaves a stripe of disused railway through the suburbs of West Watford, and a series of redevelopment works alongside going ahead regardless. So, it being the middle of December, I've gone for my annual walk along the route to see what's not been happening.

At the foot of Baldwins Lane, where the new viaduct was planned to launch off from the existing Metropolitan line, no construction work ever happened. That's good news for the Croxley Car Centre, which has had a reprieve, and for Cinnamond (Demolition & Site Clearance; Windows, Doors & Conservatories) who might now be able to refill the far end of their yard. What is happening is that a brand new secondary school is being erected on the other side of the viaduct, across recently-grazed paddocks, but of what should have been the largest engineering project in the village there is no sign.

The former Croxley Green station, whose mothballed branch line made the extension potentially plausible, remains sealed off. It wouldn't be difficult to squeeze between the metal barriers slumped across the entrance, although an extra sheet of red netting has been added since last year so slipping through and climbing the disused staircase wouldn't be easy either. The viaduct which ought to be the centrepiece of the new extension will never span the dual carriageway, nor disfigure the valley. The children's playground by the Sea Scouts hut is still in action, rather than buried under concrete feet. The narrowboats moored beneath the crumbling lattice bridge no longer face eviction.

Cassiobridge station was intended to be built where the former railway bridge crossed Ascot Road. It would have been a spartan affair, to save money, but not building it at all has saved even more. Walk up the alleyway, round the back of what used to be Sun Printers, and you can peer through the metal fence to see where the platforms were supposed to go. Two years ago the vegetation along this stretch had been completely levelled, but a couple of unrestrained summers mean the grass is back in force, some of it head high, with buddleia encroaching from the fringe. The local cat I spotted sitting on the rails is a fortunate recipient of this undisturbed private domain.

But none of this inaction has prevented substantial development works kicking off alongside. The industrial units on the southern side of the embankment have just been demolished, leaving a space large enough for 485 new homes. According to the developer's website these apartments will have "good access to the London transport network", and there will be "restaurants, cafés and shops along a pedestrian boulevard leading to the proposed Cassiobridge station." Those ultimately moving into the 23-storey tower may find a very different environment awaits them, but there is a new Morrisons on their doorstep, and the Croxley Park business estate is easily walkable.

Watford West station should have been swept away by the new extension, but peering down from Tolpits Lane confirms that most of its infrastructure remains. Lampposts painted Network-South-East-red still lead down the steps and along the platform, where weeds are now sprouting up between the paving slabs. The former British Rail single track can still be clearly seen, not quite as clearly as last December, but enough to suggest someone's still popping down occasionally to keep it clear. It's much better than six years ago, when the entire cutting was a forest with trees far above road height, but a second abandonment phase is decidedly underway.

The narrow humpbacked bridge on Vicarage Road would have been an odd place to build a tube station, surrounded as it is by a primary school, allotments, a recreation ground and a large electricity substation. Walking to the rear of the adventure playground allows you to encroach on the land which should by now be under construction as the entrance to the eastbound platform, but isn't. On the other side of the bridge are the remains of Watford Stadium halt, substantially intact, including another row of worse-for-wear red lampposts. Had anyone ever been serious about building the Underground extension they'd have made a start on knocking it down to make way for a second track, but nobody ever did because nobody was.

At the end of Stripling Way the cycle path under the dilapidated railway bridge has been fenced off, and local ne'erdowells have scattered a great deal of litter (and a very damp sofa) underneath. What lies beyond is the Mayor of Watford's great development project, formerly Watford Health Campus, now more jauntily referred to as Riverwell. Here the diggers are now out in force between the railway and the hospital link road, readying several acres for a 253-unit residential community for Watford's over-55s. Prospective purchasers will eventually be getting a health club, a swimming pool and a multi-purpose village hall, but what they won't be getting is a train service.

The scale of the intended development is much clearer from Thomas Sawyer Way, a lone road swooping impotently down from the hospital. Everything between here and the football stadium will be swept away to incorporate another 408 residential dwellings. Twelve large warehouse units collectively named Trade City await a full complement of business users. The River Colne feeds through the site within what will eventually be a landscaped trench. And the whole thing is divided by an invisible railway, crossed by a potentially pointless bridge, without any station to drive sustainable growth. It's no surprise that one of Riverwell's proposed components is a 1400-space car park.

The final quarter mile of former railway exits the development zone to follow the back of a Victorian terrace, with vegetation slowly retaking hold. Physically it wouldn't take much to restart the project, just some heavy strimming, but with every extra summer all the work done to remediate the line will start to slip away. The undergrowth is thickest at the junction with the existing Overground, where no attempt at a reconnection was ever made. Indeed there's hardly any actual infrastructure anywhere along the extension to act as evidence for the many months the project was supposedly underway. London may not care, but Watford is feeling the loss.

The Metropolitan line extension is now lost on the bonfire of austerity, its supposed benefits unable to convince its paymasters in an era of financial stringency. Further major projects were relegated to the scrapheap yesterday, or at least heavily delayed, as TfL's annual business plan detailed how they intend to survive the total loss of government grant and a four year fare-freeze. Look around London and there are numerous examples of existing railway lines which'd never pass budgetary tests today, but which nevertheless contribute greatly to those fortunate to live close by. But we no longer live in a society where Nice To Have is good enough, which is why West Watford's linear nature reserve is now a permanent fixture.

» 50 photos from 2011/2014
» 25 photos from 2016
» 10 photos from 2018

 Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Anorak Corner [National Rail edition]

It's time once again for the annual splurge of passenger data from across Britain's railway network, this time covering the period April 2017 to March 2018.

