Travelling around London at the weekend is no fun. It used to be that tube services ran pretty much as normal on Saturdays and Sundays, but no more. Weekend services have become blighted by a increasing number of engineering works, and we've now reached the stage where lines without closures are in a minority. Yes, I know that these engineering works are no doubt essential, and they all help to ensure that the tube runs better in the future. But the short term effect of 'transforming the tube' is 'destroying the weekend'. Like, for example, last Saturday.
diamondgeezer: I want to slap the idiot who shut the Circle line, the middle of the District line, the middle of the Jubilee line and 90% of the DLR. Hard. 04:55 PM November 15, 2008 from txt
I was at Sloane Square trying to get back to Bow, which is normally one direct train. But not last Saturday. The District line was suspended between Embankment and Whitechapel, and the Circle line wasn't running at all. Never mind, I'd go as far as Westminster and change there for the Jubilee... ah, no, couldn't do that either. I waited ages for the first District line train east, which (when it finally arrived) was rammed full like a Monday morning rush hour. At Westminster various folk got off to change to the Jubilee line, not having heard (or understood) that it wasn't running from here. And I eventually made it to Waterloo, and thence to Canary Wharf for the DLR home... oh damn, that wasn't running either. All in all, unexpectedly hellish.
The trick is to go out prepared. TfL have got better over the years at warning us what they're shutting down each weekend so that we can adjust our plans appropriately. A page in the Metro, big weekly posters at tube stations, even a list of shutdowns they'll post you in a Wednesday email if you so desire. Oh, and the 'weekend' tab on the live travel news page on the TfL website. You know the one. A text-based line-by-line list which details what's going to be shut and between which stations. It's OK if you know the network well, but quite hard to assimilate otherwise. What's really needed here is a map to show clearly what's open and what's blocked. And what do you know, as of this week there now is.
Welcome to the new (Flash) TfL "Planned engineering works" webpage. Look, there's now a map which shows clearly what's open and what's blocked! There's no Circle line at all this weekend, that's instantly obvious. A couple of bits of District line are shut too, which are much better visualised (aha, there and there) than deduced ("suspended between Earls Court and Embankment and between High Street Kensington and Edgware Road"). If you'd like to see part of the map more distinctly, just zoom in. Want full explanatory text? Just point at the closures on the map and a text box appears (and there's a full list of lines to the left of the map with matching information). Clever innit? It's easy to see that one end of the Jubilee's stuffed, and the top end of the Metropolitan too. More importantly, it's dead simple to see which bits of the network are open and unobstructed. Planning your weekend just got easier.
Mostly easier, anyway, because there's still the odd snag. The Waterloo & City line appears on the map even though it's open as normal. It's never open before 8am on a Saturday, nor any time on Sunday, so the map shows it as "shut". The associated W&C text isn't much help either, giving no clue whatsoever that the line closes early on a Saturday evening. And then there are two lines with engineering work, neither of which show up on the map at all. One's the DLR which is half-shut this weekend. The DLR lines do appear on the new Flash map but the DLR engineering works don't, because the DLR's not a 'tube' line. Ditto the London Overground. The Barking end's closed on Sunday, but this doesn't appear as a blockage on the map. TfL's insistence on tabbing their engineering work by travel mode has led to some unhelpful uncoordinated thinking.
Still, mustn't grumble. The new map's a big step in the right direction, and conceals some even cleverer functionality. There's now a date option so that you can check future engineering work on any day in the next four weeks. The weekend after next, Metroland and Upminster and are sealed off. The weekend after that, there's virtually no disruption at all (unheard of!). And the weekend after that, try not to go to Farringdon or Dagenham. Plan ahead, plan wisely.
The new map won't put an end to weekend severance gridlock, and it won't make an army of rail replacement buses go away. But it should help to prevent Londoners from heading into a transport void by mistake, and it might even help me get home quicker.