diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 17, 2015

One thing about TfL's tube and rail lines, as they appear on maps, is that they have quite short names. At present, this many letters:

3: DLR
6: Circle
7: Central, Jubilee
8: Bakerloo, District, Northern, Victoria
10: Piccadilly
12: Metropolitan
13: Waterloo & City
15: Hammersmith & City, Emirates Air Line
16: London Overground

Interestingly it's the youngest lines which have the longest names, specifically the H&C (1990), EAL (2012) and LO (2007). And yes it is officially the 'London Overground', even though its name is shortened to just 'Overground' in many places, for example on the line diagrams in tube carriages. But in only two weeks time the London Overground gets a lot bigger, and it's not just the network, it's the names.

The current London Overground comes in five orange flavours, colloquially known as the North London line, East London line, West London line, Watford DC and Goblin. But on 31st May we get two more, namely the old West Anglia lines out of Liverpool Street, and the Emerson Park shuttle. And then it'll start to get really confusing precisely which Overground is which.

Tube line diagrams are going to say 'Overground' everywhere, without making it in any way obvious which branch of the Overground it is. At the northern end of the Victoria line, for example, only one of the four orange interchanges leads to Stoke Newington, but your average Londoner isn't going to know which is which. Then there's the new Extra Complicated Tube Map, which'll have more orange lines than a plate of cheesy spaghetti, and no colour-based distinction as to which line goes where. And then there are the line diagrams in the new Overground timetables, which'll suddenly get a whole lot more complicated...

Once there are half a dozen separate Overground lines, you'll be seeing their official names more often. And their official names are unexpectedly long. The new West Anglia acquisition, for example, goes by the overloaded moniker of Liverpool Street - Enfield Town/Cheshunt/Chingford, which is hardly catchy. Meanwhile the former East London line assumes the mouthful that is Highbury & Islington - West Croydon/Clapham Junction. We should be grateful that map designers refrained from using the full name proposed in TfL's style guide, which is Overground Dalston/Highbury & Islington - West Croydon/Crystal Palace/New Cross, because that's insane. But sheesh, somebody important has clearly decided that reflecting geographical reality is more important than brevity, and stuff how difficult it for us to read.

Why don't we go back to calling Richmond/Clapham Junction - Stratford the North London Line? Why don't we simply call Willesden Junction - Clapham Junction the West London line? And why don't we call Gospel Oak - Barking the Goblin, for heavens sake, it's well established and it's fun? But portmanteau nicknames such as Bakerloo or Piccadilly are too 20th Century, it seems, and so we're lumbered with this verbose gobbledegook instead.

Imagine if geographical correctness took hold across the TfL network, how the portfolio of familiar names would change.

13: Bank - Waterloo, Bank - Lewisham
17: Romford - Upminster, Gospel Oak - Barking
18: Stanmore - Stratford
19: Hammersmith - Barking
20: Bank - Woolwich Arsenal
21: Watford Junction - Euston, Wimbledon - Edgware Road
23: Hammersmith - Edgware Road
25: Liverpool Street - Shenfield
26: Brixton - Walthamstow Central
29: Heathrow/Uxbridge - Cockfosters
30: Stratford - Canary Wharf/Lewisham
33: Willesden Junction - Clapham Junction, Harrow & Wealdstone - Elephant & Castle
34: Richmond/Clapham Junction - Stratford
38: High Street Kensington - Kensington Olympia
41: Emirates North Greenwich - Emirates Royal Docks
43: Ealing Broadway/Richmond/Wimbledon - Upminster
46: Stratford International - Beckton/Woolwich Arsenal
49: Morden/Kennington - Edgware/High Barnet/Mill Hill East
50: West Ruislip/Ealing Broadway - Hainault/Woodford/Epping
53: Amersham/Chesham/Watford/Uxbridge - Baker Street/Aldgate
63: Liverpool Street - Enfield Town/Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters)/Chingford
77: Dalston/Highbury & Islington - West Croydon/Crystal Palace/Clapham Junction/New Cross

Thankfully that's not going to happen, at least not on any of the non-orange lines. But if we can come up with simple names like Metropolitan, Jubilee and Crossrail that all Londoners understand, why can't we do the same for the impending Overground epidemic?

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