diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 03, 2016

The new tube map is now out. I presume you've all grabbed a copy. But have you spotted the particularly stupid new thing inside?

Various significant things have happened on the new map, the most important of which is the zone 2/3 overlap zone (which we've already discussed). Here are a dozen further changes:

The front cover design is different (it's by Tomma Abts, and shows six bi-coloured strips)
A station has been renamed (Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 & 3 is now Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3)
Two more stations are shown with step-free access (Greenford and Vauxhall)
There's a brand new symbol, for Victoria Coach Station (unsurprisingly it's at Victoria)
The Overground south of Surrey Quays has been remodelled (the line now precisely follows the central fold in the map)
The two cablecar terminals are no longer shown as interchanges (the line is completely separate)
In the key, the cablecar now says 'Special Fares apply' (it could simply say '£3.50 per ride')
The key has been reshuffled (the District line to Olympia now comes last, after all the other lines)
The line to Olympia no longer opens during 'some Olympia events' (just 'weekends and some public holidays')
In the key, 'Tramlink' has been renamed 'Trams' (there are still no tram lines on the map)
The blue 'Night Tube Service' information panel has been removed (there's no mention whatsoever)

And then there are the daggers. This blog has long campaigned against the unnecessary use of daggers on the tube map, so it should be a joy to announce that there are now fewer of them than at any time in the last decade.

Number of daggers () on the tube map

Peak Dagger occured in 2008-2010, in part due to the construction of the Overground, but also because someone had decreed that minor things (like not having a through-train service, or trains stopping at midnight) were worthy of highlighting. Since 2011 usage has been much less slapdash, and the main reason for the additional decrease this year is that step-free anomalies no longer merit a mention. On the 2016 map Stanmore's steep ramp has been de-daggered, as has Hounslow West's 'manual wheelchairs only'. Even Canary Wharf's mention of street level access has gone, with the map instead redrawn to show the Jubilee line and DLR as separate stations. All these issues still get a mention on the Step-free Tube Guide Map, where they belong, but this permits the decluttering of the main tube map most people use.

So that should all be good then? Alas no. Because while there may be just ten daggers left on the map, only four appear in the key.

The four stations that get a proper mention are all facing temporary closure, which is an exceptionally good reason to have a dagger. Tufnell Park closed a while back and Holland Park closed yesterday, while Caledonian Road and the Bakerloo line at Paddington are closing in the spring. But as for the other six stations with daggers, the map offers absolutely no explanation on at all. Travelling to or from Turnham Green, Camden Town, London Fields, Cambridge Heath, West India Quay or Emerson Park? Sorry, no clues, you'll need to look elsewhere.
† Services to/from some stations are subject to variation. Please search ‘TfL stations’ for full details
In an astonishing turn of events, TfL now expect you to search online to discover what the issue is when using these six stations. Admittedly most people have a smartphone these days, and there is wi-fi underground, but what a peculiar way to impart invariable information to the travelling public. And a bloody stupid way too, because if you search ‘TfL stations’ in your favourite search engine, nothing immediately useful appears.

If you google 'TfL stations', ten different TfL webpages appear on the first page of results, none of which is obviously where you should be heading. Top of the pile is the 'Stations, stops and piers' page, which presumably is where TfL hope you'll end up because most of the necessary information is buried within. Enter the name of a mysteriously daggered station, clarifying the name as prompted, and its specific webpage eventually appears. No mention of travel peculiarities is immediately apparent, but if you click on the yellow banner that reads 'Turnham Green Underground Station has reported access issues' (or similar), the appropriate information pops up.
TURNHAM GREEN: Served by Piccadilly line trains until 0650 Monday to Saturdays, 0745 Sundays and after 2230 every evening. At other times, use District line.
This method works for Turnham Green, Camden Town and London Fields. For Emerson Park it turns up inaccurate information that's now four weeks out of date - the station is no longer closed on Sundays. The advice for West India Quay is also outdated - no trains from Bank to Lewisham stop here, at any time. But for Cambridge Heath there's no access information panel at all, because the digital team behind the TfL website have forgotten to include it. Not great.

There is a more useful page on the TfL website, but this appears at number four in the search engine list and has the unhelpful title of 'Status updates', so who's going to think of selecting that? Even then the relevant list isn't the one you land on, you need to click on the 'Stations' tab rather than the more familiar 'Lines' tab. This provides a full list of service peculiarities, not just for the six daggered stations but for 40 other stations too. In over half of these the message simply warns that the ticket office is about to close, which obviously it already has, so this is simply noise. But this tab is where you ought to be looking to discover what's up with any station, long-term or real-time, and daggered or not.

Asking passengers to Google 'TfL stations' to find out what a dagger means is a wilfully inefficient use of customer time. They could probably unearth the relevant information in thirty seconds if they knew what they were doing (and manage to spell the name of the station correctly), although I suspect most people would take considerably longer or more likely never find the information at all. Instead of hiding the service irregularities for the six daggered stations in the cloud, how much simpler it would have been to write them down the side of the map. What's more, for heaven's sake, there's plenty of room...

Look at that, the right-hand quarter of the tube map leaflet is mostly empty space! It would have been dead easy to list the relevant information for Turnham Green, Camden Town, London Fields, Cambridge Heath, West India Quay and Emerson Park in the gap, but no, some digital disciple decided to be progressive rather than practical. And even if you do go online, the information you're supposed to be searching for is either hidden, inaccurate or missing. What's more the new map even fails to mention, anywhere, that the entire Waterloo and City line is closed on Sundays. I do wonder sometimes how nobody spots issues like this before they sign off the final version and print 12 million copies.

So I thought I'd create my own list of daggered stations as a simple overview for the travelling public. I've created it as a separate post and titled it 'TfL stations', and posted it below, in the hope that it might pick up some Google magic. TfL could easily have done something similar and positioned a useful page at the top of the search rankings, but until they do hopefully my page will suffice. Feel free to link to it and give it a boost.

As a final irony, the back page of the latest version of the tube map is an advert for TfL's latest Transported by Design campaign. 'Pioneering, visionary, beautiful design is all around us', they say, and by golly they're right. But then they go and wreck the message by saying this.

An over-complex, overcrowded, blobby diagram with contorted orange additions, its station names in a font size too small to be easily read, now with a nasty grey Z2/3 overlap and daggered information that can only be uncovered by searching online. It may have been iconic once, but the 2016 tube map is an ill-thought-out mess. Don't forget to pick up your own copy.

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