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Friday, November 28, 2008

Interactive Chinese Subway maps

TfL's bloggers' briefing, and your comments I've been thinking a lot more about the London Underground's online offerings and how the Tube map is displayed on their website. A lot of my techie mates are quite surprised to hear TfL won a Webby Award and wondered who they were up against. I'd always thought the Journey Planner aspect of it was OK, that was until I saw the brilliant interactive subway maps from China.

Thanks to my friend Ged Carroll, I was led to the following post on "intuitive chinese subway maps". It gushingly opened with "Every so often you run into something so completely wonderful, it forces you to ask yourself, 'how the hell did I never hear of this before?' ExploreMetro is one such example." They were right to be so enthusiastic!

Beijing Subway Map 1 Screengrab

These online maps for the subway systems in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou were designed by a British web developer, Matt Mayers and are brilliant in their simplicity but packed with useful information and cool, yet unannoying animation.

Kai Pan describes the main features:

1. Overall map of the subway systems in China’s major metropolises, including all lines in operation, stops and transfer stations, in both English and Chinese.
2. Times for the first and last trains departing from each station, so you'll never use the subway too early or too late.
3. A route-planner allowing the user to drag from their departing station to their destination station, providing approximate travel time and fare cost. Be wowed by the cute animation sequence.

Beijing Subway Map Screengrab

4. A "pedia" that provides additional detailed information for each station in the system, including: approximate travel times to other stations along the line, station diagrams sourced from Chinese-only 51metro.com (Shanghai only), integrated Google maps, and photos of the station's surroundings.
5. Sexy female Chinese voice reading aloud each station's name (at present, only Shanghai).

Like the reviewer I loved the "extremely amusing (but otherwise useless) feature, silly loading status messages". They include:
  • calculating ticket prices
  • checking tickets
  • cleaning up spit (zing!)
  • digging new tunnels
  • filling up Huangpu river (SH only)
  • fluffing clouds
  • installing interchanges
  • opening metro stations
  • polishing Olympic medals (BJ only)
  • polishing station attendants’ badges
  • refilling metro cards
  • renaming stations
  • starting down escalators
  • starting up escalators
  • sweeping platforms
  • training drivers
Why, why, why can't we have something like this for London's Tube Map? It combines all the things that TfL are trying to aim at with their online communication. Simplicity, clarity, information (but with deeper detailed information for those that want it) and a human element.

The Shanghai map also includes a anagrammed version of the station names.

Anagrammed Shanghai map screengrab

Although we all know how TfL feel about anagrammed maps!

There's much more about the Explore metro maps at their blog, and there may well be other special jokes and Easter Egg hidden online goodies inside them. Perhaps TfL ought to have a chat to Matt Mayers to see if he fancies working on the Tube map, I'm sure it'd be well received. If you've got any thoughts on this & on the loading messages we could have for London's map, I'd love to hear them.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 28, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TfL's Bloggers' Briefing - Transforming the Tube

Yesterday, a number of London bloggers and myself were invited into Transport for London's head office for a briefing. Amazingly the briefing wasn't "Stop moaning about us you annoying bunch of rabble rousers, we're doing our best to keep the London Underground up & running, you try doing it, with your pixels & your opinions. Have some sarnies and shut up".

Transforming the Tube Briefing pack

Essentially, TfL wanted to show us their new online Travel Tools, which have just launched on their site, but will be part of a major promotion over the coming weeks. They also wanted to explain how the Tube's 10 year upgrade programme was going, how the engineering works actually had some planning to them and how communicating all of this was as important as getting the works completed.

Richard Parry, Strategy and Service Director for London Underground, kicked off the briefing explaining that over the next ten years every part of the Tube system would be renewed. Although a lot of the weekend engineering & closure works may look disordered there was planning behind this (TfL apparently do take major sporting events, concerts, and other live events into account) with contingency plans for when works inevitably over run.

Oh noes toobz weekendz engineering workz

I won't go into the lengthy introduction, as I'm sure much of this can be found on the Tube's website. I picked up on his emphasis on the importance of communication and said that I didn't feel their communication was actually that great. Considering the amount of information they had on our journeys through Oyster card data, I wondered why emails weren't targeted purely to lines that people were interested in or spent a lot of time travelling on. Also I have a feeling my emails from TfL aren't weekly - even though I have an annual registered Oyster card.

Parry explained that the standard weekly email is the same for everyone, but the text travel alerts that you can sign up to by line, can also be received by email. They were very much aware that people want more personalised communication and that posters & leaflets are often ignored or just become part of the general scenery and background noise of the Tube.

