diamond geezer

 Monday, January 10, 2022

Let's investigate three more maps released by TfL in advance of the imminent closure of the Bank branch of the Northern line.

The three maps have appeared on a dedicated Northern line closure webpage which provides travel advice for displaced passengers. One of the maps also appears in a special 8-page colour leaflet which I picked up from London Bridge station yesterday (but not from Bank, Monument or Moorgate because they didn't have any).

First there's this map of key alternative travel options.



The map shows tube and rail routes which might help you get round the disruption, with certain other lines greyed out. It's been made available in 'from north London' and 'from south London' variants - this is the latter. The idea is to nudge you onto certain other lines that aren't closed, for example onto the Charing Cross branch or various National Rail lines.
District line services from Embankment could be helpful for getting to the City.
Thameslink could be useful, that's the dashed purple line, although it's a very roundabout way to get from Elephant & Castle to London Bridge and it doesn't actually connect with anywhere along the southern end of the Northern line.
Southeastern services from Waterloo East to London Bridge could be useful, indeed they're specifically recommended in the accompanying travel advice, although changing lines at Waterloo is a bit of a schlep.
The Jubilee line is a much quicker route from Waterloo to London Bridge but notice how the map has greyed this out so you don't see it because TfL don't want extra passengers clogging it up.
The Waterloo & City line ought to be a slamdunk option for anyone trying to get to Bank, but notice how this has also been greyed out because it currently only operates during peak hours so TfL don't want you using that either.
This Bank branch closure could mess up lots of possible journeys so it's good to have a map which covers numerous alternative options. But by greying out the Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines the map is also a manipulative tool to try to stop you noticing routes which might be quicker in case they get overcrowded. By contrast the closed stretch of line is still much too prominent, its black and yellow stripe making it look like there's a connection when there isn't.

One of the most important alternative travel options, the new weekdays-only 733 bus route, does not appear. It gets one whole sentence in the leaflet but it's not even hinted at on the map. When the Overground was being constructed in 2007 the alternative bus routes were portrayed prominently on the tube map, some might say overly so, but fifteen years later the 733 is very much an also-ran.

Next there's this map of key alternative cycle routes.



The red boxes are my addition to show you where the stations on the closed section of the Northern line actually are. What you probably want is cycleway C7 which runs from Kennington to almost Bank, although it skirts Elephant & Castle and Borough and totally misses London Bridge so it's by no means ideal. Indeed the central London cycle network has several holes and lots of gaps and this map rather highlights that.

But I actually went wow when I opened it because it's easily the most useful map of central London cycle routes I've seen in recent years. All that the TfL website offers in the way of cycle maps is a Google map with coloured lines and labelling that vanishes if you zoom in. This by contrast is a proper piece of static cartography with clearly numbered routes providing an excellent overview for route planning, and here it is hiding away in a Northern line travel advice portfolio. If someone at TfL could knock up a broader cycle map in a similar style and promote it a bit more widely they might have a damned useful travel tool on their hands.

Finally there's this map of key alternative bus routes.



...and this is gobsmackingly poor.

I've chopped off the bottom part which goes all the way down to Morden, but you can download the whole abysmal map here.

The key thing that should be on the map is route 733... and it is, in orange, except it's been joined by nine other less useful routes. Also on the map is nearly-as-useful route 133... in blue, but not quite the same shade of blue as less useful routes 35, 155 and 333. Good luck trying to pick out which colour represents which route on a map which has somehow ended up looking like ten strands of exploding spaghetti.

Amongst the inexplicabilities on this map are...
• Route 155 being shown all the way from Tooting when the only useful gap it jumps is Kennington to Elephant & Castle.
• Route N155 being shown separately, even though it mostly runs when the Northern line is shut.
• The most prominent colour (red) being given to the least useful bus (N155).
• Route 77 (Clapham Jn → Waterloo) being included even though it goes nowhere near the closed stretch of line.
• Route 87 (Clapham Jn → Charing Cross) being included even though it goes nowhere near the closed stretch of line.
• Routes 196 and 344 being included solely to assist passengers on the Battersea extension, thereby helping to create a really distracting granny knot around Vauxhall.
• Route 35 being shown pootling around south London to connect three stations that aren't on the Northern line, while omitting its connection at Clapham Common.
Also someone in the mapping department has decided to show every bus stop separately for reasons I don't fully understand. This means that, for example, Kennington and Elephant & Castle have each been depicted by three bus stops and Bank/Monument by four. The tangle around Vauxhall has been made much worse because four bus routes have been spread across three stops. Even the four routes which cross the Thames via London Bridge have been unnecessarily split in two because they serve two different stops on each side, not that any passenger cares.

The overall effect is to completely smother route 733, the most important on the map, which could have been almost straight but instead weaves back and forth like a demented snake. I shouldn't complain. TfL are normally so insistent on not producing bus maps that to have one is a treat, but alas it's been drawn to resemble a tube map instead.

I've had a go at extracting the most important information from the bus map and created this simple graphic instead.



It shows how route 733 shadows the line closure, how routes 133 and 35 nearly do and how routes 155 and 333 straddle the southern end. I've ignored the other six bus routes because they're just noise. It's by no means an ideal representation, it's much too simplistic, but if it's helped you go "oh, I see how it works now" then it's done its job.

Route 733 will eventually get its own digital map at tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/733 but that's not been switched on yet because the route isn't running. If you want to work out where the 733 is stopping you'll have to piece it together from the text on the separate Bus changes webpage, which isn't linked from anywhere I've previously mentioned. They don't make it easy. But they have spent a lot of time and effort making it harder than it needs to be.


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