The New 2015 Tube Map: What Will It Look Like?

Geoff Marshall
By Geoff Marshall Last edited 33 months ago
The New 2015 Tube Map: What Will It Look Like?

On 31 May Transport for London (TfL) is taking over some inner London suburban services, and integrating them (and branding them) as part of London Overground. But what's this going to mean for the familiar tube map?

TfL taking on the routes will mean we're likely to see a new sprawl of orange lines in the top right hand corner of the map, showing services between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford.

There has already been speculation about what the tube map will look like with these additional lines. But none of it includes three further new stations due to appear on the Overground: from the end of May, TfL is also taking over the Romford to Upminster line (with just the one stop Emerson Park in between). Does that means there's going to be a small spur of orange all by itself?

That's not all. What will eventually be one of the eastern branches of Crossrail also runs through Romford, with a company called MTR taking over the running of existing trains between Shenfield and Liverpool Street. They won't be new trains, but it's going to be branded TfL Rail (see image below), and will likely also appear on the tube map.

TfLRail

With this TfL Rail add-on, plus the mess of orange lines for the Overground, the map's going to look like a congested mess, right? Well, what we've assumed until this point is that all the Overground lines will stay orange. However, we've heard there is also consideration that the Overground lines will get official names (such as East London Line, North London Line) and in doing so, will get new individual colours as well.

This got us thinking about what Paris does with its Métro system — the trains whizz around on numbered lines, but it also has the five-line express RER service, where the lines are lettered. So maybe we won't get full names, but instead end up having Overground A, Overground B and so on.

Even so, it's still going to look congested. We've argued before that maybe we're at the point where there shouldn't be a tube map because it's getting too cluttered, while others have stated there will always be a need for a physical map.

With all these extra lines, is it practical to have a pocket map any longer?

The current pocket map

Pocket-sized card folder maps have been around for decades. TfL tells us it usually updates the pocket tube map twice a year, printing 12m copies. That's 24m maps per year, or 2m per month — at a cost of around £100,000 for the print run, or 5p per map.

In the video above we talk to Max Roberts who has designed many alternative transport maps of London, as well as writing the excellent Underground Maps Unravelled (you can read our review here). We also spoke to another map designer, Mark Noad, who designed The London Tubemap. Here's what he said:

"The need to add the new Overground and Crossrail lines to the London Underground map is a wonderful opportunity to address the flaws in the current map. If the designers take the current one as their starting point and try to adapt it to fit the new lines, it is likely to compound existing inaccuracies of geography and station proximity. The worst-case scenario is they will squeeze it in around the existing lines.

"In my opinion, what they should do is redesign it from scratch using the principles that Harry Beck used. That will allow them to undo half a century of compromises and poor design decisions. My brief to the designers would be to imagine you are Beck starting again today with the increased number of lines and need for the map to work as well on a phone screen as it does on a platform poster."

So. That's where we're at. And we're going to say it — we think it's time to ditch the pocket size map and go with something new.

Although among our own suggestions so far are:

  • Remove the London Overground from the tube map completely. If it's called a tube map then just have tube map services on it, don't have the London Overground (or even the DLR?) on it. You can keep the pocket map, but with strictly tube services only.
  • Extend the physical size of the pocket map! Radical, but TfL probably won't want to spend the money and effort replacing all those plastic racks in stations. So what if the map stayed the same in width, but was lengthened somewhat? You could then enlarge the size of the map and fit more in.
  • Have a new sized map. Admit that the pocket map is now just too small (have you SEEN the size of the text on the index on the back? It's almost impossibly hard to read the index) and create something larger.
  • If you do have a larger physical map, you could have the 'tube map' on one side for the purists — which could show London Underground, DLR and Overground, and then the London connections/rail/Oyster map on the back.
  • Or how about this? Let customers print their own maps. Instead of wasting money printing thousands of maps, you could have machines that let you pick and choose what services you'd like shown on your custom map, then prints one out for you. Even better, you could build accessibility needs into this and have the option for a black and white, inverse colours or a colour blind-friendly map

And we haven't even mention the possibility of adding the Croydon Tramlink to the map. Or the fact that there's going to be Night Tube from September. That's going to need a separate map too. Should that be on the back of the regular tube map? Let us know what you'd like to see, in the comments below.