We are transforming your Tube by isrya

John Bull from London ReConnections agreed and said it's quite frustrating to just see posters saying "We're working on this station". It's obvious, we can see that, but we'd like to know how you're getting on with the works. What actually is going on and how long will it take? Steve who works in TfL's publicity department, said it was a balance between simplicity & getting a message across. But they agreed simplicity can leave people starved of information, and there was probably room for adding more details when there was more "dwell time".

Smiling at the techie guy, Tim, who looks after their website (in a way that meant, 'this means work for you'), he said "We can update the website reasonably easily on a daily basis, so we should say, if you want more on this station's works, visit the site".

Whenever they sit down with people and explain why the works have to be done, exactly what they're doing and the difficulties of doing this with as little disruption to the system as possible, people understand. "But we need 10 minutes of people's attention to get this across, especially as we have to get past the first five minutes of moan", which I think is a very fair point. In an ideal world it's easier if the majority of their communication is proactive rather than reactive, but realistically we all know that isn't the case.

Banner by Bloo Phoenix

They are going to run more "Meet the Manager" evenings and were surprised that so many people were interested in coming along to look at the new air conditioned Tube trains at Euston Square. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the more human element of their communication and I asked why they didn't do more of this "community outreach" like the London Transport Museum who have Flickr groups and have even been experimenting with Facebook groups as a way of talking to people.

Spoof Peter Hendy MySpace Page

The Transport Commissioner actually had a blog at one time and TfL worked with him trying to get the right tone of voice. In the end, quite rightly, he said he wanted to write it his own way. I lost track of what actually happened to it and although we're unlikely to see a Facebook or Myspace page from the real commissioner, they're aware that making more localised areas of the website could work for them.

"How things are said and where things are said are important", Steve remarked. Although the new range of Travel Tools aren't completely widgetised, they can be added to netvibes and Google readers & embedded into blogs. This is encouraging as it means travel updates can be seen in more sites than just the Tube's.

TfL have no plans to have an open API for their travel updates though. Which although I can see the authenticity reasons for this, I think is a shame. People are already "mashing up" the Tube map & alerts with various things like Google maps and Twitter. Wouldn't it be easier if they gave people an API key, so they'd have a lot more control over what went on. However, they were open to talking to widget makers, so it's worth getting in touch with them if you've created something inventive.

I got the impression they were really proud of their free mobile text alerts. Around 2 million people sign up to receive the text alerts. Their techie guy, Tim, said they were looking at mobile versions of the departure boards for all lines as well. So if you were in the pub or the office quite near to your station, you could pull out your mobile phone and see when your train was due.

My question around this, was mobile stuff is all well and good, but we can't actually use our mobile phones on half of the London Underground and when would we ever be able to do this? This led to much shrugging of shoulders and general mutterings of "Who knows?". Well at least they were honest!

Jason from the Onion Bag Blog was actually live blogging at the briefing & you can read his "sandwich friendly" impressions here! I'm sure the other bloggers Matt from Londonist, Lloyd Davis, Ian, LondonReconnections and Darika will post their thoughts on the briefing soon.

Thanks for getting to the end of this post, but I was pleased to be invited to the speak to the guys at TfL. It's great that they realise London bloggers do a lot of work communicating what's happening to the Tube (good & bad). Even though I'm not exactly "on message" for them, they didn't put any poison in the sarnies & actually pay more attention to my blog that I thought. It was brave of them to invite us in and I really appreciated their honesty, relative openness and hope this will be the start of more dialogue with people who aren't the press or traditional media.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 26, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paris Métro Style Launch Event

Sadly we're unlikely to see topless rugby players on the cover of a London Underground map any time soon. But thanks to Mark Ovenden's display of all things Métro-Parisian, I learnt that the transport authorities in Paris have no problems using half naked sports stars for pocket subway map covers.

Rugby Player Paris Métro Map

Mark very kindly invited me to the private launch of his book Paris Métro Style at the London Transport Museum last Friday. He'd put together a wonderful display of Paris Métro maps, signs, games, posters and general Métro memorabilia and err... mince pies (well, it's nearly Christmas) to celebrate the launch of his book.

Mark Ovenden Book Signing Métro Pocket Maps - 1930's

As well as the hunky rugby player covers there were some more traditional Paris Metro map covers from the 1930's.

I also loved the older posters and a board game based on commuting on the Métro. I imagine it was similar to the London Game for the Tube.

Strategic Métro Game 1940

Métro Cartoon Posters

My French is awful, but I think the ones with the guy being chased by his wife with a rolling pin & the robber trying to escape from the police (obviously similar fates in Paris) translate as "If you are in a rush take the Métro". Not sure about the ones on the right - hopefully someone who can speak French can translate.

There are some more pictures from the launch night here, including some wonderful signs which Mark's friends had prised from the walls (or rather borrowed) of the Métro!

