Alternative Tube Maps: Circles Within Circles

By M@ Last edited 64 months ago
Alternative Tube Maps: Circles Within Circles

It's often said that, elegant though the Tube map is, it's getting increasingly cluttered as more lines and stations are added. Crossrail, the extension of the Northern Line, and the reintroduction of Thameslink will one day make matters even worse. So various attempts have been made to redesign the geometry (not least, our own stab at a 3-D version). This reworked map from Jonathan Fisher is the latest example. Like earlier efforts by Francisco Dans and Maxwell Roberts, Jonathan has dispensed with Harry Beck's original angles, introducing curves and circles into the diagram.

Jonathan tells us about his inspiration and methodology:

The idea was to create a map that made clear the new orbital route created by the Overground connection from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction — to make these stations and the line itself feel simple and like a part of central London rather than a tangled complicated suburban line.

I liked the very simple  idea of an inner circle line and an outer circle oribital line, and making these two circles have a simple relationship to one another, and I also liked the idea of making the centre of the circles the centre of London. The Moscow subway map starts from a similar principle and I like that level of clarity.

I started with this simple diagram of a small circle inside a large circle with the centre of London in the centre and then tried to make the rest of the map work around this. It admittedly creates some geographic  peculiarities but I don’t mind this, its only a diagram, and primarily I was trying to create a beautiful clear diagram, not a geographically true one. What I always find strange about the current tube map is that it makes a half hearted effort at geographical accuracy but it actually isn’t true at all, its very misleading. Visitors to London believe that it's nearly true, but its not. I like the way this map doesn’t pretend it has any geographical honesty, it is purely diagrammatic.

Also, I liked the way that by removing the Thames, and making London feel contained by a clear circle (the Overground), there is no distinction between north of the river and south of the river. London feels whole.

Ultimately, it would be nice to see more concentric circles in the diagram (i.e. more around London routes). These would make travelling to the centre of London less important and (hopefully) strengthen suburban identities.

The map certainly looks impressive and attractive, and includes the Thameslink route currently absent from the standard Tube map. Like all similar efforts, though, it does have its downsides. Chief among them is the dense central section, which would be difficult to read on a pocket-sized Tube leaflet. The elongated line interchanges — most notably at Bank and King's Cross — might also jar with some people.

See other alternative Tube maps in our comprehensive guide.

Last Updated 16 January 2013

Dean Nicholas

"I liked the way that by removing the Thames..." be careful there pal, last time TfL pulled that stunt there was an uproar.

Jonn Elledge

Nice idea, but... Brighton? Peterborough? Don't be silly. Also, the two Croydon stations are miles from each other.


This would be good, had he not left off Blackhorse Road from the Overground!

Unkle Fu

it's lovely as a artwork, but i don't think it would fly as a map for tourists. you can't not have the north south river distinction. the tube map isn't very accurate but it's as close as it can be. what are you gonna do print DO NOT REFERENCE THIS AS A GEOGRAPHICAL MAP OF LONDON in massive letters above the map? it seems as if every hurdle you've stumbled at and seemed unable to get around you've then tried to justify by writing 'i liked the way i....'

Caspar Aremi

We need zones!


I like it - I think the interchange stations would need work to show they stop at all lines better and show stepfree.

I like the reasoning for not putting in the river, but the river is a central point for everyone, and helps locate themselves. Plus the map doesn't instantly say "London" without it... even with the non-existant kink that's on the current map it's a vital part.

... and the colours are wrong... but apart from that - Let's have it! :)

I do wonder if it's possible to get actual distance between stations demonstrated on the map somehow by using the thickness of the line or dashes or something?


A beautiful map but - West Croyden just above West Dulwich? Crystal Palace east of West Dulwich? Have they moved?


WTF? There's at least four Hammersmith & City stations missing! This is terrible.

Michael Grayer

I quite like it in principle, but it could use a little work.

I very much like the implementation of the loop at the southern end of the Thameslink.

Not sure about the northern end - the Bedford branch goes in completely the wrong direction!

I do like the way it refocuses the tube around the two "Circle" lines rather than just the central one.


I have to say I really like it. Of course Brighton would not be on the map if it was true to the scale, but that way it makes way more sense to me now.

I also like the fact the rail is included and shows for example how to get to Gatwick airport. Quite beneficial for tourists etc.

Great work

Sofi AC

really Cool!!!


Love this


This is decent. I'm not sure about assertions that you need a north-south river distinction. Zones are probably necessary in a genuine replacement


I like it, but it is missing the Thames. When TFL removed the river from their map everyone complained and they put it back in.


It is an hideous monstrosity. A map should have some basis in geography, and a diagram should aid journey planning. This serves neither function.

Aside from moving Bedford to Oxford, the line has to do a u-turn after Kentish town to be able to preserve the circular concept. What Beck's original design did was make it so you could pick your starting and destination stations and easily follow the lines to work out where to change, if necessary. Even if you could guess where stations were, the lines weaving in and out make this task more difficult than the current tube map. Itself already a case of nostalgia over usability as the expansion of the network has diminished the value of that design.

Making certain branches of the Overground and Circle lines into fixed features that everything else has to then work around gives them an undue prominence that gives a warped view of the network and ignores the needs of passengers.

Even fron a purely aesthetic perspective having the two circles then everything else inconsistently using curves and straight lines and diagonals is jarring, especially notable with the Gospel Oak to Barking line. Or Lewisham being a vertical drop rather than curving.

That not to mention the numerous errors, some of which seem to be deliberate for the convince of the design. And Tramlink green for the DLR, really?

London has an east end, and a west end. It does not have a north end, or a south end. It is not a circle, so there is not reasonable basis for using one as a design motif. The so-called orbital branches of the Overground and far closer to being an oblong than a circle. The current tube map using a roughly rectangular shape for the circle line. Central London is wider than it is tall, so use an oblong, or use an oval, but a circle neither reflects London, the transport network, or how people think of the city and how to get about it.

There is not a single redeeming feature to this map. And that is despite it being the first tube map to show my local (Thameslink) station.

Matt Williams

To highlight Thameslink as a transparent cross-London travel option is perhaps over-egging the cake, especially when not revealing the nifty South London East Croydon-London Bridge-Waterloo East (not on the map) manoevure, and others like off the Northern line at Balham and on to Clapham Junction overground. I miss the Thames. And therefore miss the Thames boats you can take, which is surely a part of central London travel now.

Rob Smith

Looks good but whats going on with the Thameslink North. St Albans ends up way to the west of Watford, should be to the east. Look at the distance between Mill Hill Broadway and Mill Hill East


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