01 December 2015 | 10 °C

31 January 2014 | Transport | By: Jonn

15 Ways To Improve London's Train Network

15 Ways To Improve London's Train Network

Things could have been so different

...and all without building a single inch of new track.

Break up the District line

You can't get a District line train from Richmond to Edgware Road. You just can't. The fact the branch to the latter shares a colour with the line to Upminster is weird, too. It's two separate lines, TfL, stop mucking about. Call the new one the Wimbleware line. It's a good word. Say it out loud. "Wimbleware". See? Wimbleware.

Break up the Northern Line

Yes yes it's all very funny to find tourists searching for Borough Market somewhere in the vicinity of Goodge Street, and instinctively knowing which branch of the Northern line you want is one of the things that marks you out as a proper Londoner. But the fact that there are two effectively separate central London tube lines sharing a name and a colour purely because they go to the same bits of zone 4 is, when you think about it, deeply unintuitive.

Splitting the Northern into its City and West End branches, on a sort of Hammersmith & City and Circle line basis, would make zone one a lot more navigable for newbies. We could call the new one the Southern line, for a giggle. It's no more nonsensical than the name we've got at the moment.

Show more connections on the map

Camden Town (Northern line) is all of five minutes' walk from Camden Road (Overground). You can walk longer than that to get between platforms in some stations. TfL's journey planner frequently recommends this change (try getting from Dalston to Finchley without it) yet all the official diagrams are strangely silent on the matter. Why not add this link to the map?

Actually, there is a reason why not: the authorities are crapping themselves about making Camden Town any more crowded than it actually is, and before it can cope with that they need to rebuild the bloody place. This is on the cards, but won't be complete for another 11 years. So in the mean time, we're stuck with a secret interchange.

It's not the only one. Want to go from Ilford to Walthamstow? You're best off changing at Forest Gate for Wanstead Park: it's only a three minute walk, but the map won't tell you that either. While we're at it, Hackney Downs/Hackney Central, Seven Sisters/South Tottenham, Walthamstow Central/Queen's Road... There are loads of these things that TfL likes, for its own reasons, to keep secret. Can't we just, y'know, show them?

East Brixton

The fact that Overground trains pass directly over Brixton Station without actually stopping gets right on our wick, but we know, in our heart of hearts, they're never going to build new platforms there (seriously, it'd cost a fortune).

There is, though, a solution: just up the road, you used to find East Brixton station. Rebuild that, and you get a stop in that ridiculously long gap between Denmark Hill and Clapham, and a walkable interchange to both Brixton and Loughborough Junction — and all without needing to build new platforms onto a viaduct over the A23. Simples.

(Look, we said there wouldn't be any new track, not that they wouldn't need to build anything. While we're at it:)

Junction Road

Defunct station on the Gospel Oak-Barking line. Reopening it would provide a helpful interchange with the Northern at Tufnell Park. Which is good, as the Gospel Oak-Barking line is, at the moment, famously un-interchange-y.


The Victoria to Lewisham line passes right over without stopping. It used to stop. Can it stop again please? It's not amazingly useful right now, but if they ever get around to proper frequency services on this line (an Overground-style service from Woolwich to the Richmond loop, or some such), then it'd be a handy way for south east Londoners to get about the place without finding themselves in London Bridge all the bloody time.

Bethnal Green stations

London has two Bethnal Green stations, half a mile apart. This is deeply stupid. Let's rename the one that noone uses, shall we? Weavers Fields is our suggestion. And let's do it before TfL takes over the relevant line and we end up with two Bethnal Greens on the tube map, eh?

That reminds us.

Edgware Road stations

Oh, you already guessed.

Canary Wharf stations

Canary Wharf tube station is closer to Heron Quays DLR than it is to Canary Wharf DLR. Canary Wharf Crossrail station will be between Canary Wharf DLR and West India Quay DLR. For god's sake, can't somebody stop this madness?

Charing Cross tube

Once upon a time, Charing Cross was on the District and Circle lines, and the station one stop north went by the names of Trafalgar Square (Bakerloo) and Strand (Northern). Then, in 1979, the Jubilee line arrived, joining those two latter stations together, so they renamed them both Charing Cross, and the one by the river became Embankment.

Except now the Jubilee line has gone, and a) Embankment is just as convenient for Charing Cross station as Charing Cross tube is, and b) pretending that Charing Cross tube offers a convenient change between Northern and Bakerloo lines is dumbass. So. Can we break it into Strand and Trafalgar Square stations again, please?