Time was when these figures went pretty much unnoticed apart from a brief quirky news article about this year's tumbleweed station. But these days they're social media gold, with the Office of Road and Rail trumpeting the release date weeks in advance, then a wild burst of media excitement on the day itself. That day is today, and the official release time is 9:30am.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2017/18) (with changes since 2016/17)
  1) -- Waterloo (94m)
-- Victoria (75m)
-- Liverpool Street (67m)
-- London Bridge (48m)
-- Euston (45m)
-- Stratford (40m)
-- Paddington (37m)
↑1 St Pancras (35m)
↓1 King's Cross (34m)
↑1 Highbury & Islington (30m)

London's Rail Top Ten is filled by almost the same stations as last year, and in almost the same positions. Waterloo is still easily top of the list, despite an engineering blockade in the summer, with Victoria and Liverpool Street sitting comfortably behind. King's Cross and St Pancras change places, with improved Thameslink services likely to be a contributory factor. Even if they were a single combined station they'd still only be in third place. Highbury & Islington's new entry is at the expense of Clapham Junction, which slips to 11th.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini (2017/18)
  1) -- Stratford (40m)
↑1 Highbury & Islington (30m)
↓1 Clapham Junction (29m)
-- Canada Water (25m)
-- East Croydon (24m)
-- Vauxhall (20m)
-- Wimbledon (19m)
-- Whitechapel (14m)
-- Barking (13m)
-- Richmond (11m)

Once you strip out the central London termini a rather different picture appears, and it's substantially orange. One reason for this is that at Overground stations the data includes everyone changing to or from the tube, because technically that counts as an entrance or exit even if passengers don't leave the station. You can imagine how much this boosts stations like Highbury & Islington [Victoria], Canada Water [Jubilee] and Whitechapel [District/H&C]. So it might be more informative to discount TfL-operated stations, like so...

London's ten busiest non-TfL stations outside zone 1 (2017/18)
  1) -- Clapham Junction (29m)
-- East Croydon (24m)
-- Wimbledon (19m)
-- Barking (13m)
-- Richmond (11.5m)
-- Lewisham (10.7m)
-- Surbiton (9.1m)
-- Putney (8.8m)
↑1 Bromley South (8.6m)
↓1 Balham (8.5m)

Here's a more traditional-looking list, focusing on suburban commuter traffic, with stations operated by the Overground and TfL stripped out. Other than Barking, note that all the big-hitters are south of the river. Only Bromley South and Balham have swapped places this year, and by the tiniest of margins. For comparison purposes, North Greenwich tube sees over 28m passengers a year, so is busier than all but one of the stations listed above. Clapham Junction's total would double if you included interchanges, and interchanges also account for a large proportion of the crowds using East Croydon and Lewisham.

London's ten least busy Overground stations (2017/18)
  1) Emerson Park (308,000) ↑11%
South Hampstead (422,000) --
Headstone Lane (455,000) ↓5%
Crouch Hill (470,000) ↑65%
Walthamstow Queens Road (501,000) ↑130%
Woodgrange Park (514,000) ↑160%
Stamford Hill (543,000) ↓6%
Wanstead Park (563,000) ↑165%
South Kenton (570,000) ↓4%
Leytonstone High Road (571,000) ↑170%

Last year's figures were massively distorted by lengthy closures on the Gospel Oak to Barking line. This year they spring back - not quite completely, because those closures dribbled on, but enough to restore some sense of normality. Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line returns to the bottom of the heap, even though its passengers numbers have increased by another 10%. Meanwhile South Hampstead's total looks remarkably low for a station in a densely-populated part of Zone 2, but in reality nearby Swiss Cottage is a much stronger draw.

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2017/18)
  1) ↑2 South Greenford (26500)
↓1 Angel Road (32900)
↑4 Drayton Green (33600)
↓2 Sudbury & Harrow Road (44100)
-- Morden South (75600)
↓2 Sudbury Hill Harrow (77100)
↑4 Castle Bar Park (80400)
↓2 Birkbeck (108000)
↓1 South Merton (120000)
-- Belmont (141000)

Angel Road has lost its crown as London's least used station (and should be expected to descend more rapidly in two years' time after being reborn as Meridian Water). Its place as the capital's least used station is taken by South Greenford, a desolate halt on the Greenford branch which lost all its direct trains to Paddington at the start of last year, and whose passengers no longer seem keen on travelling to West Ealing and changing there. Also on this branch are 'high climber' Drayton Green and 'new entry' Castle Bar Park, each of which have lost over half of their passengers in a single year. For comparison purposes, London has forty-nine National Rail stations that are less busy than the tube's least used station, Roding Valley.

But enough of London.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2017/18)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (44m)
  2) -- Glasgow Central (33m)
  3) -- Leeds (31m)
  4) -- Manchester Piccadilly (28m)
  5) -- Edinburgh (23m)
  6) -- Gatwick Airport (20m)
  7) -- Reading (17m)
  8) ↑1 Brighton (16.9m)
  9) ↓1 Liverpool Central (16.5m)
10) ↑1 Glasgow Queen Street (16.4m)

It's no change at the top, indeed no change in the top seven. Recently-revamped Birmingham New Street remains at the top, and is the only station outside London to make it into the national Top Ten, slotting inbetween Euston and Stratford. Glasgow Central remains in second place, and Glasgow Queen Street nudges back into tenth place following a lengthy closure during the previous year. The only other stations outside London to exceed 10 million passengers are Liverpool Lime Street, Cardiff Central, Cambridge and Bristol Temple Meads.

The UK's ten least busy National Rail stations (2017/18)
  1) ↑3 British Steel Redcar (40)
↓1 Barry Links (52)
↑9 Denton (70)
↓2 Tees-Side Airport (74)
↑5 Stanlow & Thornton (92)
↓3 Breich (102)
↓1 Reddish South (104)
↑2 Elton & Orston (138)
↑8 Thorpe Culvert (148)
↑8 Coombe Junction (156)

Finally, here's the list everyone finds the most intriguing. These are the stations that can't even muster four passengers a week, such is the inaccessibility of their location or the paucity of their service.

The 'least used' rankings are often volatile, as you'd expect when dealing with very small numbers, and this year is no exception. British Steel Redcar has sprung into pole position, as might be expected when the steelworks entirely surrounding it closed in 2015. Barry Links might do better in next year's figures because golf's Open Championship was held at neighbouring Carnoustie this summer. Denton and Reddish South see only one train a week, hence their appearance. Teesside Airport, which was the least used station from 2010 to 2013, had its two trains a week cut to one this time last year. Elton & Orston and Thorpe Culvert are usually-skipped stations on the Nottingham to Skegness line. Coombe Junction Halt is the only one of these ten in the southern half of the country, and by far the least used station in Cornwall.

There's also a story to be told about the stations which are no longer listed here. Shippea Hill is now only number 19, thanks in no small measure to Geoff & Vicki's incursion as part of All The Stations last summer. Pilning has a passionate users group whose campaigns have successfully doubled ridership this year on top of a previous 400% boost. Sugar Loaf has gone from Wales' quietest station to unexpected tourist attraction with a 700% leap. Least Used stations don't always remain least used, there's always hope. But when there are still 24 stations which can't even muster an average of one passenger per day, we perhaps ought to question the service they're receiving.