Mind the Gap Beer Spillage Mat & Magnets

You've still got time to enter Mark's Paris Metro London Underground quiz and win a Mind the Gap beer spillage mat or a Mind the Gap fridge magnet. Mark's been pretty impressed with the answers so far and you even managed to spot another answer that he hadn't thought of.

Bonne Chance!

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 25, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Future of Books on the Tube

This Thursday
Billy Abbott, Chris Meade & myself will be leading a session at Amplified08 on The Future of the Book. I've spent a lot of this morning thinking about books and reading. Much of it's based on what I see on the London Underground. Only last week I was at an event where someone said "I've never seen anyone with an e-reader on the Tube and I use the Tube as barometer of what people read".

Heard any Good Books Lately

I have seen a person with e-reader - in fact it was a very early e-reader back in November 2005. But so far he's the only person that I'd seen on the Tube with one. But that doesn't mean to say people aren't consuming books electronically or on some other mobile or portable device.

Gadget Man - Interesting e-reader on the Tube

The ad in the first picture is for a current campaign on the Tube for audible.co.uk where you can download books and listen to them on your iPod. As far as I know, there could be a number of people listening to books rather than music on their mp3s. I downloaded Jamillah Knowles' great podcast on e-books from Radio 5's Pods & Blogs and listened to it the Tube.

Well I tried to listen to it, the ambient noise on the Tube & loud announcements aren't great for listening to spoken words (or perhaps I need a better set of headphones).

We're going to be leading a discussion on a number of areas including:
  • What's the future for the traditional paper book? Where do e-books fit in?
  • What's the future of the e-book? What are the pros and cons of their adoption over paper books?
  • What's the future of reading? How will the increase in the usage of mobile devices change the use of books (both paper and ‘e’)?
At the end of this, we want to come up with some suggestions and thoughts about what we as consumers and creators of books, stories, experiences & content do to stay current with the trends for books & reading.

Are we going to see a Tube of the future where people aren't reading physical books any more? Best selling author Phillip Pullman is currently wringing his hands as a school library will be made "surplus to requirements after Christmas" and will be replaced by a 'virtual learning environment'. He's calling this a 'byword for philistinism and ignorance'

Tate Book Bag on the Tube

Is it really that bad? I imagine the kids are still going to be reading books in some way - do they have to be on paper? Will we still see ads like the Xmas one on the carrier bag above featuring physical books, or will e-readers take over when we think of books in the future?

If you have any thoughts on this, I'd really love to hear them, so we can add to the discussion for Thursday. Do you prefer good old traditional paper books? Do you think there's a place for e-reading and audio books, particularly when you're travelling?

Update - Here's the follow up post after our Future of the Book session at Amplified with slides from the presentation.

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, November 23, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Snowy Tube

Sadly the snowy view from my study window on Sunday didn't last for too long and later in the morning it turned to heavy rain

Snowy view from my study window - November 23rd

Thanks to the BBC for using it on their website (picture 12) of snow around the UK

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, November 23, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 21, 2008

Father Christmas on the Tube

Spotted this rather rotund Santa on the London Underground yesterday, who appeared to have dragged several Xmas trees and a whole sack of Christmas Crackers into the carrriage with him.

Santa on the Tube

OK, it wasn't really on the Tube, but it's one of Selfridges fantastic window displays on Oxford Street.

However in a few weeks you'll be able to see some real Santas on the Tube, as it's time for the annual Santacon. On December 13th hundreds of Santas or Santae will descend upon London freaking out children everywhere.

I think they've actually been banned from entering the toy shop Hamley's as it's too traumatic for the kids and they tend to be a bit err... over jolly!!

Subway Santas from last year, including a bondaged Tube Santa were blogged here. Look out for more in a few weeks.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 21, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oyster card brand passes to TfL

Transport for London announced yesterday that they will be looking after the future management and development of the Oyster card system. In August,
TfL terminated their £100m annual contract with TransSys, the consortium who had the contract to maintain and develop Oyster cards. This was followed by a flurry on interest in what would happen to the brand and the system in general and whether Oyster payments could be made by mobile phone or smart cards.

Now there is a new arrangement with Cubic Transportation Systems Limited and EDS. Shashi Verma, TfL's Director of Fares and Ticketing said:

'This new deal will see Oyster in the pockets of Londoners for years to come and will save significant money that TfL will invest in improving transport in the capital. Transport for London is delighted that its successful partnership with Cubic and EDS will now continue for the next five years.

'The new contracts will deliver better value for money and improvements to Oyster for passengers across London.'

