Saturday, February 24, 2024
I was on the Central line the other day and there was a 15 minute gap between trains. You might expect this kind of thing at the extremities or late at night, but not at Bethnal Green mid-morning. "Sorry, we're going to be held here for 5 minutes," said the driver. "This is due to the service being completely screwed at the moment." He wasn't wrong.
The issue is motor failure, an increasingly prevalent problem with the Central line's 30-year-old rolling stock. Engineers are doing their best, indeed a rolling repair programme has been underway since 2020, but motors are failing faster than they can be returned to service. This has reduced the number of available trains and made the timetable impossible to deliver... so they're introducing a new one.
On Monday a new weekday timetable kicks into action - call it temporary, call it emergency, whatever - in an attempt to provide the least worst service for Central line passengers. It can be run with just 60 trains whereas the previous version needed 71 (and even that was a reduction from a more normal 77). That's quite a chop so the trains that do run may be rather fuller than normal, but at least the long gaps between trains should be evened out.
My graphic shows typical off-peak intervals between services up and down the line. 'Normal' is the service operating this time last year.
Previously, very roughly speaking, a 5 minute service on each of the branches combined to provide a train every 2½ minutes in the central section between White City and Leytonstone. From Monday the interval on the central section increases to every 3 minutes, on average, with a little extra padding introduced to allow for slower boarding of trains.
It's not as bad as it could be on the outer branches thanks to the cunning way the timetable has been constructed. Previously several trains terminated early, say at Northolt, Newbury Park or Loughton. But in the latest timetable they go all the way to the ends of the line, preserving throughflow on the outer branches. It might even mean a better service beyond Northolt or between Newbury Park and Hainault.
• West Ruislip-Epping (9 trains per hour)The timetable is also deliberately flexible. If more than 60 trains are available they can add more in, and if the number of trains falls further they can cut it back to 58, 56, 53, even 49. That said, even 49 trains would have been problematic on some days recently, so things may get worse before they get better.
• Ealing Broadway - Hainault (6 trains per hour)
• White City - Hainault (6 trains per hour)
» (central section 21 trains per hour)
» So far this is only for Mondays to Thursday, although a revised timetable for Friday to Sunday is likely to be introduced later.
» It may be a worse timetable but if TfL can stick to it then they'll no longer have to display 'Severe delays' as a service status because the benchmark has changed.
» Things are so bad at the moment that TfL are running bus shuttles at peak times from Epping to Chingford and Loughton to Chingford, every 15 minutes.
» It's fortunate that Crossrail opened fully before the Central line collapsed, otherwise east-west travellers would have been in serious trouble.
Also, according to Ross Lydall at the Evening Standard the "machine that checks track has broken, meaning speed restrictions are in place and a “special” (ie Boxing Day) timetable will be in place this weekend." Eek! So best keep away if you can, the Central line really is completely screwed at the moment.
posted 07:00 :
It's 2 years today since...
a) all Covid-related legal restrictions were withdrawn
b) Russian invaded Ukraine
The blissful period between these two events lasted approximately three hours.
You likely slept through all of them.
It's also two years since the start of the energy shock that hoicked our gas and electricity bills to unheard-of levels. On the day of the invasion the annual energy cap was £1277. One year later it was £4279, a three-and-a-bit-fold increase. Thankfully it's now down to £1928 and due to fall to £1690 in April, but that's still a 32% increase on two years ago which is still pretty terrible.
Here's a graph of the price cap taken from an excellent research briefing just released by the House of Commons Library - Gas and electricity prices during the ‘energy crisis’ and beyond.
It shows how high bills would have risen in 2022/2023 had the government not introduced the Energy Price Guarantee (minutes before the Queen's ill-health toppled the country into mourning). From October 2022 to June 2023 nobody paid the price cap because the EPG was lower. In July 2023 the EPG became redundant because the price cap fell back.
I wondered how much the energy shock had affected our bills so I've done some rough calculations to work out how much the average household would have paid year on year since 2020. Figures relate to the quarterly price cap where it applies and to the EPG ceiling inbetween. The 2024 figure is a prediction.
2020: £1136Very roughly then, compared to where we would have been, in 2022 we paid two-thirds more than normal, in 2023 twice as much as normal and this year will spend about 50% more than normal. Energy prices may be coming down but we are still forking out way more than might have been the case. Cheers Putin.
2021: £1149 (1% more than 2020)
2022: £1930 (70% more than 2020)
2023: £2227 (96% more than 2020)
2024: £1650 (45% more than 2020)
posted 01:00 :
Friday, February 23, 2024Friday transport news
n.b. London Reconnections, Ian Visits and Raildate do a longer list every Friday
Waiting rooms are often miserable places but some are jewels you genuinely don't mind hanging around in. This is the waiting room at Bruce Grove station in Tottenham, recently restored, and it's one of the latter.
It's the original waiting room from 1872 which has been spruced up courtesy of Haringey Council, TfL, Arriva Rail London, Network Rail, ArchCo and the Railway Heritage Trust. It's now got a couple of fireplaces, fresh floorboards, vintage coving and plenty of ivory and green paint - the historic colours of the Great Eastern Railway. The finest features may be the handcrafted reproduction benches, each subdivided with plenty of room to spread out. As a modern nod the room also has a departures screen, because a period clock isn't much good unless you know when the next southbound train is due. The best time for a peek, obviously, is just after that train has left.
I think what I like best, as well as the gorgeous use of materials, is the sense of space. Often in a waiting room you feel uncomfortably close to your fellow passengers but here, even if all the benches are taken, there'd still be room to linger comfortably in the middle. And nextdoor is an even nicer room with an armchair, plants and a bookcase - the Community Room - but that's locked because it's a hireable space and not for mere passengers.
Imagine if all waiting rooms were like this, or even if waiting rooms existed at all stations with potentially windswept platform, but that's Victorian priorities for you. It also shows what a £35000 grant can do if well targeted and beautifully executed within a suitable space. And no this isn't really news, it was widely reported a fortnight ago, all that's happened here is that I've been and seen it for myself. But you lucky folk at Bruce Grove, you might even be disappointed when the train turns up.
Metropolitan line extension news
I know it seems a bit late to mention this but bear with me. The Metropolitan line extension to Watford Junction was given the go-ahead in 2011 - fully planned, supposedly funded - but the groundworks mysteriously never started. In 2016 the new Mayor quietly killed the project dead, citing funding issues, and the old trackbed continues to become more overgrown as various politicians propose alternative pipedream solutions that'll never happen. This is not news either.
TfL's Programmes and Investment Committee is meeting next week and, in accordance with normal procedures, a 210-page infodump of procedural documentation has been released. Scroll down to Item 11 on page 145 and you'll find an update on TfL's Growth Fund, a long-term pot of money earmarked to help unlock housing and regeneration opportunities. Successful projects mentioned include the Barking Riverside extension and the Elephant & Castle roundabout, whereas "other projects have been paused, re-scoped or cancelled".
"An example of a scope change was the cancellation of the MLX project in January 2018. The £16m Fund monies allocated to the project were instead invested in an additional train which was ordered for MLX as part of the Four Lines Modernisation project contract for new trains. That train has been delivered and is in passenger service."Admittedly the Growth Fund's £16m was nowhere near the full cost of building the Metropolitan line extension, merely a substantial contribution. But it does niggle somewhat to hear that instead of an Underground extension with two brand new stations, instead we got a train. One whole train. I'm therefore adding "re-scoping" - an upbeat term for the quashing of dreams - to my list of weasel words forthwith.