Last Updated 19 February 2015

Ian Hamilton

Use these principles to ensure the new map doesn't unnecessarily exclude the huge swathes of people who have colourblindness or other vision impairments - deafblind.org.uk/news-and-view...

NameOfPen

If TfL take over the Liverpool Street-Shenfield line, won't one of the Bethnal Green Stations need renaming? Having a undeground and rail station with the same name is bad enough, but if they are going to be part of the same network and maps something's gotta give!

MattFromLondonist

I have a solution: use three-dimensional maps. http://londonist.com/2012/03/3...

Ale Valentini

The idea of letting customers print their own map is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. If you pair that to a similar functioning app, that would be absolutely crazy and revolutionary. Once again.

Howard Gerlis

"... My brief to the designers would be to imagine you are Beck starting again today..." I thik I can see the ghost of Harry in his back room pouring over a large sheet of paper. His house is just 2 doors away from me in Finchley.

hebbyn

Removing the overground on the grounds of insufficient tubing is fine, as long as you plan on removing all of the non-tube bits of the other lines as well. Everything north of (and including) Finchley road, Golders Green, East Finchley, gone. Everything east of (and including) Bow Road, Leytonn and Tower Gateway or west of (and including) Earl's Court and Paddington, gone. Surrey Quays to Whitechapel, though, they stay for sure.

Philip Whitehouse

There's plenty of space between the Picadilly and Central lines for the new Overground section. I can't see them altering the core design for that.

TfL rail may not even be on the map, it operates both inside and outside the Oyster fare zone, unlike Overground. I suspect it might be relegated to the all encompassing National Rail map.

Andrew Tiffin

You should have worn your Central line shirt

CosmicSyzygy

I think the Overground should try rebranding the lines. It's already confusing enough with all of the different parts of it. Perhaps they should give the orbital itself its own name and then rename the bits coming off and through it based on destinations.

John

Make the Pocket Map for the Central London area only with simplified routes on it, as I suspect it's mostly used by tourists who don't need the full map. Then only have the full map for poster size displays. They could also do journey or line or area specific pocket maps.

Lampwick

Tut-tut Geoff...you're almost a tourist! "Ches-'unt" NOT "Cheshunt" ;-)

Bob

The Overground is guaranteed to stay on the map because the visibility this gives it is a major reason for it's success and ability to relieve the Tube.

m

Thameslink should be on the tube map once they finish the upgrade. I take it every day - it's packed and delayed, but people already use it essentially as a metro within London. There was a graphic quirk to mark Crossrail and Thameslink as lines with arrows continuing beyond the page i.e. they serve more specialised destinations further off. This could be a solution in order to identify how you can take the lines within London, but not clutter the map with other stations further out.

Brian Butterworth

Perhaps you would like the new TfL systems, as an interactive heatmap?

http://tubedreams.london/londo...

Bryan

I love the idea of having a machine where people can choose the individual (or combinations?) maps they want to have printed. That would solve the issue of printing so many twice a year and of them being picked up and thrown down again and wasted. So I'm for that!

Lee Francoise

Small sizes map easier to put in handbag-Are u going to have tablets for easy use. Paris transportation is very easy -Thanks Geoff

Mark Wilson

Why not just overprint the lines and stations served by 'The Night Tube' with glow-in-the-dark ink...?

Josef Dunne

Fire TfL from designing and publishing the map and get an independent to do it. The mission should be less about "TfL" but more about understanding all the transport options within London to all types of people/visitors and exposing these clearly on a map that doesn't promote one over the other. Who designed and who publishes the Paris map? Curious as to what structure they have set up for their maps.

Daniel J

Hi Geoff, very interesting this. Have you spoken to anyone at TfL? Presumably, seeing as the new map will be published in May, they already know how they are going to proceed? Personally I really like having the overground on the map. It's just plain practical. So if possible, I think the new lines should be added to the existing map.

Kate

I would have thought the obvious solution was to have one map that's exclusively for the underground printed on one side of the pocket map and one map for the overground and DLR printed on the other side. That would be far less crowded, plus the overground could be spread out more because its own map would give it more space.

'Q'

hi folks, please check out our London Complete Transport Map ... http://www.quickmap.com/snip7.... for those with good sight! No apologies though as it is all of London and useful in emergencies!