London's tube map is about to get more complicated, with even more coloured tentacles snaking around the capital than ever before. And this time they're orange. The Mayor announced yesterday that he's found a cunning way of extending the tube network without forking out billions on new tunnels. He's taking a couple of existing rail services - namely Silverlink's North London line and TfL's East London line - and now plans to link the two together by adding in a short stretch of relatively cheap connecting track in the Dalston area. Throw in some new trains and some revamped stations and, hey presto, you have a brand new rebranded railway. Starting in November next year. And it's to be called the "LondonOverground".
It's about time it was easier to travel by rail around non-central London. If you want to get from London outskirts to London outskirts today, you usually have to go right into the middle and back again. Or ride on a ramshackle old line with grim carriages and an infrequent service. Or take the bus. Or even (shudder) get yourself a car. The new London Overground hopes to change all that. From 2010 you'll be able to travel from Croydon to Canonbury, or Wapping to West Hampstead, or any one of hundreds of other improbable journeys, all on one train. Travelling 90 degrees round the capital will never have been easier.
Except that, as is usual with such developments, South London is missing out. Almost all of the new London Overground is north of the river, and the southern extension from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction is the only part of the project not yet promised funding. Until that can be built, a proper outer orbital railway remains just a pipedream. Half of London will have to continue to endure less regular, less well-connected National Rail services for the foreseeable future. And the whole of London is going to have to put up with a much more complicated tube map, scarred by orange lines that aren't really tube lines at all. The future's Overground. The future's orange.