York Road

There's a big gap on the Piccadilly Line between King's Cross and Caledonian Road, where the York Road station has been defunct since 1932. For a long time this made some kind of sense, as York Road was basically the middle of nowhere, but now it's right opposite the King's Cross Central development. Reopen it and you could take some of the pressure off its southern neighbour.

If they wanted to be really ambitious they could provide interchange with the London Overground, by rebuilding Maiden's Lane station, too, but let's not get carried away here.

Overground line colours

The Overground is big, and getting bigger. Yet despite consisting of at least four entirely separate lines, the map insists on marking it all out in the same dull orange colour. At the moment this is only annoying pedants like us (surely no one's actually changed for the Watford line at Highbury), but as the network grows it's going to get more and more confusing. Can we have some new colours please?

The end of the road

Some station names are, when you think about it, completely and utterly useless. There are four stations on Holloway Road, and bits of it are a good half hour's walk from the eponymously named one. What's wrong with just "Holloway"? It's not much more specific, but at least it's less misleading. By the same token, something like half of the Cally Road is closer to King's Cross than to Caledonian Road station. Change its name, for the love of god.

Other stations named after roads are annoying for a different reason. Liverpool and Fenchurch Streets are iconic enough that we're probably stuck with them, but Preston Road? Where's that, then? Essex Road tells you nothing if you're not already familiar with the geography of Islington. There must be better names for these. Please, think of the children.

Tell the train operating companies where to stick their map

For a brief, glorious moment the official London rail map coloured National Rail services on the basis of which terminal they ran out of, and highlighted which services were of high enough frequency to actually be worth bothering with. It wasn't perfect, but it made the south side, in particular, a lot easier to navigate.

Then the brand people at the train operating companies got their hands on the thing, and suddenly all this vanished. We knew that Hither Green was served by South Eastern trains. But where those trains went, or how often they bothered to go there, became just another of life's mysteries. Can we have our old map back please?

That bloody cable car

Look, even if you're someone who for some obscure reason needs to commute from North Greenwich to Victoria Dock on a regular basis, it's probably quicker and definitely cheaper to go by train and change at Canning Town. This isn't a transport link, it's a tourist attraction. They don't put the London Eye on the tube map — let's take the bloody thing off.

And while we're all here: more soothing music at stations, platform level water fountains and 'Thoughts of Angel'-type notice boards everywhere, please.

Sort it out, eh?

Photo courtesy of Mike Farquhar, taken from the Londonist Flickr pool


Article by Jonn | 96 articles | View Profile

Julian Tysoe

16) Re-introduce the death penalty for standing on the left. I long for the good old days when a swift kick in the back of the knees sent those miscreants tumbling to their well deserved deaths.


I'm not sure about this. It's a well known medical fact that men can only perceive 16 distinct colours and the proposals here call for new colours for Wimbleware, half the northern line and then for each of the overgrounds (+Crossrail to be added). What crazy colour crayons does the author have at their disposal?

Tom Bolton

Streatham Common station is a lot further from the actual common than Streatham Station. Rename it Streatham Vale, after its real location.


Stop having to swipe Oystercards when changing from overground to tube?

Johann van Rensburg

You missed a huge one in my book:

Why oh why did TfL call the orange Overground thus when we all already referred to non TfL trains as the overground?! Like Boris Bikes we should start calling the Overground the O. Like the Elevated line in Chicago is called the El or L. No more confusion when you say "I took the O from Clapham Junction to Crystal Palace" as everyone will know you took the orange Overground and NOT a Southern overground train.


I'm not sure if this is an improvement to the network, but the tube in general. Why not put a light in the carriage that tells you which side the platform is going to be on, that way people can organise themselves and there isn't a mad rush to change sides when you realise you've gotten it wrong.


All good suggestions. I would vote for "Battersea Line" after the Northern Line split, as there's a little more character.

Also, can Thameslink in particular be on the tube map when they finish the upgrade? I take it sometimes from North London and it's amazing - like a secret high-speed line that nobody knows about. Plus, the Sutton loop to the south stays entirely within the boundaries of London.

Luke Treherne

17) They could of built the Woolwhich Crossrail station closer to that of the Woolwhich Arsenal DLR and National rail stations. Then those who want to from their jobs in Canary Wharf of the City of London could then change at this interchange freeing up capacity on the services into Cannon Street and Charring Cross.

Unlikely to come to actual fruition , but then we can all dream.