Other paused/cancelled Growth Fund projects: Beam Park Station, Croydon Fiveways, Old Oak Overground Stations, Vauxhall Cross Gyratory Removal, Wandsworth Ram Brewery Transformation, Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Crossing, Morden Town Centre, Sutton Link, Barking Station, Erith Links, Bow Vision, Elmers End Tram Capacity Upgrade, Upper River Roding Crossing
More Overground news
Most Overground stations now have posters displaying the new name for their line plus a little background history. The posters are nicely done - just enough to educate the wider public - and all six are displayed in a TfL blogpost so you can see them too. The graphics also contain simplified route diagrams, another nice touch, but I wonder if you can see what's wrong with this one for the Mildmay line.
The names at the ends of the line are fine, but the junction in the middle is pointing the wrong way. It mistakenly shows that trains from Clapham Junction go to Richmond but they don't, indeed can't, they only go towards Stratford. And you can now see this error in ticket halls up and down the new Mildmay line, indeed from Stratford to Richmond and from Stratford to Clapham Junction.
When I wrote about London's upcoming dead bus, the 455, no further information was yet available on the TfL website. But there's now a dedicated text-heavy webpage, which also includes links to four maps which try to convey the sheer complexity of the changes occurring in a week's time. This map shows mitigation for the 455...
The dashed black line is the expiring 455 bus route and everything else shows what you'll be able to do/catch instead. You can tell it's complicated because the key runs to 11 rows and they've had to add three extra textboxes to explain things. Assuming you can get your head around it it's actually a pretty good summary. Whereas this map, for changes to routes 470, S2, S3 and S4 is verging on mind-blowing...
The new bus, the S2, is the orange line. But it's been drowned out by three other routes which appear in three different colours and each of those in three different styles of line. My brain imploded trying to work out the difference between current sections, new sections, Hail and Ride sections and withdrawn sections, not to mention a superfluous star to show that route S3 doesn't run on Sundays. Up top the visual kerfuffle used to display a simple route-swap around Sutton Common station is a masterclass in bamboozlement.
I shouldn't complain that TfL's design team have produced actual bus maps, and all this in advance of an upcoming route change. They still haven't managed anything for Superloop route SL3, for example, and that launches tomorrow. But the design team's general obsession with showing old and new routes on the same map isn't always helpful - so many colours, so many styles, so many lines, so much brain fog.
What's more these four maps will all be deleted in a couple of weeks once the changeover's complete, whereas what'd be much more useful long-term is a map showing the final network going forward. To understand the bus network in Sutton and Croydon you really need a proper bus map showing all routes, but alas TfL binned those eight years ago and where London's buses actually go has become an ever-deepening mystery.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, February 22, 2024I'm delighted to announce that diamond geezer now has a new non-chronological algorithm.
Previously posts were displayed in reverse chronological order, newest first, an option which is 100% counter-intuitive. This changes.
From today an automated algorithm will determine the order in which posts appear in your feed. This algorithm uses various factors to prioritise content with the goal of showing you the most relevant and engaging posts first.
This non-chronological restructuring will lead to an enhanced readership experience by creating moments of discovery and prolonging audience engagement.
How will my experience change?
From today a new machine learning algorithm will analyse your activity and engagement on the blog by considering factors such as the type of content you engage with, your commenting portfolio and the recency of posts to determine what appears at the top of your feed. Posts that have a higher likelihood of preference may often be prioritised and appear higher in your feed.
How is the algorithm constructed?
Your new personalised timeline has been carefully constructed to follow known interests, engaging content and trending topics. The algorithm is designed to encourage focus with the platform by displaying content optimised for personal characteristics. This realignment to engagement protocols also means that you may not see all recent published content without scrolling down. Rest assured that the most recent post will always appear somewhere within the first three pages.
Why are you doing this?
Research has confirmed that chronological order is an outdated concept and that a majority of new users are perfectly happy to scroll down their feed endlessly, engaging with individual posts as appropriate.
How do I opt out?
Please note that no option to view the feed chronologically is being provided going forward because software developers know what you want better than you do.
When was this announced?
The implementation of this procedure was fully explained in the post of 22nd November, if you can still find it.
How do I complain?
This is the future, grandad, get with the program.
For the avoidance of doubt that wasn't true, the blog does not have a new non-chronological algorithm.
It wouldn't still be a proper blog if it did - reverse chronological is how they work.
Sure, if it's your first time here you might want to discover a spread of past posts you'd never read before - the order isn't relevant. But as soon as you make a commitment to come back regularly the most recent post needs to be at the top, otherwise it's all a mess and the readership ebbs away. Other social media platforms might do well to learn that lesson.
What I did was create one very long post by combining 10 old ones. To try to make it look more convincing I added links to the original comments and hid everything else on the front page. Everybody got the same 10 posts, there was nothing personalised about it.
Also one of the 10 'old' posts was new - it had never appeared before. This was the post about the Post Office Tower, a remarkably prescient post which purported to foreshadow the 'hotel' announcement but was in fact written afterwards. I slapped a fake date on it, kicked off the conversation with three fake comments and hid it four posts down. Well done to those of you who noticed.
I have since expunged the algorithmic feed as if it never happened and returned to normal ordering. If you actually enjoyed the experience, remember that you can always click on one of the 258 monthly archives in the sidebar and uncover all sorts of old stuff you may never have read before.
For posterity's sake here's a list of the 10 chosen posts, followed by that Post Office Tower interloper in full...
1) Hidden Overground Histories (17 Feb 2024)
2) Sutton bus route quiz (17 Oct 2020)
3) Walking With The Snowman (13 Dec 2024)
4) The future of the Post Office Tower (new post)
5) Retracing Terry and June (25 Jan 2024)
6) Postcard from Berlin: The Stasi (11 Jun 2015)
7) New Year Resolution update (4 Jan 2004)
8) 3 things I hate about Travelcards (9 Sep 2002)
9) The Angel, Islington (20 Feb 2024)
10) The Olympic Countdown Clock (15 Mar 2011)
Friday, February 16, 2024
What is to be done with the Post Office Tower?
Yes I know it's officially called the BT Tower but who calls it that, only lickspittles, it'll always be the Post Office Tower to me.
It was once the epitome of the white heat of technology, a 1960s upthrust in the heart of Fitzrovia connecting the capital to the world and bringing communication to all. You could marvel at its modern form, you could dine at the top while rotating very slowly and famously you couldn’t see it on a map because it was officially top secret. But then the restaurant closed, then the Nat West Tower topped it, then it became some lesser British Telecom emblem, then the microwave aerials came down and now it sticks out pointlessly like a sore thumb.
BT still own it but it must be like an albatross around their neck, a full-on white elephant, being both a listed building and a bloody awkward stack of decaying technology. They can't actually need it any more, not with all those awkwardly shaped floors, plus everything's digital now, plus it covers an entire city block because the base is huge. All it's doing is keeping your phone bills marginally higher, that and providing a lofty billboard for occasional rotating advertising messages. It looks highly impractical and must require a significant amount of upkeep.
