15 Ways To Improve London's Train Network

By Jonn Last edited 55 months ago
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.

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

Last Updated 30 July 2019