» Rail passenger data here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» Previous updates: 16/17 15/16 14/15, 13/14, 12/13, 11/12, 10/11, 09/10, 08/09, 07/08, 06/07, 05/06

 Monday, December 10, 2018

Crossrail may not be on the brand new tube map, but TfL have added something else to distract us from its absence - dotted lines. Finally, a hint that it might be better to walk.
"Interchanges between stations have traditionally appeared on the Tube map as two solid lines, irrespective of whether they are internal or external. This approach has now been updated and shows a clear distinction between the two types, with external interchanges now being depicted by a dashed line, linking the two stations or stops."
For interchanges within stations, still two solid lines. In the key they're labelled as Interchange stations. But for external interchanges that pass through gatelines and cross streets, now dotted lines. In the key they're labelled Under a 10 minute walk between stations.

It's a great idea, and also relatively unobtrusive, although as we'll see later there are parts of London where this added complexity has sadly made the map harder to use.

Altogether 23 interchanges have been depicted using dotted lines. I've classified them into three groups (and also timed how long they take to walk).
Please note: All times are from gateline to gateline, because that's easily defined, and are rounded to the nearest half minute. I tried walking these connections on a Sunday, so there wasn't much traffic around and crossing roads didn't hold me up. I walk fairly fast, so you might well take longer.
Group 1: Previously shown as an interchange
» White City ... Wood Lane (2½ min)
» Clapham High Street ... Clapham North (2½ min)
» Archway ... Upper Holloway (4½ min)
» Tower Hill ... Tower Gateway (2½ min)
» Bow Church ... Bow Road (3 min)
» Walthamstow Central ... Walthamstow Queen's Road (4 min)
» Wanstead Park ... Forest Gate (3 min)
» Dangleway ... Royal Victoria (2½ min)
» Dangleway ... North Greenwich (5 min)
These are the uncontroversial ones. Previously joined by two solid lines, they're now joined by dots. No further tweaking of the diagram has been required. All of these involve walking out of one station and walking to another, so it's a lot more honest too. None of the distances are excessive, so they shouldn't take too long to walk (but if you're mobility-challenged, or carrying heavy luggage, you might now choose a different route).
Group 2: Previously shown as one station
» Hammersmith ... Hammersmith (1½ min)
» Shepherd's Bush ... Shepherd's Bush (1 min)
» West Hampstead ... West Hampstead (1 min)
» West Croydon ... West Croydon (½ min)
» Shadwell ... Shadwell (½ min)
» Canary Wharf ... Canary Wharf (3½ min)
These are also fairly uncontroversial. Hammersmith has always been two stations with a shopping centre and a pedestrian crossing inbetween. Shepherd's Bush is really two stations on either side of a bus lane. West Hampstead is a Jubilee line station with a separate Overground station up the road. Canary Wharf's two stations are so far apart that the map once included a dagger to make the point. With dotted lines this is all a lot clearer, and again more honest than what was shown before.

But Shadwell's hardly any walk at all, even if there is a zebra crossing in the middle, and can be tackled in under a minute. Adding a dotted line where the map previously showed two adjacent blobs might even put some people off using the connection, because it looks less convenient than before. And West Croydon's a ridiculously short walk if you use the right exit... but to be accurate, yes, it does now need a dotted line.

So the only potentially contentious connections are the eight new additions...
Group 3: New to the map
» Northwick Park ... Kenton (5 min)
» Finchley Road ... Finchley Road and Frognal (5 min)
» Swiss Cottage ... South Hampstead (5 min)
» Euston ... Euston Square (5 min)
» Camden Town ... Camden Road (4 min)
» Seven Sisters ... South Tottenham (4½ min)
» New Cross ... New Cross Gate (7 min)
» South Wimbledon ... Morden Road (8 min)
Northwick Park to Kenton is a classic Out of Station Interchange, a five minute walk saving an enormously long detour, and well deserves its place. The Finchley Road and Frognal connection is more dubious, because you'd think the existing link at West Hampstead should be good enough. Swiss Cottage to South Hampstead makes sense, and is signed clearly at street level. Euston to Euston Square is a proper timesaver, and the sole Zone 1 shortcut to make the list. Camden Town to Camden Road is an extremely useful link for anyone unfamiliar with the Overground. And Seven Sisters to South Tottenham is the connection the Goblin has been screaming out for (although previously there wasn't space for it on the map, so Tottenham Hale has had to be moved clear to make way).

I worry about the inclusion of New Cross to New Cross Gate. The only people the dotted line might assist are unfamiliar souls trying to get to New Cross from the south, who won't now waste time travelling via Surrey Quays. But to support this tiny group of people the spur has been shortened and the two stations shifted out of horizontal alignment, resulting in a squidge that's less decipherable than before. And although South Wimbledon to Morden Road looks like a damned useful tram connection, it's also further than all the other links on the map and exceeds TfL's notional 700m maximum. I walked it in under ten minutes only by ignoring traffic lights and walking fast.

But Finchley Road and Frognal and South Hampstead are the real wrecking balls. London Travelwatch are particularly pleased with the former, quoting it in their press release announcing the new map feature.
"For example, passengers may not currently be aware that a 5 minute walk between Finchley Road and Frognal & Finchley Road stations enables them to change between the North London and the Metropolitan lines, saving time and money at the same time by avoiding the need to go into central London."
I don't believe passengers were that stupid, but the dotted lines went in anyway. Finchley Road & Frognal had to be shifted closer to Finchley Road to make this work, which also necessitated shifting Hampstead Heath to the 'wrong' side of the Northern line. Meanwhile South Hampstead was nowhere near Swiss Cottage so had to be moved to the other side of the Jubilee line, an action which required moving Swiss Cottage and St John's Wood a lot further down. The name 'Finchley Road' then had to be swapped to the other side of the Metropolitan line to make way for the necessary dots to Finchley Road & Frognal, and the whole thing became a domino effect of increasingly bad design decisions.

On the paper map (left) this has also necessitated pushing the Metropolitan and Jubilee line stupidly far apart, and crashing St John's Wood into the Metropolitan line. And on the poster map, which you'll eventually be able to see on the TfL website, the designers have actually kinked the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines as if Finchley Road & Frognal were a giant magnet. It's such a mess, unnecessarily complicating the journeys of the many for the perceived needs of the few.