I can't believe it'd make a good office block because the floorplates are all wrong. I can't see it as a tourist attraction because they'd have to charge an absolute fortune for entry, nor as a standalone restaurant atop an obsolete metal cylinder. In my opinion the tower's only sensible future is as a luxury hotel - a multi-storey stack of suites and bedrooms offering an iconic experience and a unique view of London. The revolving restaurant would be the top draw - just imagine the premium you could charge for meals up there - and the public would totally lap it up.
There again they'd probably give the job of redesigning it to that bloody Heatherwick and his fancy chums and they'd repurpose it in a jarring way that'd get the public's back up, perhaps even altering the famous silhouette to make a fatuous architectural statement. It'd then become some luxury hideaway for the world's moneyed upper echelons, nowhere you'd ever be able to afford to go yourself. Not that you'd ever have got inside anyway so at least this way somebody gets in, but a super-exclusive hideaway for poshknobs all the same. They'd jump at the opportunity.
Of course I bet BT Group would take a number of years to vacate the premises, due to the scale and complexity of the work to move technical equipment, meaning there would be significant time for design development and engagement with local communities before proposals are revealed. It won't be opening as a hotel any time soon. But if not a hotel, might this fantastic landmark merely crumble away?
posted 01:00 :
Wednesday, February 21, 2024Hello to all of you who, like me, live by yourself. Not for us the chance of a friendly chat over breakfast, nor a natter in the bedroom, nor an entire evening sitting in front of the TV offering a running commentary on everything you watch. Our inner monologue stays private, remains unleashed, unless we spend time on the phone or make a particular effort to be sociable.
Don’t worry, I've not cast myself out like a hermit. I have a long chat with my dad twice a week and a weekly appointment on BestMate's sofa for gossip and pizza. I even found myself having a three hour conversation in Shake Shack in Westfield last week, have you been to Shake Shack recently, sheesh, it's like Argos do restaurants, they’ve essentially done away with the waiting staff, you type your order onto a screen like it's McDonalds, then go sit at some bleak table, no cutlery, no condiments, nothing, and wait for your order number to come up on a big screen, then you actually go up and collect it yourself, you're doing all the work for them, and it's presented in a cheap paper wrapper rather than on a plate, the size of the burger when it arrived was pitiful for the price it had cost, maybe half a dozen mouthfuls, meanwhile the drink was just flavoured concentrate in water for £3.40, admittedly I didn't have the food myself, I just watched, which financially proved to be a lucky escape, but the whole place seems to run on a skeleton staff of two, there are literally no corners left to cut, this must be what millennials think proper hospitality is, just a bench and a burger. But I digress.
The thing is I have all these internal conversations and barely anyone to share them with, not in real life. As a singleton I just end up talking to myself, metaphorically speaking, millions of people do. But millions more spend their lives in company communicating about every small detail instead, did you see what she was wearing, I can’t believe what's in the news today, mind that kerb, I’ve put the mug in the dishwasher, looks like rain, who actually drives like that, you'll never guess what I dreamt about last night, did you feed the cat, oh I like this song, I'm not sure if this colour suits me, my leg aches, what's in this sauce I like the flavour. I live by myself so I get none of this opportunity to vent. I could just blog about it all I guess but nobody wants to read that, not a mundane stream of consciousness, it'd be tedious as hell.
Look they're retarmacking the road, is retarmacking even a word? That must be disruptive for everyone on Vicars Hill, yes look there's a sign saying vehicles will be towed away for three whole days, on both sides. It looks so freshly-laid, and wow you can actually feel the warmth of it even on a mild day, the heat coming off is amazing, like standing beside a radiator. It's one of my favourite smells, bitumen, I absolutely love it, always have, so maybe this is a job I'd enjoy. I wonder how often they have to do this, or more to the point how often it's actually done. There are a lot of workers here and a lot of trucks, that one's reversing through a narrow gap, oh look it's just run over a traffic sign and broken it off, I'll take a photo. They didn't like that did they?
Look at that cherry blossom, blimey, it's only the middle of February. That is full-on pink bloom like spring is here, those trees have been totally confused by all the mild weather. It's everywhere too, not just this street, all across the capital, such a shame we’ve hardly had any sunshine to go with it because it always looks better brightly illuminated. I even saw a magnolia tree bursting out yesterday, seriously, that was up in Hornsey, the weather's totally buggered at the moment. It might not be 100% the effect of climate change, this seasonal shift, but what are the chances otherwise? Londonist hasn't even got round to republishing its annual "Generally April is cherry blossom month in London" article yet, they'd better hurry. I hope Saturday's frost doesn't kill it all off, yes hadn't you heard, things change quickly. I wonder if the bluebells will be early too.
What's this wizardy advert for, oh it's Trainline. Ticketo spliticus, honestly. But how on earth are they making that claim, "Use SplitSave sorcery to save on average £13 per trip", I can’t believe that's true. Splitting tickets is a rare thing, only for certain longer distance routes, not your typical commuter journey or dash to the coast. No way would you save that much regularly. Oh hang on there's an asterisk, what does it say in the smallprint? Oh it's right at the end, "Subject to SplitSave Fares being available", that's sneaky. So if you can save money you should save an average of £13, but it's very much not a £13 saving every time, nor even most of the time the cheeky bastards.
It's the spacing between the digits that gets me, look, this bus stop has the old style and the new style, the new is on the left. In the new style they're spaced apart, I'd say unnaturally so, but in the old style everything’s closer together. I presume they changed it for reasons of clarity but it always looks so artificial, unnatural even. And it always looks worse when there's a 1 in the number, actually this isn't as bad as it could be because there are two 1s. But normally you get one big gap and one small gap and it looks like the designer was half-drunk when they did it, like someone's applied a blanket rule even in situations where it looks bad. Sorry am I boring you, bit of a bugbear of mine, good to see it so clearly illustrated, I wouldn't have done it like that.
I didn't know Maze Hill had a pottery in the old station house, that's the numberplate I’ve been looking for since January, I see they’ve increased the price of Tesco own brand choc ices again, she shouldn't have brought that bike on the DLR before nine thirty, haha the giant mouse painted on the wall is hiding from the giant cat, I wouldn't do tai chi on a basketball court myself, I really hope the cough stops soon, I think they built it to impress Dome visitors, shop-bought daffodils really do open quickly, oh come on Madame Tussauds of course a better line up is possible, how do homeless people know the banking bus is turning up, which way did you think it went, I never noticed that memorial to a Spitfire pilot before, oh it thinks my bags are collectively too heavy, they can squeeze flats into any gap now, wow the service is properly buggered, thank heavens for library toilets, looks like a nasty accident, the sound of all that water under the escalators always unnerves me, hurrah right on cue, oh they do low sugar apple pies now, I'm not carrying that upstairs, I'm sure it said platform 3, why is this the lead story, well you should have indicated, great book I thought, that's cleaned up well, I will sit down and focus on it soon honest, yeah that'll do, this is what living alone does to you.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
London's Monopoly Streets
The ANGEL, ISLINGTON
Colour group: light blue
Purchase price: £100
Of all the streets on the Monopoly board, this one's unique because it isn't a street. It's more a street corner, or more specifically a pub on a street corner, or more accurately an ex-pub beside an arterial crossroads that's seen better days. The Angel has quite a backstory, indeed if you want a full a proper history you should read the lengthy treatise at British History Online or the illustrated analysis by the ever-excellent A London Inheritance, because that's what I did. It's also where, according to Monopoly legend, Victor Watson and Marjory Philips sat down during their daytrip from Leeds and mapped out which London properties would take each spot on the board. If so it'd make sense that they named the cheapest light blue after the cafe they were sitting in.
