diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 18, 2024

Now that the Overground lines are being separately named, some people are asking whether other TfL services should follow suit.

n.b. The answer to this question is 'No', but stay with me as we go through the motions.

There is past precedent for this. In 1990 the Metropolitan line's multiple branches were deemed unwieldy so one route was spun off as the newly-pink Hammersmith & City line. As wayfaring-friendly spinoffs go, it's worked very well.

n.b. These days the Circle line shadows the Hammersmith & City line for a significant proportion of its length, so if you're travelling west from Liverpool Street or north from Hammersmith you don't care which turns up and the names are genuinely superfluous. But in the opposite direction yes it matters, so nobody's suggesting merging the two into one.

At the same time the Metropolitan line's New Cross shuttle was rebranded into the yellowish East London line, 1990 being a particularly big year for tube line parthenogenesis.

n.b. If only transport bosses had thought to call the East London line the Brunel line instead, a lot of this week's kerfuffle might have been prevented.

Another part of the Underground regularly put forward for splitting is the Edgware Road to Wimbledon section of the District line, sometimes colloquially known as the 'Wimbleware'. This too would have navigational benefits, particularly for those exiting the Wimbledon branch, but has never made the leap from thought experiment to reality.

n.b. It'd need a better name than Wimbleware, descriptive as it is, but nobody's interested in what you'd call it instead.

TfL have long wanted to split the Northern line in two.

One tranche of trains would run between Edgware and Battersea (via Charing Cross) and the other between High Barnet and Morden (via Bank). This would have the enormous benefit of segregating trains at Camden Town, a complex junction, and thereby allow a much greater frequency of service. However any split would rely on Camden Town station being remodelled to allow easier passenger interchange, which has never been funded, so the division of the Northern line remains an implausible aspiration.

n.b. If this ever happened I'd rebrand the Morden half as the Southern line, as a long overdue counterbalance, but what I'd call is it as irrelevant as what you'd call it.

The only other Underground line with a practical case for an additional name is the Central line. Trains from West Ruislip invariably run towards the Epping branch and trains from Ealing Broadway towards Hainault, so the underlying split already exists. But the central overlap is so long that this would be both unnecessary and impractical, so it's a good example of why introducing new line names isn't always helpful.

n.b. Ditto it would be silly to split the Piccadilly line into Uxbridge and Heathrow trains, or the Metropolitan line into Uxbridge and everything else, so put your crayons down and think practically.

I’ve previously suggested that Crossrail could be depicted as two lines, which should obviously be called Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. Disruptions in Romford are of no interest to passengers in Ealing and vice versa, so this division could really help foster understanding.

n.b. Alas the perfect split was scuppered somewhat when they introduced half-hourly Heathrow to Shenfield trains last year, but other than those the divide still stands.

One place where line numbering has been used is on the trams in Croydon. For many years this ran three numbered routes, later four, whereas today's maps show just two anonymous lines of different hues. It turns out nobody really gave a damn about the numbers, they just looked at the destination on the front of the tram, so good riddance.

n.b. Those combinations were [Line 1: Wimbledon ↔ Elmers End | Line 2: Croydon ↔ Beckenham Jn | Line 3: Croydon ↔ New Addington], then later [Line 1: Croydon ↔ Beckenham Jn | Line 2: Croydon ↔ Elmers End / Line 3: Wimbledon ↔ New Addington / Line 4: Therapia Lane ↔ Elmers End], but now we just have [Wimbledon ↔ New Addington | Croydon ↔ Elmers End/Beckenham Jn], which just goes to show how unnecessarily complex it was.

The other mode with coloured lines on its map is the DLR. These are in three shades of teal, like faint stripes of toothpaste, and help to thread DLR train paths across East London. Might passengers be assisted if this trio had individual names?

n.b. Spoiler - no.

There are in fact five different DLR routes, not three, so all this'd do is create added complexity. It also doesn't help if you're heading away from Lewisham and Woolwich, only towards, and you can easily tell that front of the train. Practically the DLR is more a network of sections than lines, indeed the routes are sometimes reconfigured to head a completely different way. Line names would be a disaster, three colours on a map are perfectly sufficient.

n.b. Told you so.

This was the status page on the TfL website early yesterday with ten different lines showing disruption. Had the Overground lines already been rebranded there'd have been thirteen rows instead, potentially making it even harder to spot what you need to know. It's easy to overdo this line-splitting business, so generally best not.

n.b. But yes, splitting the Overground, that'll work.

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