Now we have the Oyster Card, having separate Tube and Overland train maps is redundant. Given that the main railway lines from Waterloo are what most South Londoners use, it would be so much easier for all concerned if one map reflected this and integrated the lot.

Years ago we had to buy different tickets to use separate bus, tube and rail providers so it made some sense for the operators. Now the owner or operator of each service we choose is irrelevant as passenger data is all managed in software.

For example: 'Waterloo to Putney' Overland route is a direct 14 minute ride on one train, therefore easier and faster than a Northern Line Tube via Embankment, then District Line Tube which stops on the wrong side of the river in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in 34 minutes.

Once such a map replaces the current one, people will be able to choose the obvious route and in some cases avoid Central London altogether.

London Historians

Amen to the Canary Wharf business. Boy, how I discovered that to my cost last year. The cable car. I enjoyed it, but yes. A tourist attraction. In the shape of a very pale pachyderm.
Ban eating in the trains. Gah, it's disgusting having to watch, smell and hear someone chomping away at two feet distance. What's the matter with people?

Old Londoner

I'm sure a lot of these points make sense but "Essex Road tells you nothing if you’re not already familiar with the geography of Islington." Err... Essex Road Station is in Essex Road. How confusing can that be?


I think teleportation would improve London's train network dramatically.

Simon E

#16 Give Camberwell access to the trains and give it a sense of place

First off reopen Camberwell station - it wouldnt take much as the station building is there (on Camberwell Station Road!) and the lines into Blackfriars are in use.

Longer term complete the 1930s plans to extend the Bakerloo Line to Camberwell

Or easiest of all rename Denmark Hill station as Denmark Hill Camberwell so that people know where it is


I love the northern line just the way it is. And it's really not that complicated! Anyone with half a brain can figure it out.

Andy Brice

Also, after the Northern Line terminates at Morden, it goes to Morden South where the depot is right next-door to the railway station, so could we maybe have an actual station and interchange there, please?


Since the Circle Line stopped being a circle it's pointless. Remove it and have the Hammersmith & City line have a decent frequency.


Water fountains! They'll end up filled with piss and puke every Friday and Saturday nights.


On busy lines have platforms painted with the best carriage to get on for where you're exiting. Regular users of the line know and at rush hour passengers are mostly spread out. This would help to spread passengers - especially tourists and non regular users - along the trains rather than hovering near entrances. And it makes the platforms better organised too as there will be fewer people walking from one end to the other to exit. Carriages can still only fit so many people in and it gives a choice of packed and near exit, or 3 carriages from exit (rather than completely the wrong end) and emptier.


Re: show more connections, there are many Out of Station Interchanges (OSI), which are like secret connections not shown on the map which won't charge you for an additional journey if you make it from station A to station B within the allotted time. Including Upper Holloway on the un-interchange-y Gospel Oak line to Archway on the Northern and Seven Sisters to South Tottenham. http://www.oyster-rail.org.uk/...


Joining up the Northern and District lines in the South would be super useful. Wimbledon and South Wimbledon, for example. Or extend one of the two to Kingston, perhaps. Come on, you've gotta give us something more than buses in the South...

Jonathan L

The proposed new Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea Power Station should continue to Clapham Junction (which, of course, should be renamed Battersea Central - but that's a whole other 150-year-long debate!).
Put Shoreditch back in zone 1 where it was.
Re-open the 'Strand/Aldwych' station which used to be served from Holborn and extend it to Temple with interchange to District Line - this could take some pressure off Charing Cross/Embankment and give better access to the Strand and Fleet St.

Rod Rage

If travelling from south-east London, the TfL route planner always shows change at Brixton from the raised Overground station to the underground station which involves walking down two lots of steps and a walk round the corner (if you know where you're going). Really difficult and unnecessary for the disabled or aged population and those with heavy bags or children whereas if you just stay on the train it terminates at Victoria with only one set of steps in the same station. Clearly it's being done on purpose to stop people travelling to Victoria.

Josef Dunne

Let's start a petition for an East Brixton station, I love that idea! Traversing over Brixton for a glimpse without any way down off of the Overground is just lunacy! We must change that! Who's in for starting a petition?


I'm so confused. But then I'm American.

Rod Rage

There's a great map (which I think you've featured) showing less than 5 minute walks between stations, this should be shown on the official map when they connect different lines.
Is anyone able to extend this 'short walk' idea to the whole 'Connections' map? I'd be willing to help e.g. near me Clock House (train) Kent House (train) and Beckenham Road (tram) are all a few minutes walk from each other. They are all in BR3 postcode but are actually between Beckenham and Penge with Kent House actually being a lot closer to Penge.


