diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 15, 2015

As the Night Tube hits the buffers, with management and unions unable to agree staffing, you might imagine the entire project's gone quiet. Not so. TfL are already making changes to infrastructure, a little later than planned, to ensure that the underground network is Night-Tube-ready (whenever that might be).

So get ready to meet this chap.

He's the Night Tube Owl, the chosen symbol of this flagship project, whose appearance will signal the existence of very late trains on Friday and Saturday nights. As far as I'm aware the owl doesn't have a name, although I bet he'll get one (and please let it not be Boris) (and maybe it's a she, who knows). Note how his eyes are interchange symbols from the tube map, and his nose is the dot on a letter 'i' in New Johnston font.

A few stations have already been emblazoned with Night Tube signage, if you know where to look, for example here at Euston.

The owl appears on signs directing you to the platform, to make it really clear which lines are served by overnight trains and which aren't. During the day the owls will be unnecessary, so it's good to see they're not over-intrusive. But should you be wandering Euston station at 3am, Wotsisname the Owl will show you precisely where to go.

It'll also be very obvious where not to go. The Bank branch of the Northern line won't be getting overnight trains, for example, so the words "No Night Tube service" have been appended to directional signs at Euston to remind early morning passengers to stay away. Presumably a crossed-out owl was deemed inappropriate.

And somebody's really thought about the minutiae of this. For most of the day the Night Tube is irrelevant, but around midnight a transition takes place, and passengers need to know precisely when that is. Hence the appearance of a sign at Euston which states very clearly that the last train on the Bank branch is at 0028, and after that you'll need to take an alternative Night Tube route.

There'll also be physical objects to bar your way. Keep an eye out around the network and you'll start to spot gates being erected to seal off non-Night Tube lines, because TfL don't want you wandering onto the wrong platform in the early hours. For example, here's a gate at Baker Street to block off the Metropolitan from the Jubilee, and here's a gate at Earl's Court to stop you venturing up to the District from the Piccadilly.

Meanwhile the outer reaches of the Jubilee line have also seen an invasion of owls, as in this example at Finchley Road.

The Night Tube Owl appears in a strip across the bottom of the line diagram on each Jubilee line platform (but not on the adjacent Metropolitan, because that won't have a Night Tube service). I've checked out every Jubilee line station between Baker Street and Wembley Park and spotted the owl at each, and also at Bond Street, but not (as yet) at Baker Street itself. Here's West Hampstead, for example, and here's the same at Neasden. The thin blue strip isn't too intrusive, but is still sufficiently clear to ensure that overnight journeys can be made with confidence.

Here's what the bottom of each sign looks like close up (this example at Swiss Cottage).

Which is odd, because the text beside the owl is currently a lie. The Night Tube does not currently operate on Friday and Saturday nights on the Jubilee line, neither is this expected for the foreseeable future. Somebody really has jumped the gun here, potentially tricking passengers into turning up at the weekend and... oh, damn, it's shut.

This outbreak of Night Tube signage looks to be wifully premature, possibly by several months, and will be a daily reminder to Londoners of a service they haven't yet got. But it's good to see evidence that the eventual rollout of owls across the network will be practical and understated, even downright cute.

Update: Night Tube Owl seems to have two names. Internally, London Underground are using 'Becky', while the London Transport Museum are using 'Tooting'.

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