Someone should have said "you know what, that's one connection too far", like they did at Paddington. Paddington is famously two stations in one, with the Hammersmith platforms a long way from the rest. This new tube map ought to have been the golden opportunity to make the disconnect clear with a dotted line, but the interchange is so complex that the designers ducked the bullet and gave up. Yanking the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines away from the melee would have had so many knock-on effects that they didn't risk doing it... which perhaps they should have thought with Finchley Road & Frognal as well.

I'm not going to discuss Group 4 - all the walking connections they could have put on the map but didn't - because that's pointlessly subjective. If you feel the need to query a dotted line that isn't there, here's a separate comments box. comments

What I will say is thank goodness the designers didn't overdo things, adding a spider's web of dotted lines in Central London simply for the sake of it, because clarity is always better than confusion. As it is I'd say the balance is almost right, and you might even save several minutes on a future tube journey as a result. I wonder where Crossrail's dotted lines will go, and when?

 Sunday, December 09, 2018

Today should have been the launch date for Crossrail, with trains running for the first time along its central core route. Nah, not happening.

But just how far behind schedule is it? I've been out to visit all ten stations from Paddington to Abbey Wood to see what clues can be discerned from ground level. Obviously with the deadline shifted until late next year, there's no longer any immediate pressure to get things finished, so we shouldn't expect perfection. But from what I've seen, December 2018 was a ridiculously unmanageable deadline.
[20 photos, 2 per station]

PADDINGTON: not finished

Initially all Crossrail trains will turn round at Paddington, terminating at unseen underground platforms along the western side of the mainline station. They've been dug alongside Eastbourne Terrace, where the taxis used to pull up, one side of which remains an enormous elongated building site. The two warehouse-like buildings at each end look almost ready, beneath their smart glass canopies, although by no means all of the wood panelling is yet in place and the overall effect is somewhat underdressed.

The main surface building is in the centre and much longer, as well as more open. Wires hang from the roof where the grid of spotlights isn't yet complete. A break in the hoardings reveals a big digger, copious amounts of sheeting and red tape, and numerous men in hi-vis. Occasionally these workers need to exit by crossing the road, so a colleague with a lollipop goes first to stop the traffic. At the far northern end is a busier compound complete with lorries and small cranes, and a marshallers cabin, and a crawler with caterpillar tracks nobody's using at the moment. It's going to look amazing, and open up a whole side of Paddington people aren't used to seeing, but for now it's evidently not finished.

BOND STREET: far from being finished

All the rumours have suggested that Bond Street is the station farthest behind schedule, and the view from surface level backs this up. At the western end, closest to the existing Bond Street station, an entire city block remains fenced off as what looks like a giant concrete bunker arises. Where there are windows, the frames are empty. The lofty grey tower lacks any kind of cladding. What little can be seen of the gaping ticket hall mouth looks mostly blank. There is no resemblance between the six floors of office space depicted on the hoardings and what appears behind.

One advantage of a double-ended station is that only one end needs to be ready when the line opens, but up the road at Hanover Square things look even further delayed. Counting the number of Crossrail workers off-duty around the square is a good clue to how many must still be employed inside the worksite or down below. The office building above the new entrance is currently a skeleton of white beams without walls, floors or ceilings, and while I was watching a crane lowered a fresh girder into place. Obviously not everything above ground level needs to be ready before passengers can enter below, but heavy metal dangling above your head is a no-no. Even if other construction and signalling issues had been sorted, I suspect Crossrail trains might've have skipped Bond Street for the first few months.

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD: nearly finished

Aligned with Dean Street, a drab black box intrudes into the facade of Oxford Street. Crossrail's buildings can be seriously ugly before they're dressed, no matter how swish they are inside. We know that inside is on track because there's been an Open Day down there, unlike those at the first two stations down the line which never materialised. They even let some of us down here for Open House two years ago, and the platform edge doors were in place even back then. Imagine wandering in and gliding down the escalators with your Christmas shopping next year... you almost can.

Meanwhile the entrance at the far end of Oxford Street, amid Tottenham Court Road tube station, is ready to go. Work started here really early, creating a new ticket hall and reshaped connections beneath the surface, and passengers have been using these since December 2015. Crossrail's escalators remain boarded up beside the top of the Northern line flight, behind overhead signs that still say Crossrail rather than the correct brand name, covered by a vinyl strip. The whole shenanigans is even set up for Crossrail 2, should that ever get off the ground, because so much forward-planning has taken place. If the whole of Crossrail was as far advanced as Tottenham Court Road, we'd be riding it today.

FARRINGDON: not finished

Farringdon's had a new Thameslink entrance for years, an oversized cavern with a line of ticket gates inside and not much else. To one side is a huge screen shielding the top of the Crossrail escalators, awaiting removal on the day passengers first start to pour through. Some of us got down there at the Open Day in June, even if we had to slog our way down the fire escape rather than gliding serenely via an escalator. The main entrance from the street was a building site back then, but looks a lot clearer today, although the external building is still an ugly box awaiting whatever they need to do to make it presentable.

A few hundred metres away, facing Smithfield Market, the eastern entrance is a less ostentatious affair. It's been slotted in beneath a new office development, as yet windowless, but the swirling art traced onto the glass around the ticket concourse already looks rather smart. From here there'll be access to the westbound platform at Barbican station, but not to the eastbound, as the lack of building work on the latter confirms. I was very impressed by the state of the Crossrail platforms in the summer, although they didn't allow us down the Barbican end because works were far less complete, and I wonder if it's caught up yet.

LIVERPOOL STREET: not finished

Here's another double-ended station, this time with its western entrance attached to Moorgate station. Once again all that appears on the surface is a blank portal surrounded by a building site, in a part of town that's been looking bleakly vacant ever since these Crossrail works began. On the plus side, passengers are already slipping inside towards the Circle line platforms, tapping a temporary reader on the way through. However they're not yet seeing the entirety of the ticket hall around them, which is still being clad, and a line of slanting blue glass panels above the entrance is the sole external flourish.

The eastern entrance has been sunk beneath Liverpool Street, the street, round the back of Liverpool Street, the mainline station. A huge hole was originally hollowed out, narrowing the pavement to a squeezed minimum, but a couple of plastic windows behind the blue panelling allowed passers-by to observe operations. Looking through now, a glass-wedged portal has appeared instead poking up above the concrete. Externally it's complete but internally evidently not, because I could see orange-vested workers feeding through building supplies from a JCB. Their helmeted colleagues are often seen thronging into, and out of, the site office on the corner of Old Broad Street, confirming that there's still a lot of work being done.