early 17th century
Islington High Street, part of the main road north out of London, is already a densely built-up thoroughfare. A long bay-fronted property owned by St John's Priory becomes an inn called the Angel.
early 18th century
There are now three neighbouring coaching inns along the high street, the largest being the Angel. Its frontage is 90 feet long and it attracts considerable trade from livestock traders driving cattle to Smithfield and travellers aboard cross-country stagecoaches seeking overnight accommodation.
mid 18th century
A new road (called the New Road) is built from Marylebone to Islington - essentially a north London bypass to keep coaches and drovers out of the crowded city. One day all the light blue properties will lie along it. But to reach Islington High Street it has to cut straight through the Angel Inn, specifically targeting the weakspot of its stable yard, because demolishing buildings for bypasses was a thing even in 1756.
In 1820 the inn, now known as the Angel Inn Tavern and Hotel for Gentlemen and Families, is rebuilt on a more compact site. However the arrival of the railways swiftly dampens its popularity with long-distance travellers and over the Victorian period it evolves into more of a big pub.
The Truman, Hanbury and Buxton Brewery undertakes an extravagant rebuild, creating the current incarnation of the Angel. The pub has eating rooms and a smoking lounge upstairs (accessed via a green-marble and mahogany-lined staircase), a billiard room in the basement and 23 bedrooms on the upper storeys.
The building still looks striking, particularly if you’re climbing St John Street from the direction of town. A bulbous terracotta dome overshadows the street corner, rising to a weirdly phallic nipple. You have to get much closer to identify the ring of angels around the dome’s equator, plus multiple cherubic embellishments scattered across the remaining frontage. Above the original main entrance, facing Pentonville Road, another ring-haired angel stares from a gleaming pediment beneath a reminder of the date of construction. Get the sunlight right and the exterior gleams orange, and merits far closer inspection than most of those dashing by afford.
The building becomes a flagship Lyons' Café (though not officially a 'corner house', despite being on a corner site). In its heyday over 300 customers can be accommodated, spread between the main ground floor cafe, an upstairs cafeteria and a basement grill. Victor and Marjory drop by in 1935.
London County Council buy the building with an eye to making major road junction improvements, specifically the insertion of an Angel roundabout. This and several other proposals fail, blocked by conservationists, so City University's geology department takes temporary occupation as a meanwhile use.
The building, recently sold on to the New River Company, is repaired and refitted for use as offices and a bank. The building looks rather less dazzling at ground floor level as a result.
The Angel's been a bank even longer than it was a Lyons. Most recently it's been a branch of the Co-operative bank, its walls painted a light blue that befits its grouping on the Monopoly board. It's all a bit of a comedown from earlier hospitality uses, with tellers issuing notes behind drab counters and small siderooms for private chats and the upselling of services. A letterbox cut into a large window confirms the postal address as 1 Islington High Street. I rather like the idea that an actual bank appears on the Monopoly board given that a repository of money is a key part of the game. Alas it transpires that the bank unit is now empty, having closed a mere seven weeks ago.
Closure was foreseen in the letting notes ("Highly reversionary retail bank unit on a lease expiring in 2023") when the upper five floors of office space were revamped in 2013. The Co-op in fact limped on until 5th January 2024, after which the bank switched premises to the former HSBC at number 25 (and simultaneously introduced Saturday opening). Peer in now through the windows and you'll see a vacant space with blank blue surfaces being cleared by workmen, the fittings now stripped back to a few partitions. A map showing how to reach the new branch has only just been taken down. It seems my Monopoly board quest has unintentionally brought me here at a pivotal moment in the Angel's history, but without yet making it clear what its customer-facing future might be.
To be confirmed
The pub next-door (technically at number 5) was until fairly recently called The Angel. The name was semi-accurate inasmuch as it sits within the footprint of the original coaching inn, that is until Wetherspoons decided to shrink their portfolio and sold the pub to an independent company. Since last summer it's been known by the much less evocative name of The Junction and advertises a 'banging pub lunch with tasty options from just £10', if that's your thing. Continue along the street to the Doner Kebab and Chinese takeaway combo at number 11 and this retains some of the frontage of The Phoenix, another of those historic coaching inns, as a plaque on the front attests.
The Angel is still one of London's most significant road junctions, a snarl of queues where the A1 crosses the Inner Ring Road. Of the three other buildings facing the crossroads only one is still a Victorian edifice, and that's to let, while the block on the southwest corner is an unapologetically modern glassy thing offering cocktails and beer pong at ground level. Meanwhile the northeastern wedge, above the tube station, is currently a huge and somewhat controversial building site. The postmodern office block that used to sit here has been razed and a miserably bland replacement called Angel Square is rising in its place. The developers describe it as "energising workspace that you'll love to call your working home... with sustainability and wellbeing at its heart", and all I can say about its proposed corner cafe is that Victor and Marjory wouldn't have given it a second look. The Angel has fallen.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, February 19, 2024What if the world ended? It could happen.
It could happen in . Or . Perhaps . Even .
I'm talking global catastrophe and/or societal collapse, not just a massive recession or a slide into unrecoverable dystopia. It doesn't have to involve the death of every single person on Earth, though it might, it merely has to kill off the vast majority. It might even be reversible across multiple generations, but not across any current generation so it'd basically end life as we know it. And it could happen. Imagine if it did.
However the end of the world started it'd likely lead to your untimely death. We're talking something bad enough, whatever it is, to disrupt the systems that support our collective existence, either very very quickly or over an excruciating period of time. It's debatable which of those would be worse.
It might be humanity's fault. Potential doomsday scenarios include the unintended release of a biotechnological weapon, a cyberattack which irrevocably takes down electricity grids worldwide or the much vaunted threat of unrestrained artificial intelligence. The latter probably wouldn't be a Terminator-like invasion, more a loss of control to some all-powerful system that no longer respected or required our existence. At present AI generates hilarious cat photos and fake news, but what if its evolution unleashed unforeseen and unsafeguarded outcomes?
It might come from the environment around us. An agricultural collapse destroying our food chain, the unstoppable spread of global drought, a supervolcano blocking out the sun behind a thick veil of ash, or of course rising sea levels making significant inhabited areas uninhabitable. We had a sharp reminder of our fragility in 2020 when a pandemic effectively shut down the world over the space of a few weeks, then kept us in our place for a couple of years. It screwed the economy and innumerable lives but we got lucky there, the virus wasn't the instant lung-killer a future bug could be.
Or it might come from 'out there'. An asteroid on a collision course is Hollywood's most-favoured scenario, a rock of sufficient size to pulverise the planet or merely wreck our atmosphere. Or perhaps a solar flare which disrupts our technology and fries our chips, with consequences far worse than the Carrington Event which hit Earth in 1859 before we'd become so reliant on communication. Or the unexpected arrival of alien life which either takes offence or was never intending to be friendly anyway. We could go from "what's that blip?" to "wow, they exist!" to "oh f*** they're shooting at us!!" within the space of one final week.
