It's that time of the year again. A new tube map has emerged.
It's not up in stations yet, nor on the website, nor available in folded form, because the big new thing it showcases hasn't happened yet. But Geoff tweeted a copy yesterday, and now Ian's blogged it, so we can all have a premature look.
The big new thing is 'Berkshire', specifically that TfL are taking over stopping trains to Reading in a week and a half's time. Sunday 15th December was always supposed to be the day that Shenfield and Abbey Wood were finally connected to Reading, but we all know what a hole Crossrail's in, so TfL Rail taking over suburban services is the next best thing. Hence the new map.
The extra nine stations had to go somewhere, so have been shoved into a thin gap to the west of the Central Line. Beyond Hayes and Harlington the new line bends sharply north, whereas Reading's really 23 miles west... but the tube map's always taken huge liberties with direction and distance, so that's fine.
Things to note
» Reading looks like it's near Northolt, whereas in real life it'd be a ten hour walk.
» Stations from Reading to Iver are outside TfL's usual zonal structure.
» Oyster cannot be used beyond West Drayton.
» Residents of Taplow, Burnham, Langley, Iver and West Drayton no longer have National Rail services.
» Stations between Slough and Paddington are not yet step-free, because installation is running late.
» Southall and Hanwell are the most-squished-together stations on the entire tube map.
» In real life, Reading, Twyford and Maidenhead stations are on the other side of the River Thames.
Things you didn't note because the map didn't hint at them
» Contactless works fine all the way to Reading.
» A single fare from Paddington to Reading will set you back more than £20.
» Burnham and West Drayton will be served by a few GWR trains in the rush hour.
» Trains to/from Reading won't stop at West Ealing, Hanwell and Acton Main Line (only Heathrow trains will).
There are now six stations on the tube map where trains to certain destinations stop and others don't. TfL's diagrammatic cop-out at West India Quay, Cambridge Heath and London Fields is a red dagger... with no other explanation given. Inexplicably West Ealing, Hanwell and Acton Main Line don't even get that.
While we're here let's just clarify how fares will work, because the rules change twice over the next four weeks. None of this is simple.
The most important thing to remember is not to go beyond West Drayton with your Oyster card because you won't be able to touch out and it could get expensive.
Meanwhile, the other big change on the map is yet more dotted lines.
TfL introduced dotted lines in December 2018, meaning "less than 10 minutes walk between stations".
This time last year there were 23.
In May they upped the total to 26.
On the new map there are 37.
It's all because the tube map has suddenly got very excited about river piers. TfL launched a Passenger Pier Strategy last month hoping to better promote river services, "including looking into ways of better representing river services on the Tube map". Four weeks later, here they are.
Piers previously appeared as little red boat symbols beside the name of the station. Now they have their own blobs on the riverbank, joined to the nearest station by a dotted line.
Hence we see Westminster linked to Westminster pier, Waterloo linked to London Eye pier, Embankment linked to Embankment pier, Blackfriars linked to Blackfriars pier, London Bridge linked to London Bridge City pier, and Tower Hill and Tower Gateway linked to Tower pier. Piers are not named, which is probably just as well otherwise the map would be crawling with extra words.
Not every pier appears. The "less than 10 minutes walk" rule still applies, so Greenland pier in Rotherhithe is missing, ditto the new pier at Battersea Power Station, and Millbank pier is not quite close enough to Pimlico to count.
TfL's definition of 10 minutes is a walking distance of 700 metres. I reckon Putney pier is fractionally less than that from Putney Bridge, and Royal Wharf is borderline from Pontoon Dock, but I guess they've got to draw the line somewhere.
The most intriguing omission is Canary Wharf pier, which is definitely less than 700m from Canary Wharf DLR but not from the Jubilee line, and it seems dots can't be used to distinguish that particular technicality. A separate link to Westferry DLR might have solved it, because that's only 500m away, but that's not been included either.
Another oddity is that there's no dotted line connecting North Greenwich pier to the Dangleway, only to the tube station, which is actually further away. But let's not suggest adding even more dotted lines, because there are quite enough already.
Personally I think adding extra lines to river piers is a bloody stupid idea and only serves to make the tube map look even more cluttered than it already is. It smacks of TfL including icons simply in the hope you'll notice them and go for a ride, at £7 a time, in much the same way that the Dangleway's red line is solely of interest to tourists. These additional intrusions serve only as a distraction from the map's core focus, a battle which admittedly was lost some years ago. Where will it all end? Please make it stop.