WHITECHAPEL: not finished

The historic entrance to Whitechapel station was closed in January 2016 to allow construction work for Crossrail to progress, forcing passengers to divert to a temporary entrance a couple of minutes walk away up a previously obscure alleyway. It had been planned to switch back in October, because access to the District line isn't dependent on deeper burrowing beyond, but that never happened (and still hasn't happened two months later). Instead the front doors remains workers only, and the pristine pavement out front is barriered off (and bollard-enabled).

The Overground lost most of its daylight last year when a new concourse was slung above the tracks, which will eventually form the direct passenger route from the main road to the top of the Crossrail escalators. For a tantalising glimpse, climb the seemingly pointless footbridge at the far end to pass between two sets of closed doors, beyond which stretches the unseen concourse with its tapered glass walls. Meanwhile building work continues between the District line platforms, where the island's boxed-off heart remains inaccessible behind scrappy blue walls. Until that's connected up everyone's stuck with the inconvenient hubbub of the temporary entrance (and if you're the two gentlemen I disturbed outside, my apologies).

CANARY WHARF: utterly finished

For a textbook example of how to get a Crossrail station finished, turn to the private sector. It helped that Canary Wharf had a huge dock available, which simply needed draining rather than excavating, and also that management were motivated not by the need to run a railway but by the retail opportunities plonked on top. Open House visitors were allowed down to platform level without hard hats and hi-vis in September 2014, five years ahead of the first trains, and even Crossrail Place has been open since May 2015. The bankers barrelling into Big Easy for a slap-up lobster lunch are already satisfied.

Explore Crossrail Place more closely and the gateways into the lowest levels are hidden in plain sight. A sheer black wall covers the top of the main set of canary-yellow escalators. The lifts opposite are labelled 'to ticket hall', along with an apologetic notice that they are the property of Crossrail and won't be opening until the station does. A tiny fragment of level Minus Three is accessible so that punters can use the toilets, if not yet the shopping arcade through the locked doors. And although you can press the button for Minus Four, it's not lit up so the lift won't take you there yet. Canary Wharf Group must be livid that nobody else has got their act together like they have.

CUSTOM HOUSE: pretty much finished

Welcome to what must have been the central core's easiest-to-construct station. It's in the open air, for one, so no awkward digging required. It follows the alignment of the former North Woolwich branch line, so no existing properties needed knocking down. And it only has to interchange with a DLR station and an exhibition centre, so even the connecting infrastructure was simple. Indeed the new station was substantially complete by the end of 2015 - a long island platform with a raised concourse at one end and a sleek glass canopy above that. Even the purple roundels were in place, and visible, at the start of this year.

What's intriguing is the unresolved state of the adjacent DLR station. This was closed for the majority of last year for adjustments to make it Crossrail-ready, then failed to open by the end of December as planned. DLR passengers were allowed back inside in January, but only by passing through a temporary gateway into a station covered with blue hoardings, which unbelievably are still up today. Instead it's the Crossrail station where all the action is - unwrapping fixtures, tweaking signage, connecting electricals and liaising by the gateline. The pace of change at Custom House appears relaxed.

WOOLWICH: not finished

Woolwich's Crossrail station was a late bolt-on funded by a property developer, so perhaps we shouldn't expect it to be up to speed. Indeed no Open Day was held at this station in the summer, despite its relative simplicity, suggesting that the interior was nowhere near ready. Whereas blocks of flats have shot up all around, the station mouth looks stunted in comparison and stands alone. Although it's hard to see much behind the hoardings, watching a flow of orange-jacketed workers stomping up the temporary steps alongside is yet another hint that Woolwich is well behind schedule.

Half the lawn leading to the Dial Arch pub remains a corral for building materials. The M&S Food Hall just before the entrance has opened already, even though its back doors have no passing trade. As for the enormously-wide pedestrian crossing that's due to funnel everyone from Woolwich proper, this somehow isn't finished yet either, with temporary barriers edging people down the road while the tarmac is scraped off and resurfaced. It's been heavily rumoured that even if Crossrail had opened today, Woolwich might have been skipped and opened later. As it is, SE18 has a few extra months to hopefully catch up.

ABBEY WOOD: ready and waiting

And finally, the end of the unopened line. Abbey Wood is another surface level station, successfully remodelled to add two extra platforms for Crossrail and with a brand new manta-ray building facing the Manorway. It's been open since October last year, or at least the Southeastern side has. As yet the two footbridges connecting the two halves are sealed off, and a wooden partition hides most of the new stuff from view. But all the purple platform signage is in situ, wrapped and taped to protect it from the elements, and even the next train indicators are lit in anticipation of the occasional test train.

Nobody came along last night to unwrap the giant purple roundel on the glass above the station entrance, so that'll linger as an ugly off-balance scar for a few months yet. I'm surprised to see that the forecourt out front still isn't finished either, or rather the bus stops aren't, given how long there's been to put them in place. Fresh shelters are only now being installed for northbound buses, while the southbound side remains sealed off (and the pedestrian crossing closed) as local buses continue to stop elsewhere. One day it'll be complete, as will the entire Crossrail line to Paddington, and the whole thing will be magnificent. Today should have been that day, but... deadline missed.

 Saturday, December 08, 2018

'Twas the night before Crossrail, but all down the line
Not a station was stirring, not even a sign.

It was all supposed to be so different.

By now, Crossrail mania should have been reaching fever pitch as the new line prepared to go live first thing tomorrow morning. The media would have been rammed full of positive purple press releases. Managers would have been seen grinning in gleaming stations in front of shiny roundels. The Mayor would have been banging on about his great achievement, conveniently overlooking the contributions of his two predecessors. Six exclusive sponsors would have been unveiled, and milking the opportunity for every mention they could manage. Press photographers would have been planning how best to make their way to the grand unveiling. Her Majesty The Queen might even have been choosing a hat.

Instead the silence is deafening, as TfL try ever so hard not to mention that anything was ever going to happen. An entire communications outburst has been binned. And as tomorrow rolls round, they've pretty much got away with it.

TfL have played a blinder in never quite mentioning the specific day Crossrail was due to open. They only promised 'December 2018', which turned out to be wildly optimistic, but deliberately never narrowed it down further than that. They could have picked one end of the month, or nominated a particular week, even if they hadn't alighted on a single date. But by keeping it broad, and never announcing anything specific, the day of the actual planned opening can roll by almost entirely unnoticed.

