If you're out and about in London over the weekend, are there any closures on your TfL service?
A big poster in your local station ticket hall should have the answer. Except that this weekend, the big poster's format has changed.
Previously there was a map at the top of the poster, and then a list of the individual closures underneath. Now there's only a list. This week's map would have looked something like this.
I copied this from the TfL website, where the map of closures still exists. But on the new station poster, as of this weekend, the map is no more.
At least we still have the list, and it's in bigger writing too. All this weekend's closures are listed, first in alphabetical order by tube line, followed by the London Overground and TfL Rail. Two of the references are to long term station closures, and two are long term line closures. Mixed in with these are five weekend-long track closures, one Sunday-only closure and two late night midweek closures.
Also on display is the poster below, or at least it is in my local tube station. This only shows closures on the Underground - see how the logo in the top left corner is different? And there are only five closures on the Underground, so the font is larger, and even easier to read.
We don't yet know whether the removal of the map is a temporary or permanent change. Given it's the start of a new year, I suspect it's permanent. But is this a bad change or a good change?
• The map was really useful.
• The map provided a quick overview you could glance at.
• The map allowed you to quickly confirm whether your part of town was or wasn't affected.
• Passengers now have to stop and read the board.
• Passengers now have to assimilate several separate lines of information to gather the full information.
...for example, are there any trains on the Hammersmith branch this weekend?
...for example, are there any trains between Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington this weekend?
...for example, are there any trains between Baker Street and Kings Cross St Pancras this weekend?
• There's no additional information, only less information.
• This is pointless dumbing down.
• The font is larger.
• The writing's easier to read.
• The map was misleading because it looked like all the closures lasted all weekend, which if you read underneath often wasn't true.
• Having an Underground-specific poster keeps all the Overground mess out of the way.
• Everyone plans their route online these days, don't they, so who cares about a map?
• TfL will have saved money by not having to draw a new map every week.
• The pictogram is very non-standard.
• Any diagrammatical representation is better than mere text to those without a full grasp of English.
• Most information-giving things are now going from words to pictures.
• "I have no idea if where I want to go is between two places in outer London I've never been to."
• The map allowed regular travellers to see quickly whether their lines were clear (walk past), or whether they needed to read the text (stop and look).
• Removes 'at a glance' functionality.
• Tourists were often seen looking at the old maps in a confused way thinking it showed current status.
• People were using the map for route-finding, for which purpose it was spectacularly poor.
• The map was always uselessly small.
• I never looked at the map, so losing it doesn't matter.
• Less is more.
Do add your own comments to the appropriate box, and I'll add them to the table later. But it is a bad change isn't it? Unless of course you think otherwise.
Meanwhile, some further thoughts...
» Here's an image of what the posters used to look like.
» If you check this weekend's map on the TfL website, you'll see there's an extra line closure which isn't mentioned on the poster. The Overground is apparently closed on Sunday between Highbury & Islington and Shadwell, and between Surrey Quays and New Cross, until 1400. That's going to come as a nasty surprise.
» If you check this weekend's map on the TfL website, you'll see TfL Rail is also closed after 23:00 on Sunday east of Gidea Park. There's no mention in the list.
» The two late night midweek Overground closures are described on the poster in two peculiarly different ways. One says "Open until 22:45" and the other says "No northbound service after 23:00". On a poster where everything else, by default, is a closure, the first of these stands out as inconsistent.
» You can of course check for future closures on the TfL website, not just for this weekend but for the next month (on a map) or the next six months (in a list).
» The first ever line closure on the Night Tube is coming up in a couple of weeks. "JUBILEE LINE: Saturday 21 January, between 0015 (northbound), 0100 (southbound) and 0530, no service between Stanmore and Waterloo." It's not immediately clear whether that's 'the early hours of Saturday morning' or 'at the end of service on Saturday night'. No replacement buses will be provided.
» If your bit of line isn't TfL controlled, you're at the mercy of your local rail operator to keep you informed. The TfL website is supposed to have a summary page showing all the planned National Rail disruption in London this weekend, but it's been blank for two years, despite the promise of "status maps coming soon", so I think we can assume they've given up.
» TfL have circulated a fresh poster to stations, including the additional closures they left off the first poster. Here it is.
» There are now three different ways to show closure for part of a day ("Open until...", "Open from..." and "No service after...")
» It's been pointed out that TfL's weekly Weekend travel information email always used to include a link to a map showing planned closures for this weekend. This week's email has no such link.
2pm update (from a TfL internal document):
"Over the past year, we have been continuously working with research agency 2CV to better understand what customers think about the posters on our whiteboards. From now, the posters on our station whiteboards will have fewer words, more colour, more graphics and simpler information, with the most important information shown first. This is so that our posters stand out and quickly communicate what is most important. For example, the weekly closures poster will no longer contain a Tube map as over 90% of customers surveyed said they found it confusing rather than helpful."
"The research also highlighted the ways in which our staff play a vital role in getting messages across and how we can make their jobs easier. During the consultations, staff said that they found the new posters were clearer, stood out better and helped them direct customers better during closures."
"All of the changes are supported by trials with customers and staff at Liverpool Street, Brixton and King’s Cross St. Pancras stations."
So the maps won't be coming back. If you understood the previous version of the poster, congratulations, you're amongst the top 10% most-information-savvy tube passengers. Either that, or the research agency asked the wrong question at the wrong stations.