It'd make a mockery of all those plans we had for our futures. That world tour you intended to make in your retirement - should’ve gone earlier. That pension you scrimped and saved to service - should’ve spent the money up front instead. That child you thought you'd bring into the world to take their place in a brighter society - sorry, there won't be one. It is conceivable that everything humanity's built up could be erased by the end of next year, or the turn of the next century, or even by this time tomorrow morning. We make long-term plans based on normal upbeat scenarios, but dire outcomes predicated on minuscule probabilities are always there.
The timescale of upcoming destruction could be critical. The end could come at the end of a long inexorable chain of events clearly signalled for years or even decades. Climate change is one such driver, a foreseeable crisis incrementally tightening its grip on the planet, like boiling a frog but on a wider scale. We know things are going to get worse, just not how, where and when, indeed one of the chief issues holding back serious action is that the most catastrophic impacts are likely to occur beyond the lifespans of those making the decisions.
Or the end could come in the medium term. For example a comet spotted, an orbit calculated, a terrible realisation and a date set for the extinction of everything. Likelihood says, and Hollywood confirms, that society would probably break down long before the final day as the population realised working for a salary was fundamentally pointless and illegal actions no longer had significant consequences. All sorts of doomsday scenarios are really doomsweeks or doomsyears, and living through such a riotous period could be as horrifically destabilising and casualty-packed as the ultimate event.
Or it could all happen really fast. Nuclear war is perhaps uppermost in this regard, because it doesn't take long for entrenched beliefs and anger to spiral out of control into a mutual button-pressing event. Your life could be proceeding utterly normally right up to the moment an unexpected news headline breaks, bringing with it the nightmare realisation that everything will be swept away within minutes. Or imagine there's a scientist somewhere about to power up a pioneering particle-related experiment for the first time but unintentionally triggering a global chain-reaction that erases humanity in a split second. You'd never realise it was about to happen, and following your evaporation never realise it had.
It's worth remembering that end of the world predictions have been with us for centuries, some based on fact and others merely superstition, but the end of the world has yet to come. We fear the emergence of a killer disease but so far it hasn't evolved. Nuclear war could have laid waste the planet at any time over the last 60 years but still hasn't. Only one comet has ever had supremely calamitous consequences for life on earth, so the next is ridiculously unlikely to emerge tomorrow. We might even get our collective act together and solve the issues of climate change before these tip us into oblivion. These are all minimum probability/maximum risk scenarios, easily enough to wipe us out but individually unlikely enough that they don't permanently weigh on our minds.
I mention all this now because in the event of imminent catastrophe I probably won't have time to blog about it. If it suddenly transpires we all have hours to live then writing philosophical musings is unlikely to be on anyone's list of priorities, if indeed it'd still be possible for others to read them. Communication is likely to get very difficult as the end approaches, perhaps impossible, leaving us all isolated with much we'd like to say but nobody to share it with. In our final hours we may all be left wondering what's happening out there, reflecting alone on the ultimate futility of it all, and that last hilarious killer message will have to remain unsent. With today's post I feel I have at least said something.
The Doomsday Clock remains set at 90 seconds to midnight, as close to calamity as it's ever been, not least because the more technologically advanced we become the easier it is to do away with ourselves. One careless software update, one modified bacteria let loose or one vengeful megalomaniac in the hotseat is all it might take to undo the whole of human civilisation. On a selfish level I'd quite like any extinction event to take place after I’ve died a natural death because then I'll never know anything about it, plus I'll have enjoyed my entire allotted lifespan. But there's no saying if and when the world will actually end, and it could always happen sooner rather than later.
It could happen in . Or . Perhaps . Even . But let's hope not.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, February 18, 2024Now that the Overground lines are being separately named, some people are asking whether other TfL services should follow suit.
n.b. The answer to this question is 'No', but stay with me as we go through the motions.
There is past precedent for this. In 1990 the Metropolitan line's multiple branches were deemed unwieldy so one route was spun off as the newly-pink Hammersmith & City line. As wayfaring-friendly spinoffs go, it's worked very well.
n.b. These days the Circle line shadows the Hammersmith & City line for a significant proportion of its length, so if you're travelling west from Liverpool Street or north from Hammersmith you don't care which turns up and the names are genuinely superfluous. But in the opposite direction yes it matters, so nobody's suggesting merging the two into one.
At the same time the Metropolitan line's New Cross shuttle was rebranded into the yellowish East London line, 1990 being a particularly big year for tube line parthenogenesis.
n.b. If only transport bosses had thought to call the East London line the Brunel line instead, a lot of this week's kerfuffle might have been prevented.
Another part of the Underground regularly put forward for splitting is the Edgware Road to Wimbledon section of the District line, sometimes colloquially known as the 'Wimbleware'. This too would have navigational benefits, particularly for those exiting the Wimbledon branch, but has never made the leap from thought experiment to reality.
n.b. It'd need a better name than Wimbleware, descriptive as it is, but nobody's interested in what you'd call it instead.
TfL have long wanted to split the Northern line in two.
One tranche of trains would run between Edgware and Battersea (via Charing Cross) and the other between High Barnet and Morden (via Bank). This would have the enormous benefit of segregating trains at Camden Town, a complex junction, and thereby allow a much greater frequency of service. However any split would rely on Camden Town station being remodelled to allow easier passenger interchange, which has never been funded, so the division of the Northern line remains an implausible aspiration.
n.b. If this ever happened I'd rebrand the Morden half as the Southern line, as a long overdue counterbalance, but what I'd call is it as irrelevant as what you'd call it.
The only other Underground line with a practical case for an additional name is the Central line. Trains from West Ruislip invariably run towards the Epping branch and trains from Ealing Broadway towards Hainault, so the underlying split already exists. But the central overlap is so long that this would be both unnecessary and impractical, so it's a good example of why introducing new line names isn't always helpful.
n.b. Ditto it would be silly to split the Piccadilly line into Uxbridge and Heathrow trains, or the Metropolitan line into Uxbridge and everything else, so put your crayons down and think practically.
I’ve previously suggested that Crossrail could be depicted as two lines, which should obviously be called Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. Disruptions in Romford are of no interest to passengers in Ealing and vice versa, so this division could really help foster understanding.
n.b. Alas the perfect split was scuppered somewhat when they introduced half-hourly Heathrow to Shenfield trains last year, but other than those the divide still stands.
One place where line numbering has been used is on the trams in Croydon. For many years this ran three numbered routes, later four, whereas today's maps show just two anonymous lines of different hues. It turns out nobody really gave a damn about the numbers, they just looked at the destination on the front of the tram, so good riddance.
n.b. Those combinations were [Line 1: Wimbledon ↔ Elmers End | Line 2: Croydon ↔ Beckenham Jn | Line 3: Croydon ↔ New Addington], then later [Line 1: Croydon ↔ Beckenham Jn | Line 2: Croydon ↔ Elmers End / Line 3: Wimbledon ↔ New Addington / Line 4: Therapia Lane ↔ Elmers End], but now we just have [Wimbledon ↔ New Addington | Croydon ↔ Elmers End/Beckenham Jn], which just goes to show how unnecessarily complex it was.