Over-promising is seen as bad these days, because over-promising risks failure. TfL like launches to sneak up unannounced, because that way they can control the publicity when it happens and avoid the chance of a lambasting in the media if it doesn't. Never mind that passengers might want to plan ahead, what's most important is that the organisation doesn't lose face. Obviously having to postpone Crossrail's launch until next year was a ghastly embarrassment of the very highest order, but by enduring that uproar in August TfL are sailing through early December virtually unscathed.

The intended launch date was however an open secret. It appeared in a tedious minor consultation back in 2016. It was mentioned by Westminster council last year. It was linked to changeover dates on bus contracts in East London. And it was always going to be pencilled in for 'the day the timetables change' (the day after the second Saturday in December), because that's how timetabling works. Realistically, because the line from Paddington to Abbey Wood was entirely separate from National Rail services, TfL could have held off for a few days (or weeks) until they were 100% ready to begin. But everybody who needed to know knew that the intended launch date was Sunday 9th December 2018 - it was simply never confirmed in public.

Absurdly, TfL's perfect silence was broken two weeks ago by a most unusual culprit - a campaign to sell trainers. As part of a commercial tie-up between TfL and Adidas, a collection of tube-inspired training shoes is being launched this weekend, including one shoe for every tube line and a separate foursome for Crossrail. Here's Graeme Craig, TfL's Commercial Development Director, looking jolly pleased in his new kickers at the press launch last month.

The tube trainers feature some very odd left/right pairings, including Central (L)/Bakerloo (R), Northern (L)/Hammersmith & City (R) and Victoria (L)/Waterloo & City (R). The chosen combinations are evidently more about what the designer thought looked good than any particular network connection. And because there are only eleven tube lines, the District line has had to be paired with Crossrail, should you want to walk around town with a green roundel on the back of one trainer and a purple roundel on the back of the other. Before you grumble, they're not aimed at you.

The four Crossrail trainers are much more ostentatiously styled, including one pair that's purple all over, one that nearly is and two featuring a gold metallic heel. This particular footwear collection is also targeted at women, not because the Queen is ever likely to wear them but because they're "inspired by the female pioneers who are helping create London’s newest line." TfL tweeted about them yesterday, should you fancy watching the promotional video. Again, you may not want to spend £75 on having blingy feet, but you're not target audience.
"The streamlined simplicity of the Gazelle shoe has lasted for three decades and counting. This pair is a collaboration between adidas Originals and Transport for London to celebrate the opening of the Elizabeth Line, London's newest Underground line. The left shoe has a Trefoil, and the right shoe shows off a 3D Elizabeth Line logo. A gold metallic heel and gold details on the tongue and lace tips add a glam touch."
What's particularly perverse about the Adidas launch is its timing, taking place several months before Crossrail finally takes to the rails. It's also a staggered campaign, with the purple trainers launching today, Saturday 8th December, and the remaining tube trainers launching on Monday 10th December. Why would any company launch into a brand vacuum unless they absolutely had to?

These dates strongly suggest a product splash tied to the original launch date for Crossrail. Launch your purple trainers on the Saturday, ride high on the media buzz surrounding the official launch on Sunday, then follow up with your tube trainers on the Monday. It would undoubtedly have been a shoe-in. But I can only assume that a contract got signed before the delay got announced, and TfL and Adidas are having to go through with it rather than ending up with a warehouse full of unsold goods. It may even be the case that Adidas were lined up as one of the new line's six exclusive brand partners, and we'd have been seeing a lot more of them on board trains, across stations and on the tube map starting this weekend.

Whatever, the Adidas launch pretty much confirms that tomorrow, Sunday 9th December 2018, was the intended starting date for the inaugural Crossrail service. Chew on that, as the day goes by without a bleat regarding what's been lost.

And note how TfL have been even more cunning with their announcement that the delayed opening date is 'Autumn 2019', a season which potentially encompasses any date from 1st September 2019 to 20th December 2019 - a period broad enough to deflect all further analysis. Crossrail might overcome its issues and launch a limited service early or, given that the official winter timetable changeover day is Sunday 15 December 2019, we might not even have trains from Paddington to Abbey Wood this time next year. Keeping an eye on the sponsors' websites might just be the only way to get a clue in advance.

 Friday, December 07, 2018

December is a gloomy month, sunshinewise. Indeed in the northern hemisphere December is officially the gloomiest.

Here's a graph showing how much solar radiation reaches the earth's surface month by month. Data is for London, averaged over a number of years.

The official term for what's being measured here is "insolation", defined as the amount of solar energy received across a certain area over a specific time. The units on the graph's vertical axis are kWh/m²/day, if that helps.

At the height of summer a typical square metre in London gets about 5 kilowatt hours of solar energy a day. But in November, December and January that plummets to below 1, with this month the lowest of all. Insolation in December is about eight times weaker than in June or July. That's why Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing.

Insolation (kWh/m²/day)     LONDON

Insolation data is especially important to people with solar panels on their roof. Numerous factors affect how much radiation solar panels receive, including nearby obstructions, leaf cover and orientation, but nothing can compete with the changing of the seasons.

At London's latitude, midwinter days have less than half the daylight hours of midsummer. That's one reason it feels gloomy at the moment.

Hours of daylight (1st of the month)     LONDON

The elevation of the sun in the sky is another.

Highest elevation of the Sun (1st day of the month)     LONDON

In summer the sun rises steeply across the sky, whereas in winter the angle is much more gentle. The summer sun can exceed an elevation of 60° at midday, whereas the winter sun never reaches 20°.

A low sun is bad news for insolation because energy hits the earth's surface at a more oblique angle, spreading out the same amount of solar radiation across a wider area. So even when we do have daylight in the winter it isn't very strong daylight, and that helps makes December feel especially dull.

Today for example the sun rises at 07:50, but it isn't until 08:40 that it reaches 5° above the horizon. As for the loftier benchmark of 10°, the sun won't get that high until 09:33. That's why mornings are feeling particularly gloomy at the moment. Later the sun will sink back below 10° as early as ten past two, then duck below 5° just after three o'clock. That's why afternoons are feeling particularly gloomy at the moment.

This table shows when the sun first reaches 10° above the horizon, month by month. Times are GMT/BST as appropriate.

Solar elevation rises above 10° (1st day of the month)     LONDON

In summer the sun reaches 10° by 6am, so when most people wake up the day already feels bright. But at this time of year it doesn't reach 10° until well after 9am, and so the day starts off dull. The very dullest mornings are at the end of December.

