diamond geezer

 Thursday, August 22, 2019

I was at Tower Hill station and needed a tube map, so I picked one up...

...except it wasn't a proper tube map, it just looked like one.

It was a Getting around Central London map, dated June 2019 - an official TfL publication printed with the tourist in mind.

Opening it up I found an enlarged tube map with a bright blue stripe across the top and the edges of the capital chopped off. Along the way I passed a brief exhortation to Catch a London bus. And unfolding the sheet fully revealed a Santander Cycles and Walking leisure routes map and a London River Services map.

The tube map is unusual. It purports to be of Central London, but stretches a heck of a lot further east than in other directions. To the west roughly Hammersmith... to the south approximately Stockwell... but to the east all the way to Upminster. It's hard to imagine tourists wanting to go to Newbury Park, Chadwell Heath or Hornchurch, but here they are. Wembley and its stadium, meanwhile, have been deliberately erased.

The tube map is nice and big so is much clearer to use than the usual squinty thing. But if you look more closely along the top edge of the map, following an inch-wide strip running to the north of Camden Town, there is an appalling litany of errors. It may even be the worst attempt at an official tube map TfL have ever produced.

• Kilburn station has no name, and the wheelchair symbol is headless
• Beyond Kilburn, no stations
• The dotted line at West Hampstead fails to connect the two stations
• 'Finchley Road & Frognal' has been written over the top of the orange Overground line
• Belsize Park is named, but has no station
• Gospel Oak is missing
• Upper Holloway links to a station (Archway) that is not named
• Upper Holloway is not on any line because the Goblin is missing
• One of Highbury & Islington's step free blobs is missing, so the East London line does not terminate properly
• Canonbury appears, but only on one branch of the Overground, and is not named
• Seven Sisters appears, but is not named
• Blackhorse Road appears, but is not named
• Walthamstow Queens Road is named, but has no station
• Stratford International's step free blob is misplaced, so the DLR line does not terminate properly
• Wanstead and Gants Hill appear, but are not named
• The 'F' of 'Forest Gate' crashes into the blue TfL Rail line
• Emerson Park is missing
• Upminster Bridge is missing

It's as if the majority of the map has been drawn by a professional but the top 3cm has been redrawn by someone on work experience.

In better news sixteen river piers have been included, each with a special blob on the bank of the Thames, which is something I've not seen on a tube map before. Each pier is labelled so you can check its name in the key, and each is linked via a dotted line to its nearest tube station. The use of boat symbols is inconsistent, however. Canary Wharf has a boat symbol but isn't linked to a pier. Pimlico is linked to a pier but doesn't have a boat symbol. Needs further thought.

Unfolding fully to view the Santander Cycles and Walking leisure routes map, this only covers a letterbox-shaped strip of central London from Kensington Gardens to the Tower. The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre is on the map. The British Museum is not.

This particular longitudinal slot has been chosen because the map exists solely to showcase TfL's new cycling Leisure routes in the hope that tourists will stump up £2 to hop on a bike and follow them. The sightseeing route is essentially the Serpentine to Blackfriars via Buckingham Palace and Westminster, divided up into the Hyde Park Loop, the Royal Loop and the Thames Loop. Meanwhile around the periphery are the Park Explorer, Cultural Explorer and Tower Explorer sections - nebulous entities which exist to funnel riders into the main loops.

The cycle and walking map isn't really designed for walking, alas, because routes that are ideal for bikes aren't generally optimal for pedestrians. Any sane tourist would walk through St James's Park, not round it, and follow the actual South Bank rather than the backstreet one block behind. But as a primer for how and where to cycle through central London relatively safely these Leisure routes could be damned useful.

As for the London River Services map, this is nothing unusual but should still be invaluable for the target audience. Fares aren't mentioned, namely the whopping premium you're paying to enjoy a river view, but the summary of what sails where and when is helpfully comprehensive. I was intrigued to see that a new pier called Royal Wharf is 'expected to open summer 2019', just upstream of the Thames Barrier, because it very much hasn't opened yet. I went down yesterday to see how the construction of London's longest pier is getting on, and can report that so far only the first gangway has been completed. The second (longer) arm is absent, the pontoon where boats will moor is currently just two stumps poking out of the water, and bankside access is currently blocked by a building site. So maybe next year.

And yes, the Dangleway gets a prominent mention on the back cover. The big message is to "Book online to receive a 20% discount', even though nobody with an Oyster card or contactless card actually needs to prebook, they can simply turn up and swipe through the barriers. But TfL prefers not to mention this because this way they get your money even if the weather's crap, plus they can also try and upsell you a return ticket and a visit to the Emirates Advertorial Experience.

In summary, the Getting around Central London map is a marketing tool, plugging TfL's paid-for services in the hope that visitors to the capital will use as many of them as possible. A trip on the river, a dangle, a hired bike, a bus ride and a tube journey could tot up to £20, helping to fill Sadiq's budgetary black hole, so it pays to leave this full colour promotional leaflet lying around in ticket halls. As a Londoner you won't need a copy, but it might be fun to grab one anyway so that you can claim to have TfL's worst ever tube map in your collection.

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