diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 05, 2015

For much of last year, you may remember, Bond Street station was partly closed. Central line trains didn't stop between April and June, then Jubilee line trains didn't stop from July to November, for Crossrail and capacity related construction. TfL were rightly delighted when works to connect the new ticket hall to the existing station infrastructure were completed ahead of schedule, firing out a celebratory press release on 24 November. But although both lines have been stopping at Bond Street for more than ten weeks now, nobody inside a Central line carriage would know.

Ah, stickers. The line diagrams in tube carriages are often plastered with stickers, announcing either temporary adjustments or permanent changes since the underlying map was first produced. In this case a big sticker has been used to warn Central line passengers that they can no longer interchange to the Jubilee line at Bond Street. The station has been downgraded to two overlapping lines on the map, and passengers needing the Jubilee can clearly see they'll have to change elsewhere. Except they don't. This sticker is an an anachronistic lie, leading unfamiliar travellers to make less than optimal journeys.

Interestingly, different Central line trains contain subtly different line diagrams, hence there are two different kinds of Bond Street sticker. One type starts at Notting Hill Gate and runs along to Oxford Circus, while the other starts at Queensway and runs along to Tottenham Court Road. The latter can be quite ill-fitting, and if badly stuck runs from 'QQueensway' to 'Tottenham Court Roadd', although the example below is pretty much spot on.

Whichever design is in place the current outcome is the same - the old Bond Street sticker is still firmly in position telling porkies, and the decision to leave it in place appears to be official. And this is because the latest station to be half-closed has had its sticker plonked on top. Tottenham Court Road will be half-closed until early December, thanks to further Crossrail work, with Northern line trains stopping but Central line trains passing straight through. The new sticker shows this clearly - for Central line passengers, station deleted - and will continue to do so for ten months to come. So why oh why, I wonder, have TfL got TCR correct while leaving incorrect information about Bond Street underneath?

It's not like Bond Street station is closing again in the immediate future. I know this thanks to TfL's 'six month look ahead' list, which used to be accessible fairly prominently on its website but is now hidden halfway down a lowly subpage. Covent Garden becomes exit only again in a couple of weeks, and Royal Oak closes completely throughout April. But Bond Street is staying firmly open, so its 'no interchange' sticker is truly redundant.

So anyway, having rocked the Central, I thought I'd go off and check the sticker situation on the other ten Underground lines. The Northern line's particularly stickery, as I remembered, with completion of step-free access one of the more frequent reasons for change. But when I went and looked, no, the map was clean, bar a single sticker showing no interchange at Tottenham Court Road, as you'd expect. The Piccadilly's still very stickery though, I thought, but again no - just the expected warning about Covent Garden's exit-only-ness. Indeed both the Northern and Piccadilly line diagrams are currently exemplarily presented, in a way that the Central line most definitely isn't.

And it turned out, contrary to my initial perception, that most of the other line diagrams are entirely sticker-free. The Victoria line - no stickers. The Metropolitan line - no stickers. The Jubilee line - no stickers (Bond Street is shown correctly). The Bakerloo line - no stickers (but a fairly obvious rectangular outline where the sticker for Embankment used to be). The District line - no stickers (but a fairly obvious rectangular outline where the sticker for Embankment used to be). And the Waterloo & City line - no stickers (derrr, obviously).

Taking a closer look revealed why so many of our tube line diagrams are up-to-date with no need of vinyl coverage. Tucked away in tiny font in the bottom right hand corner of every map is the print date, and the Northern line diagram was reprinted as recently as 11/14. Ditto the Jubilee line, freshly updated immediately after Bond Street reopened so currently accurate and unadulterated. The Bakerloo line diagram is dated 04/13, after the Edgware Road closure, hence it too is still up-to-date and unstickered.

And... oh, all the other lines have diagrams dated 09/12, immediately after the Paralympics - the point when all those magenta-highlight Games versions had to go. That no stickers have needed to be added since is perhaps a telling indication that the Underground's step-free mission has pretty much ground to a halt, or else that nobody's bothering to advise the passengers of such improvements any more.

Except there is one other place where the line diagrams are a mess, and it's probably not where you expect. The sticker frenzy is on the newest trains on the tube network - the S Stock - running on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and (part of the) District lines. Even worse, they're entirely inconsistent, with some trains rattling round with one set, and other trains rattling round with another. Hammersmith might be stickered with a blue blob, or unstickered with white. Paddington might be stickered with a white blob, or unstickered with none. King's Cross might be stickered with a blue blob, or unstickered with white. Blackfriars to Cannon Street might be stickered to show that the latter is now open every day, or it might not. Acton Town to Barons Court might have a whopping sticker to explain Turnham Green's current late night interchange, or it might not. The information passengers get is dependent on what's been stuck in the specific train they enter - there's no consistent up-to-date approach on the S Stock at all.

In summary...
Bakerloo: No stickers (basemap 04/13)
Central: No interchange at Tottenham Court Road (correct) or Bond Street (incorrect) (basemap 09/12)
Circle/Hammersmith & City/District (S Stock): Possibly four stickers, possibly none (basemap 09/12)
District (D Stock): No stickers (basemap 09/12)
Jubilee: No stickers (basemap 11/14)
Metropolitan: No stickers (basemap 09/12)
Northern: No interchange at Tottenham Court Road (basemap 11/14)
Piccadilly: No exit at Covent Garden (basemap 09/12)
Victoria: No stickers (basemap 09/12)
Waterloo & City: No stickers (basemap 09/12)

In summary... mostly unstickered, but with some S Stock omissions and a Bond Street fib.

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