Solar elevation falls below 5° (1st of the month)     LONDON

As for 5°, and evenings, in summer the sun doesn't dip that low until around half past eight. But at this time of year it starts getting noticeably dimmer around three o'clock, so it's all downhill from mid-afternoon. The very dullest afternoons are in the middle of December.

Here's another way of looking at this. Today the elevation of the sun will be below 10° for 3½ hours. If you do the sums, that's 43% of today's total daylight hours. That's glum. And it'll be below 5° for 1 hour 40 minutes, which is 21% of today's daylight hours. That's dreary.

Which has all been leading up to this graph. It shows the proportion of daylight hours that are gloomy, and how that changes over the year. I've drawn one line for below 10°, and another for below 5°.

From April to September the graphs are remarkably flat. In spring and summer the sun's only below 10° for 20% of daylight hours, pretty much consistently, and below 5° for 10%. But from October the graph shoots up, and by December those proportions have doubled. At the moment the sun's less than 10° above the horizon for 40% of daylight hours, and less than 5° above the horizon for 20% of daylight hours. December's daylight is proper weak.

Not forgetting the weather, of course. Not only does December have the lowest average sunshine total of any month of the year, it's also the cloudiest month... and cloud greatly reduces the amount of sunlight getting through. Most clouds reflect the majority of sunlight hitting them, the very thickest cloud reflecting over three-quarters. The technical term is albedo, if you want to research some more.

This December has been unusually cloudy in London, with just four hours of sunshine so far in this first week. In fact we've not even managed ten hours of sunshine over the last fortnight, which is exceptional.

Short daytime hours, low sun and overcast skies combine to make December the gloomiest month. No wonder our ancestors shoehorned in pagan celebrations, and Christmas, to help brighten it up.

 Thursday, December 06, 2018

It being December, hundreds of thousands of words are being written to encourage us to enjoy the festive season by spending money. A lot of these words are febrile brandspeak, a lot of the phrasing is teeth-grinding hyperbole and a lot of featured claims are deliberately over-egged. But sometimes the author goes one step too far, assumes too much about their audience and shamelessly lies.

Here are 20 excessively presumptuous examples published in the last week, taken from London-based websites which publicise events and experiences. Most of the examples aren't from the website you're thinking of, before you jump to any conclusions.

1) "Everyone’s favourite shipping container village is launching a brand new site in north west London."
Even if everyone had a favourite shipping container village, which they don't, they wouldn't all have the same one. So this is a lie.

2) "One thing’s for sure: there’s never a dull moment at the Royal Albert Hall this December!"
3am at the Royal Albert Hall's pretty dull, and concert intervals aren't thrillers either. So this one thing isn't "for sure", it's a sweeping over-exaggeration.

3) "When something is called ‘The Christmas Forest’, you just know it’s going to be a winter wonderland."
Given that a finite number of Christmas events turn out to be lacklustre embarrassments, and a name proves nothing, this cannot always be true.

4) "Imagine a team of elves scurrying around, hanging lights and baubles whilst you kick back with an eggnog – perfection!"
This flight of fancy is sunk by its final word, which assumes far too much about its audience's definition of perfection.

5) "‘Tis the season for unashamed over-indulgence, so it’s definitely time for a Christmas afternoon tea."
The first half of the sentence is questionable. The illogical leap to the second half is entirely unfounded. But it's that appearance of the word 'definitely' which tops the lot, elevating this claim to the highest levels of untruth.

6) "No matter whereabouts in London you’ve found yourself, we’ve got a delightful Baileys and dessert combination so good that you’ll definitely end your night very happily."
Initially the author wrongly assumes that the reader must be close to a limited number of West End locations, forgetting that places like Pinner and Penge exist. Then they wrongly assume that alcohol and food must 'definitely' make everyone very happy. Textbook lying.

7) "This east London-based speakeasy is renowned for its delicious and sometimes delightfully unusual cocktails which makes it a must-visit for a their limited edition Baileys cocktail."
Nothing in London is a must-visit, absolutely nothing at all. Locations serving Baileys cocktails, doubly so.

8) "It’s impossible to visit Maxwell’s in Covent Garden without tackling a shake."
It blatantly isn't impossible. I'm sure tens of thousands of diners have managed it.

9) "If you love coffee as much as we do, you owe it to yourself to take a trip to Coffee Oasis."
Although we cannot know quite how much the authors love coffee, nobody owes themselves a trip into central London for a caffeinated beverage as a consequence.

10) "Everything you need to know about 2018, wrapped up in one event."
Every use of the phrase "everything you need to know" is a slamdunk into the basket of shameless deceit.

11) "Face it, sitting at home on NYE is dreadfully boring, so taking to the river for a nautical adventure is an excellent alternative."
The second half of this claim is debatable, but not necessarily incorrect. It's the whopping assumption that your house must be Dullsville on New Year's Eve which destroys the underlying premise of the overall assertion.

12) "A luxurious party boat will be cruising up the Thames this year, offering the best possible view of the fireworks – and we just know you want to get on board!"
The deck of a party boat does not deliver the 'best possible' view of the fireworks, which is likely to be some distance above river level. Also, the vast majority of us have no intention of getting on board, especially at £125 a pop, and the final exclamation mark merely confirms the sheer desperation of these weasel words.

13) "All you could ever want for Christmas is bottomless cocktails and food, right?"
Wrong. On so many levels.

14) "The outdoor bar is heated, and decked with fairy lights, making one of its booths the perfect place to hide out from the winter."
If members of the public were asked to describe the 'perfect' place to hide out from the winter, a phenomenally tiny proportion of them would pick the bar outside a London jazz club. So this is a lie.

15) "Calling all stressed-out shoppers and steak bake enthusiasts! Your Christmas wish has been granted."
A lesson in logic here. Just because a person exhibits Characteristic A and Characteristic B, it does not necessarily follow that their Christmas wish is a pop-up event combining the two.

16) "Let’s face it, gingerbread houses are as much a part of Christmas as the tree or Love Actually."
Assuming some kind of ranking of "Christmasness" exists, it is plainly not true that a biscuit structure, a decorated tree and a 2003 movie by Richard Curtis would have identical scores.

17) "Nothing says merry Christmas like a pair of giant slugs. I mean, no, that’s not true. Plenty of things are Christmassier than slugs, big or small. Everything, actually."
This looks like it's going to deliver brilliantly, as the author subverts the genre with a retraction in the second sentence. But then they go and ruin it right at the end with an incorrect declaration that slugs must be the least Christmassy things in existence. Remember, never use the word 'everything' (or indeed 'everyone') unless it really is the case.