The other mode with coloured lines on its map is the DLR. These are in three shades of teal, like faint stripes of toothpaste, and help to thread DLR train paths across East London. Might passengers be assisted if this trio had individual names?
n.b. Spoiler - no.
There are in fact five different DLR routes, not three, so all this'd do is create added complexity. It also doesn't help if you're heading away from Lewisham and Woolwich, only towards, and you can easily tell that front of the train. Practically the DLR is more a network of sections than lines, indeed the routes are sometimes reconfigured to head a completely different way. Line names would be a disaster, three colours on a map are perfectly sufficient.
n.b. Told you so.
This was the status page on the TfL website early yesterday with ten different lines showing disruption. Had the Overground lines already been rebranded there'd have been thirteen rows instead, potentially making it even harder to spot what you need to know. It's easy to overdo this line-splitting business, so generally best not.
n.b. But yes, splitting the Overground, that'll work.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, February 17, 2024Hidden Overground Histories
“There are so many fascinating, and often forgotten, stories from our city that should be told and remembered. Naming the lines will not only help educate visitors about our amazing city and its incredible history but will also make it easier for people who live, work or visit London to navigate the city.” (Sadiq Khan)Having heard so much about the six new Overground names, I've made six site visits to dig deeper into their historical backgrounds and why they were chosen.
The name celebrates Mildmay, a small but crucial charitable NHS hospital serving the NHS in Tower Hamlets, with a long history of helping Londoners in need. The first purpose-built Mildmay Hospital opened in Shoreditch in 1892. In 1982 Mildmay was closed owing to its small size and a lack of funding. After a six-year battle, it reopened as Europe's first hospital for people with HIV- and AIDS-related illnesses. It was visited by Princess Diana a total of 17 times.
This is the Mildmay Hospital today. It's not the same building Princess Di shook hands in, it's the purpose-built specialist HIV hospital which replaced it in 2014. But it is adjacent to the original site and it does carry out the same excellent work providing care and rehabilitation for patients with complex needs. You'll find it behind Shoreditch Church up a short street lined by modern flats, nowhere you'd normally walk past but ever accessible. The newbuilds look like they helped provide useful funding and incorporate one flank of the old building so that some of the resonant history remains. Another remnant is the hospital clock which has been embedded into a tall brick façade above a small welcoming reception area. Outside offers no clues as to the specialisms within, only a regular NHS sign and a foundation stone with a verse from the gospels. The hospital have loved the attention they've received this week with the announcement of the line names, but they'd far rather receive your kind donations, perhaps the purchase of a blue t-shirt or even an offer to volunteer. Needs must, and the Mildmay has long met greet need.
Mildmay opened in the 1860s as an informal help centre organised by the Reverend William Pennefather and his wife Catherine at St Jude and St Paul's church in Islington.
This is Mildmay Grove North in Islington, with a train on the upcoming Mildmay line passing below. The shop on the corner is Mildmay Local, the main road crossing the adjacent bridge is Mildmay Park and close by is the excessively-fortified Mildmay Library. This whole area used to belong to Mildmay House, a Jacobean manor facing Newington Green, and was sold off for housing by Lady Mildmay in the 1860s shortly after the railway first carved through. There was even a station here called Mildmay Park, precisely where I took my photo, but that closed in 1934. As for the church mentioned in TfL's blurb - St Jude and St Paul's - that's here too but isn't where the Pennefathers founded their Mildmay Medical Mission because they saw far deeper need in the Old Nichol slums in Shoreditch and founded it there. So yes, the Mildmay line will indeed pass through an area with a longstanding and definitive Mildmay identity but it won't stop here and it isn't where the hospital is, never has been.
The Overground line which does pass the Mildmay Hospital - ridiculously close as it turns out - is the line that's going to be branded Windrush instead. Windrush was always going to be chosen as an Overground name, and obviously the only possible option was the line spreading out across south London. Annoyingly it's also the only line passing the Mildmay Hospital, and in a quirk of geography it also passes straight through the Mildmay Park cutting in Islington, so could easily have been called Mildmay too. What we've therefore ended up with, regrettably, is a line named Mildmay which merely passes through the area the Mildmay hospital is named after, well over a mile from the actual hospital, which isn't the story TfL's diversity crew were trying to tell at all. Sometimes there just aren't enough minorities to go round.
The area around Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and Hackney is known for the textile trade. It has been shaped by different migrant communities at different points in history. It kicked off with the Huguenots in the 17th century, who established a flourishing silk trade and were joined the next century by Irish weavers searching for work after the collapse of the Irish linen trade.
This is Fournier Street in Spitalfields, one of the quintessential Huguenot streets, still lined by terraces which would once have been occupied by 18th century silk merchants. Here the weaving of dyed silk would have taken place in attics with extra-large windows to maximise daylight, whereas poorer weavers often lived in single rooms in tenements and slept under their looms. As later migrants made the area their own - sequentially Irish, Jewish and Bangladeshi - these old buildings decayed and would almost certainly have been demolished were it not for the campaigning ardour of conservationists like Dan Cruickshank and the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust. Instead a wealth of evocative architecture survives, not to mention some ridiculously desirable properties, as the multitudes who throng Spitalfields every weekend now know well. The nearest Overground station however is Shoreditch High Street, which yet again is on the Windrush line, with the Weaver name gifted to the second closest instead.
At the end of the 19th century and during the Second World War, Jewish families were fleeing antisemitism from eastern Europe. Their move to the area revitalised the garment industry, and they maintained the famous market at Petticoat Lane. By the 1960s, Bangladeshi immigration increased due to the area's low-cost housing and work opportunities in the textile and garment industry. Bringing their own culture to the East End, Brick Lane became a cultural melting pot and popular centre for fashion and food.
This is Weavers Fields in Bethnal Green. It's some way from Spitalfields but the silk-weaving trade was long a major employer hereabouts and also spread as far as Whitechapel and Mile End New Town. A grid of weavers' cottages grew up here in the early 19th century, in amongst the market gardens, and it too eventually became a neighbourhood of dense slums. Heavy wartime bombing conveniently destroyed 2000 houses and damaged 20000 more, the transformative solution in the Abercrombie Plan being to raze the area and create an area of public open space instead. The end result was Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green's largest park, which has since acquired various sculptural artefacts to commemorate its industrial past. These days kids play ball on the grass, hooded youth smoke dubious rollups on sparse benches and Overground trains (on what will be soon be the Weaver line) cross the viaduct with a regular flash of orange.
A key member of the movement was Annie Huggett. She lived, campaigned and died in Barking at the age of 103, making her the longest surviving suffragette. Huggett was a pioneer who fought for votes when she was just a teenager. She even held tea for the Pankhursts, a family of leading suffragettes, at her home on King Edward's Road.
