diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 10, 2016

One week on from the expansion of the Zone2/3 overlap, we have another new tube map.

OK, it's more of a diagram really, but it does contain an important and necessary change to ensure that the travelling public aren't misled. Previously the line diagrams in Jubilee line carriages showed North Greenwich on the borderline and all the subsequent stations in Zone 3. Now they show the four last stations within an extended Zone 2/3 partition - the first time this has ever happened on the tube.

It was to ensure diagrammatic consistency that Canning Town and West Ham were propelled into Zone 2 in the first place. The initial intention had been to promote Stratford stations only, but this would have meant Jubilee line travellers from central London leaving zone 2 mid-journey before returning at the end, which could have caused fare chaos. With an increased overlap it's now a zone 2 journey all the way, and the new in-carriage diagram conveys this concept well.

The other railway that runs up the Lower Lea Valley has also updated its line map. That's the DLR, whose Stratford International branch has also been upgraded into the zone 2/3 overlap, and for precisely the same reasons. There are now fourteen DLR stations shared between zones 2 and 3, shown on the map below in an approximate diagonal from Stratford International to Lewisham. Effectively the whole of the DLR is now in zone 2 apart from the two termini in the City and stations east of Canning Town.

But this is merely the version of the DLR map which appears on ticket machines, because the maps in trains have yet to be updated. Indeed the basemaps in DLR carriages are still 2012 vintage, last updated immediately after the Olympics, so contain a number of inadequacies and inconsistencies. Somebody's since been round with lots of little stickers to try to keep the information up to date, which is at least functional, but hardly fit for purpose.

The rezoning of stations has been dealt with by adding a sticker at the top of the map explaining the rule in words, rather than depicting the outcome. Another sticker has been used to cover over the dagger at Pudding Mill Lane, which has been able to cope with 3-carriage trains ever since it was rebuilt two years ago. And there's also a sticker at West India Quay with the blunt news that it's not served by trains from Bank towards Lewisham. Originally when the diveunder was opened some evening and weekend trains from Bank did still stop here, but these were later cut back to keep the timetable flowing more efficiently, and now none of them do.

Never mind, I think we can assume that after months of inaccuracy, a new in-car DLR route diagram is on its way. If they can produce a correct version for the ticket machines, then rollout of a proper map for carriages shouldn't be too far behind.

And can we say the same for the Central line? Observant travellers will have noticed that the line diagrams in Central line carriages should have been updated over the past few weeks, but haven't been. They still show Tottenham Court Road station as closed, when in fact the Central line platforms reopened a month ago, and they don't show Holland Park station as closed, when in fact it closed for several months last weekend. Normally someone comes along pretty soonish and sticks temporary stickers over anything out of date, but in this case a decision seems to have been taken not to bother. That'd normally be criminal, what with a closed station now open and an open station now closed, so the only conclusion is that a new January 2016 diagram has been scheduled. And it's late.

Rezoning the Central line diagram should be relatively straight forward. The vertical line between Mile End and Stratford needs to be shifted east to line up with Stratford itself, leaving Leyton as the only station solely in zone 3. A similarly easy tweak can be made to the diagrams in TfL Rail carriages, and there's no need to do anything on the Overground because their contorted line diagrams don't venture to show zones at all. But to fix the the one remaining set of lines through the overlap zone might be a trickier prospect. Here's the current state of the District line diagram.

Previously the only Zone 2/3 station at the east end of the District line was Bromley-by-Bow, which could be dealt with by a single vertical line, but as of last week there's now West Ham as well. There's no precedent on the Underground for what to do with two successive borderline stations, or at least there wasn't until this week's updated Jubilee line diagram appeared. Now it seems certain we'll get a separate section with a 'Zones 2/3' label written in the notch below, but how are they going to squeeze it in? Not only is 'Zones 2/3' quite a lot to fit inside a strip with bevelled edges, but the amount of space left to write 'Zone 3' beneath Plaistow and East Ham will be fairly minimal. TfL's designers are sure to find a solution, they always do, but it'll require a less efficient use of space to cram everything in.

And I've droned through all this not because it's important, but to illustrate the domino effect of a seemingly simple change. "Let's add the Stratford stations to Zone 2" must have sounded like a damned smart political move, but practicalities have also required four additional stations to be rezoned, hence the move will cost TfL £7m in lost fares every year, and tube maps have had to be redesigned with a semi-incomprehensible grey blob, and in-car diagrams in every carriage on five different lines will all need replacing. And that's all in advance of the ripple effect on property kickstarted by making the Lower Lea Valley appear more central than before, which'll hike house prices and raise rents and force even more Londoners to move further out, or move away. Think on that, the next time you think an updated tube map looks less than lovely.

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