18) "Always dreamed of dancing like a Sugar Plum Fairy? Who hasn’t?"
Technically, because this is two questions, it isn't a lie. But you have to be up against a pretty tight editorial deadline to churn out a patently-flawed introduction such as this.

19) "You can barely move for igloos in London over the Christmas period."
Someone got paid for writing that. It's possibly the least true fact on the entire list.

20) "It’s a fact: There’s no such thing as too many Christmas markets."
Imagine a universe entirely stuffed with Christmas markets. That'd be too many, so this is not a fact.

"Most of the examples aren't from the website you're thinking of, before you jump to any conclusions."
And there I go as well, making assumptions about my audience which I cannot possibly know to be true simply because it delivers an engaging sentence. Everyone writes badly sometimes, asserting the incorrect and presuming the inaccurate. But it ought to be perfectly possible to deliver written content without resorting to such flawed generalities, and we should all be on our guard against their overuse.

 Wednesday, December 05, 2018

In today's post, we're going to spot errors on the tube map.

That's the printed tube map, the one you pick up for free in stations.

There are several errors on it which have somehow gone unnoticed.

Here's the first.

This is the very top of the index on the back of the printed map.

The error is right there in the first handful of stations. Have you spotted it yet?

It's not the grid references, it's not the spellings, it's not the symbols and it's not the zones - they're all fine.

It's the order the stations are listed in. Stations should appear in alphabetical order, but they don't.

Look at the Actons. The order should be Acton Central, Acton Main Line, Acton Town... 'C' before 'M' before 'T'. But instead Acton Main Line has been listed after Acton Town, when it should come before. How did that happen?

This error's been on the printed tube map since May 2018, when TfL Rail (to Heathrow) appeared for the first time. The other new stations - West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall and Hayes & Harlington - were all added to the index correctly. But Acton Main Line was slotted in wrong, and nobody noticed, and hundreds of thousands of copies were printed.

And that's just the start.

Here's the next alphabetical slip... and we're still only in the A's.

This time it's a tram stop that's wrong. Arena (A-r-e) should come after Archway (A-r-c), but instead it's been slotted in before.

Amazingly, this error's been on the tube map since June 2016. That was the trams' very first appearance on the map, including the addition of 37 tram stops to the index... and it seems someone managed to add Arena in the wrong place. That was also the notorious map which put Morden in the wrong fare zone and had to be reprinted, but this alphabetical error slipped through unnoticed on the other side.

The next problem is with the 'Beck's.

Beckenham Junction should come before Beckenham Road, as anyone who understands alphabetical order should know. That's so basic it really should have been obvious... but that's not the end of it. Beckton and Beckton Park should be adjacent, but instead they've been rent asunder by the two new tram stops which should instead have come first. That's two errors here, and four so far in total, and we're not even out of the B's.

Let's hit the C's. You know what you're looking for now.

This time the misplaced pair are Church Street and Chorleywood. C-h-u comes after C-h-o, as every grammarian knows, but inexplicably someone's placed it in front. That's an 'A' error, two 'B' errors and a 'C' error all involving tram stops, suggesting that whoever added the tram stops to the index wasn't thinking carefully about where they went.

A big jump now to the letter T. But yes, it's the tram stop that's wrong again.

Therapia Lane starts T-h-e-r, which ought to place it inbetween T-h-e-o and T-h-e-y, but instead someone's placed it first. This particular trio's a bit more challenging to put in alphabetical order, but nothing worse than the exercises some of us were doing in primary school, and an index like this deserves to be 100% correct.

Amazingly all these misplaced tram stops - Arena, Beckenham Junction, Beckenham Road, Church Street and Therapia Lane - have been wrongly listed since June 2016. Nobody spotted the error then, nor on the December 2016 map, nor on the May 2017 map, nor on the January 2018 map, nor on the May 2018 map. Five chances to get it right, five chances missed... and before we smirk, we all missed it too.

This next error's a bit different. And it involves the 'Wood's.

Initially the tram stop, Woodside, might look OK, fitted in between Wood Lane and Wood Street. But hang on, the station after Wood Street is Woodford, and 'f' comes before 'S', so what's going on here?

To explain, let me show you the 'High's, which are correct.

TfL have an extra house rule regarding alphabetical order, which is that single words beat compounds. Here that means High Barnet and High Street Kensington automatically beat Highams Park, Highbury & Islington and Highgate, each of which merely start with the letters H-i-g-h. You can observe this rule applied repeatedly where compass directions are involved... all the 'East's come before Eastcote, all the 'North's come before Northfields, all the 'South's come before Southall and all the 'West's come before Westbourne Park. TfL have been applying this house rule to the tube map index since May 2015, and consistently so, as is their right.

But Woodside breaks the house rule, having been slotted in too early. It shouldn't appear between Wood Lane and Wood Street but between Woodgrange Park and Woodside Park. Yet again the person adding the tram stops to the index has messed up, and their error has remained on the tube map for the last 2½ years.

To summarise...

It says...It should say...Wrong since...
Acton Town
Acton Main Line
Acton Main Line
Acton Town
May 2018
June 2016
Beckenham Road
Beckenham Junction
Beckenham Junction
Beckenham Road
June 2016
Beckenham Road
Beckenham Junction

Beckton Park
Beckenham Junction
Beckenham Road

Beckton Park
June 2016
Church Street
Church Street
June 2016
Therapia Lane
Theobalds Grove
Theobalds Grove
Therapia Lane
June 2016
Wood Green
Wood Lane
Wood Street
Woodgrange Park
Woodside Park
Wood Green
Wood Lane
Wood Street
Woodgrange Park
Woodside Park
June 2016

Interestingly, the tube map on the TfL website isn't wrong. If you download the pdf and look at the index, every station is listed in correct alphabetical order, including all seven of these errors. I've also checked the tube map that was on the TfL website in June 2016, and that was correct too. There's been a correct version of the index to check against for the last 2½ years, but nobody has, and so the last five printed tube maps have featured numerous alphabetical errors.

A new tube map is due to be published this month, and may already have gone to the printers. It won't now have Crossrail on it, so thankfully there aren't any extra stations for someone to accidentally put in the wrong order. But given how long the existing mistakes have gone unnoticed, by all of us, I shall be particularly interested in the index on the back of the map when it eventually appears.

Saturday update: The new tube map is now out. All six tram errors, introduced in June 2016, have been corrected. The TfL Rail error from May 2018 remains - Acton Town is still listed before Acton Main Line.

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