This is Annie Huggett's memorial bench in Greatfields Park in Barking. She's the suffragette TfL have chosen to highlight in their potted history, indeed the entire peg the pivot from Goblin to Suffragette relies upon. She also lived a very long life, nigh all of it within a short walk of this park, taking a fierce interest in campaigning issues throughout. So firm were her republican beliefs that on her 100th birthday her family chose to hide the card sent by the Queen, with missives from Barking Town FC and Labour leader John Smith taking pride of place on her mantelpiece instead. From her memorial bench you can admire the view across the park towards Greatfields Road where she lived in the same council house for 72 years, although not in the house with a blue plaque (which, oddly, is for a Victoria Cross recipient called Job Drain). It must have been quite a step up from the terraced house on King Edward's Road, just around the corner, where the Pankhursts came for tea and a chat on multiple occasions.
She organised meetings from the former George Inn in Barking Broadway – then the Three Lamps – a spot favoured by trade unionists and suffragettes. Her work helped empower women to have a significant impact on society, in the past, present and continuing into the future.
These are the Three Lamps, which if you're reading this at TfL Towers wasn't a pub, it was a three-headed lamppost positioned in the middle of the road outside the George Inn. It has a long history of protest, initially attracting gas worker trade unionists, then striking jute workers, all of this preceding Annie's birth. By the time she was 18 she was attending rallies at the Electric Theatre on Ripple Road and also organising suffrage meetings inside the George, although you'll not find that pub today because it was swept away by massive postwar restructuring (along with the entire southern half of the Broadway which is now mostly grass). The Three Lamps were duly moved to an off-road focal point in front of the abbey, and have since been decorated with a ring of mosaic panels by artist Tamara Froud. Each celebrates a different kind of protest, old and new, all of which Annie would have appreciated but I suspect her favourite would have been the pair of women campaigning for equal voting rights.
» I haven't been to Wembley for the Lioness line because you know what the stadium looks like.
» I haven't been to Brixton for the Windrush line because the diaspora has long dispersed.
» I haven't been to Romford for the Liberty line because the Liberty Shopping Centre is not a lawless medieval hunting ground.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, February 16, 2024Your guide to the new Overground line names
Since the Overground launched in 2007 it's accumulated more and more lines but all have remained under a single name and all have been coloured orange on the tube map. This is great for overall brand recognition but unhelpful when trying to navigate the system or provide clarity about service issues and line closures. TfL proposed introducing individual names in 2015, mostly geographically-based, but Boris Johnson swiftly vetoed the proposal. Then in 2021 Sadiq Khan's manifesto pledged to rename the lines if he got elected.
"TfL’s London Overground network has grown considerably over recent years, and to reflect this I'll launch a programme to name individual routes, giving each its own identity."Last year action to name the lines finally kicked off with a programme of community engagement "to understand more about the history of the network and the people it serves". Sadiq also engaged with his Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, a body unveiled in June 2020 as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests, signalling his intent to use the opportunity to "re-tell forgotten stories" and "help educate visitors about our amazing city". Antennae twitched.
Here we are three months before the next mayoral election and the six individual line names have just been launched. They'll creep out slowly over the next six months, with a big rebranding burst during one week in August, before taking their place as separately coloured lines on the tube map. The names are as diverse as promised, indeed they're what blinkered grumps might describe as woke, and they reference women's rights, the AIDS pandemic, immigration and medieval history. The overall brand and orange roundels will remain.
» To see a map showing the new Overground lines click here.
» To see a full tube map incorporating the changes click here.
For further background about the rationale behind each renaming, the process undertaken and the individual stories being celebrated, educate yourself by digging into this page on the TfL website and this page on the TfL blog. Or read on and I'll run through the full half dozen, including the name that's cleverer than it looks, the name that smacks of desperation and the name that's geographically inept.
Operates: Watford to Euston
Colour on map: yellow parallel lines
Rationale: "Honours the historic achievements and lasting legacy created by the England women's football team that continues to inspire and empower the next generation of women and girls in sport."
Relevance: Rides the wave of success of women's football and the national team in recent years. The only name nobody would have chosen 10 years ago. Arguably insufficiently enduring.
Geography: Runs through Wembley where the national stadium is.
Geographic accuracy: Unarguable. One of the two line names which work in this respect.
Political: Highlights equality. Will go down well with the wider public.
Wokerground: "Not really what Wembley Stadium is known for, where are our proud lads?"
How it'll look: One of two lines that'll still look Overgroundy on the map. Stands out well.
Typical announcement: "A reduced service is operating on the Lioness line"
Did I predict it? Not a chance.
Does it work? Sounds odd. Too zeitgeisty. I'm not a fan.
Operates: Highbury & Islington to New Cross/Clapham Junction/Crystal Palace/West Croydon
Colour on map: red parallel lines
Rationale: "Honours the Windrush generation who continue to shape and enrich London's cultural and social identity today."
Relevance: A pivotal arrival which has indeed shaped modern London.
Counterbalance: None of the six line names reference London's Asian communities, and there are ½ million more of them.
Geography: Runs "through areas with strong ties to Caribbean communities such as Dalston, Peckham Rye and West Croydon".
Geographic accuracy: Pretty good, given the spread of London's black population, although the line famously sails through Brixton (where the Windrush's economic migrants first signed up) without stopping.
Political: Highlights longstanding diversity. Should go down well with the wider public.
Wokerground: Racists will hate it, so that's a plus. "I'm not riding that..."
How it'll look: One of two lines that'll still look Overgroundy on the map. Stands out well.
Typical announcement: "Until 1230, no service between Surrey Quays and New Cross on the Windrush line"
Did I predict it? Hell yes, "A Windrush line sounds very plausible."
Does it work? Of all the names, should slip into common parlance the fastest.
But... The line is so strategically located that it could have had multiple other names, including the Brunel line, the Mildmay line and the Weaver line. An embarrassment of options, but they had to go with Windrush.
Operates: Liverpool Street to Enfield Town/Cheshunt/Chingford
Colour on map: maroon parallel lines
Rationale: "Celebrating an area of London known for its textile trade, which has been shaped over the centuries by a diverse group of migrant communities and individuals".
Relevance: Ticks off multiple communities - first the Huguenots, then Jewish, Irish and Bangladeshi arrivals - in the same small part of the East End.
Counterbalance: Much less relevant at the extremities in the Lea Valley (despite a nod to William Morris in Walthamstow).
Geography: "The area around Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and Hackney is known for the textile trade."
Geographic accuracy: The line runs along the southern edge of Weavers Fields, an open space in Bethnal Green, and follows the southern edge of Tower Hamlets' Weavers ward. So that's good. The Windrush line arguably runs closer.
Political: Highlights immigration in a non-controversial way, indeed most passengers will never realise the origin of the name.
Wokerground: The least likely to peeve a gammon.
How it'll look: At a stroke, the maroon colour clarifies the impenetrable tangle of orange spaghetti in northeast London.
Typical announcement: "Replacement buses are operating on the Chingford branch of the Weaver line"
Did I predict it? No, but in 2023 one reader did suggest the Huguenot line.
Does it work? Inoffensive but geographically unhelpful.
Operates: Stratford to Richmond and Clapham Junction
Colour on map: blue parallel lines
Rationale: "Honours the work of the Mildmay NHS Hospital during the HIV/AIDS crisis, making it the valued and respected place for the LGBTQ+ community it is today."
Relevance: The most likely of the six to inspire passengers to discover the story behind the name ("oh, it's the hospital Princess Di shook hands in...")
Geography: "The Mildmay line, which runs through Dalston, honours the small charitable hospital in Shoreditch."