Howabout BANNING F£*$ING STRIKES..........


Many of these ideas are not new, and it good to see that others have similar thoughts. Some are so blindingly obvious and are not complex. Many people are unaware that the Overground concept did not necessarily come from TfL. Between 1997 and 2001 there was a lot of discreet lobbying from the pro-rail independent sector groups, Transport 2000 London, RDS London & SE, and Capital Transport Campaign all supported a series of pamphlets and briefings introducing the 'Outer Circle', a new group of train services to complement an upgraded and improved North London Line. We targeted the GLA and Mayoral candidates who were very supportive, and it was included in the Green Party's manifesto!
Interchanges: Many were identified including Camden Road, and there are still no posters showing the 400m walking route between the two. Travelcard holders can catch a 29 bus for just one stop!
Brockley, Junction Road and Maiden Lane were all suggested, all having both a local purpose and a potential interchange, Brockley High and Low levels has great potential. Junction Road was supported by the two adjoining LAs, Islington and Camden, but this scheme died at privatisation as neither Railtrack nor NatEx Silverlink had any interest in taking this scheme forward. A similar scenario existed with Maiden Lane, we tagged it Kings Cross North. The interchange arguments with a restored York Road are fully valid now with the commercial developments ongoing literally over the road!
The Walthamstow Central to Queens Road saga drags on, and the physical work is partially complete, and petty bureaucracy is delaying the opening. The Brixton Saga is confused with TfL claiming estimates for the High Level in multiples of tens of millions. This is bizarre as Smethwick Galton Bridge, near Birmingham, is a station built on a bridge over a railway and a canal. Modern construction techniques should be able to come up with a lightweight GRP construction material for the platforms. If not, then restore East Brixton ....
The Overground users support naming the separate services with their own distinctive names, as even the staff refer to the North London East London and so on.
All of these ideas have merit, in particular identifying out of station interchanges, and a separate website with a printable list would be a good idea, then TfL might be jolted into action, some of their top bods need a good kick in the arse! (That's a local Yorkshire Barnsley dialect expression!)


Rename Paddington H&C as it's clearly not an interchange station with the Bakerloo/District/Circle station. Maybe Paddington Westway or something?

Michael Jennings

I agree about the London Overground colour thing. Also, the map inside the London Overground trains that shows London Overground services in their entirety and nothing else is stupid. When I am riding from Peckham Rye to Wandsworth Road, the services from Euston to Watford are in fact one of the least useful things for me to know about. Yes, there are also proper tube maps on the trains, but these should be the largest and most prominent thing, rather than the ones merely showing the orange lines.

Andrew Brown

"For a brief, glorious moment"...
John, do you have a link to that 'trains by frequency' rail map?


The 'break-up the Northern Line' suggestion is already planned - once Camden Town station is rebuilt (which as the article says, is years away).

John UK

Re-open South Kentish Town to relieve pressure on Camden Town.


Stop trying to make 'Wimbleware' a thing, it's not a thing -_-

And it's not a distinct line in itself, otherwise how else am I going to work from Mile End to Fulham Broadway (and back) directly every day?


What about doing what cities like Berlin do and using numbers for the lines (e.g.: U1 for the Bakerloo line), and if a line has branches, have different numbers for them (e.g.: U9 for the Piccadilly line Heathrow branch and U95 for the Uxbridge branch). And on the back of the tube map, have a table showing where each of the lines go, split into sections, starting with the tube lines (having a U at the start of their line numbers, the Overground, Thameslink and Crossrail having an S (meaning suburban train), and the DLR having a D. how hard can that be?

Matt Antos-Lewis

For GOBLIN, as well as #5 (re-opening Junction Road), how about adding a Picadilly line stop where the tracks pass under Harringay Green Lanes station?

Also (and here I will add some track) extend GOBLIN through Barking, Barking Riverside, under the river to Thamesmead, and create an interchange with the line at Abbey Wood.


West Hampstead - relocate Finchley Road, West Hampstead, WH Thameslink and West Hampstead Overground to form one interchange.

Also - City Thameslink station sits directly above the Central Line, and would make a good new station on the Underground

Richard Harris

Rename 'South Wimbledon' as 'Merton' or 'Merton High Street'. Oh wait, that name's not so lucrative for property developers!