Geographic accuracy: Utterly abysmal, as if someone at TfL didn't do their homework properly. The Mildmay Hospital is in Bethnal Green (closest station: Hoxton), nowhere near Dalston or any other Mildmay line station. Instead the Windrush line passes within 150m of the hospital and the Weaver line within 500m, so either would have been a much better candidate. The line does cross Mildmay ward in Islington and passes between streets called Mildmay Grove in Dalston, but it's supposed to be referencing the hospital and entirely misses.
Political: Cleverly ticks both the NHS and LGBTQ+ community in one name. Full marks for targeting.
Wokerground: Another progressive community slipped under the radar.
How it'll look: No longer stands out on the map, indeed the blue looks quite unOvergroundy.
Typical announcement: "The Mildmay line is part suspended between Richmond and Willesden Junction"
Did I predict it? Not in a million years.
Does it work? A bit niche. Geographically appalling, and will niggle every time I use it.
Also... The second line to be named after a tiny corner of Bethnal Green, which just feels wrong.
Operates: Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside
Colour on map: green parallel lines
Rationale: "Celebrating this movement, with its London links, that fought for women and paved the way for women's rights."
Relevance: A fine cause to commemorate, but why here?
Geography: "The line’s name pays especial homage to the East London Federation of Suffragettes, which was a largely working-class suffragette movement in the East End."
Geographic accuracy: But this line goes nowhere near the East End, specifically nowhere near Bow and Poplar, please try again.
Geography 2: "A key member of the movement was Annie Huggett. She lived, campaigned and died in Barking at the age of 103, making her the longest surviving suffragette."
Geographic accuracy 2: Highlighting one suffragette who happened to live in almost the right place (a council house in Greatfields Road) feels somewhat desperate. The Huggett line might have been a better name.
Political: Dig into Annie's background and it turns out she later became chair of the women’s branch of her local Labour Party, was the Labour Party's longest-serving card-carrying member and had the Red Flag sung at her funeral. Sadiq's slipped a proud leftie past us here.
Wokerground: "Another line named for women. As usual there's nothing for us men."
How it'll look: The vibrant green stands out as it crosses multiple less bright lines. Suffragette green too, well done.
Typical announcement: "The Suffragette line is closed for emergency engineering works until October 2025"
Did I predict it? Absolutely. "We could get the Suffragette line, the Choudhury line or the Turing line. We are not going to get the 'East London line' or the Goblin, indeed Goblin is completely off the table."
Does it work? The most forced of the six. It's no Goblin (which many will still call it).
Operates: Romford to Upminster
Colour on map: grey parallel lines
Rationale: "The name celebrates the truly unique independence of the area, reflecting its past, present and future."
Relevance: All that is just woolly froth. The real reason is that the Royal Liberty of Havering was formed in 1465 on the orders of Edward IV, freeing the area from taxation and giving it independence in legal matters, and this is how the borough of Havering got its name. This is the background people really need to know.
Geography: "Celebrating the longstanding freedom that is a defining feature of London, and the historical independence of the people of Havering"
Geographic accuracy: The Liberty of Havering was originally equivalent to the parish of Hornchurch where this runty branchline is. Bingo.
Political: A historical quirk, a geographical bullseye, a nod to the right and a double meaning that screams diversity - the name is utterly perfect.
Wokerground: "Damn, you've presented me with a name that celebrates Havering's full-on independent Brexitiness and I can't possibly complain about it."
How it'll look: Grey. Insignificant, Irrelevant. So quite appropriate.
Typical announcement: "Welcome aboard this Liberty line service to Upminster"
Did I predict it? No. But I wish I'd thought of it.
Does it work? The only one of the six names I genuinely like.
In order of appropriateness
Attempting to keep everyone happy would have been impossible, and this list'll infuriate fewer people than it might have done. The end result should also help make wayfinding around the network easier, as previously discussed, and something similar really should have been introduced a lot earlier. However unfamiliar the names sound now you'll get used to them, Londoners always do... but that's not going to stop me tutting every time I ride the Overground line that doesn't pass the place it's named after.
...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan23 Feb23 Mar23 Apr23 May23 Jun23 Jul23 Aug23 Sep23 Oct23 Nov23 Dec23
Jan22 Feb22 Mar22 Apr22 May22 Jun22 Jul22 Aug22 Sep22 Oct22 Nov22 Dec22
Jan21 Feb21 Mar21 Apr21 May21 Jun21 Jul21 Aug21 Sep21 Oct21 Nov21 Dec21
Jan20 Feb20 Mar20 Apr20 May20 Jun20 Jul20 Aug20 Sep20 Oct20 Nov20 Dec20
Jan19 Feb19 Mar19 Apr19 May19 Jun19 Jul19 Aug19 Sep19 Oct19 Nov19 Dec19
Jan18 Feb18 Mar18 Apr18 May18 Jun18 Jul18 Aug18 Sep18 Oct18 Nov18 Dec18
Jan17 Feb17 Mar17 Apr17 May17 Jun17 Jul17 Aug17 Sep17 Oct17 Nov17 Dec17
Jan16 Feb16 Mar16 Apr16 May16 Jun16 Jul16 Aug16 Sep16 Oct16 Nov16 Dec16
Jan15 Feb15 Mar15 Apr15 May15 Jun15 Jul15 Aug15 Sep15 Oct15 Nov15 Dec15
Jan14 Feb14 Mar14 Apr14 May14 Jun14 Jul14 Aug14 Sep14 Oct14 Nov14 Dec14
Jan13 Feb13 Mar13 Apr13 May13 Jun13 Jul13 Aug13 Sep13 Oct13 Nov13 Dec13
Jan12 Feb12 Mar12 Apr12 May12 Jun12 Jul12 Aug12 Sep12 Oct12 Nov12 Dec12
Jan11 Feb11 Mar11 Apr11 May11 Jun11 Jul11 Aug11 Sep11 Oct11 Nov11 Dec11
Jan10 Feb10 Mar10 Apr10 May10 Jun10 Jul10 Aug10 Sep10 Oct10 Nov10 Dec10
Jan09 Feb09 Mar09 Apr09 May09 Jun09 Jul09 Aug09 Sep09 Oct09 Nov09 Dec09
Jan08 Feb08 Mar08 Apr08 May08 Jun08 Jul08 Aug08 Sep08 Oct08 Nov08 Dec08
Jan07 Feb07 Mar07 Apr07 May07 Jun07 Jul07 Aug07 Sep07 Oct07 Nov07 Dec07
Jan06 Feb06 Mar06 Apr06 May06 Jun06 Jul06 Aug06 Sep06 Oct06 Nov06 Dec06
Jan05 Feb05 Mar05 Apr05 May05 Jun05 Jul05 Aug05 Sep05 Oct05 Nov05 Dec05
Jan04 Feb04 Mar04 Apr04 May04 Jun04 Jul04 Aug04 Sep04 Oct04 Nov04 Dec04
Jan03 Feb03 Mar03 Apr03 May03 Jun03 Jul03 Aug03 Sep03 Oct03 Nov03 Dec03
Jan02 Feb02 Mar02 Apr02 May02 Jun02 Jul02 Aug02 Sep02 Oct02 Nov02 Dec02