It could hardly deliver worse value for money and I certainly look forward to hearing what the improvements will be. Thanks to Phill Price for letting me know about this.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 20, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Station master Dog in Japan

Remember Tama the
station master cat on the Japanese railway who boosted their income by 1.1 billion yen? Well looks like the canny Japanese have thought that dogs should get on the act and they now have Maron, a Yorkshire terrier, who's the stationmaster of Okunakayama-Kougen Station on the Iwate Ginga Railway Line. As Japanprobe said: "he does seem to have the advantage of being able to wear a cooler uniform."

Maron Stationmaster Dog at Okunakayama-Kougen Station

Thanks to Jon Justice for giving me the heads up to this. If you want to see Maron on duty, which basically seems to involve him being petted & wandering up and down the station looking for places to wee, check out the video below

Maron Stationmaster Dog at Okunakayama-Kougen Station

Actually I think that the London Underground would have a better chance of efficiency if they were to have station master or station assistant dogs rather than cats. Cats are too contrary and wouldn't lift a ... err ... paw to do any work. Whereas, I reckon a dog would try to help out as much as he or she could. We've already established they are more likely to wear a uniform. It wouldn't take much to get Elvis in some London Underground stuff.

Elvis the Canine Tube Fashion Victim

They'd be good at eating any left over burgers or chicken or pizzas left behind. They'd be less likely to give you that bored disinterested look when you asked to top up your Oyster card. Most importantly they're more used to Tube travel than cats.

Benji on the Tube

Warriorgrrl's dog Benji is a regular commuting dog about town and I think he would make a fantastic station dog! He's quite switched on technically and has his own Twitter account.

If you had a cute little dog's face looking at you when you bought your tickets, you'd feel much happier on your journey. Perhaps dog owners could get discounts on Oyster cards if they got their dogs to do a few shifts in the station office. Just a thought!

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 20, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paris Metro Style Book Launch & Quiz

Mark Ovenden author of the fab
Metro Maps of the World has just published "Paris Métro Style - on maps and stations", the first detailed study of the look & feel of Paris's subway.

Paris Metro Style by Mark Ovenden

A couple of years ago, me and a number of bloggers went to see Mark & Maxwell Roberts talk about underground maps, logos, design & station architecture around the world. Mark's remained in contact with me over the years and has contributed some great maps and pictures to the blog - including the popular World Metro Map below:

World Metro Map by Mark Ovenden

Mark now lives in Paris, so I'm really looking forward to reading his new book, specially as I have a weekend in Paris at the beginning of December.

He told me that Paris Métro Style shows why Paris has more variations of its map in existence than any other urban transit system in the world. The book also answers questions us Londoners might be interested in such as:
  • When did the Métro finally adopt a London Underground Beck-like diagram?
  • Why are there still different types of map available – both diagrammatic and geographic?
  • Why didn't the Paris Métro introduce a unified font for all stations, signage and printed material until almost 50 years after London?
  • Where are the best examples of Art Nouveau station architecture and how much has been destroyed?
  • Which international designers were linked with the graphic evolution?
Mark said "In such a well-documented and highly photographed city as Paris I hope this book provides a fresh angle to see it from. I'd love it to help illuminate the 'city of light' from an unusual perspective (not just answering designers' questions) with style and stimulating images. I hope it will be a mine of information and a thing of beauty for the casual reader too".

Mark also knows that I've run a number of quizzes in the past and has posed some London Underground and Paris Métro questions for you to ponder over:
  1. Which is the only London Underground station to have an identical name as one on the Paris Métro?
  2. Where on the Paris Métro can the famous London Underground Johnston font regularly be seen?
  3. Which London underground station has the French word for "wood" in its name?
  4. Which Paris Métro station (just like "Bull and Bush" on the Northern Line) was only built at platform level and never opened to the public?
  5. What are the four stations on the Paris Métro and the London Underground (two in each city) with only four letters in their name.
  6. Name the (now closed) Paris Métro station which had the same name as a London Tube station which started its life as Gillespie Road?
  7. What's the only Paris Métro station named after a British monarch - also currently a terminal station of the DLR?
Because I'm feeling generous, I've dived into my bag of Tube goodies and have some prizes of Mind the Gap beer spillage mats (perfect for mopping up Stella Artois) and some Mind the Gap fridge magnets. There are four prizes & entering is simple - just answer one question (not the one the person ahead of you has answered).

Mind the Gap Beer Spillage Mat & Magnets

Four winners will be randomly selected by my cat Bolli. He did it for Nom Nom Nom so I'm sure can be bribed to do it again.

Leave your answer in the comments below by 11.59pm UK time on the 29th November. Remember to leave your email address or a blog or some way for me to contact you, otherwise I won't be able to send your prize if you win.

Thanks to Mark for devising the quiz questions and best of luck with the launch of the book. It sounds like it would make a great Christmas present for design students, map geeks and transport enthusiasts everywhere.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 19, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

London Bus and Railway Interiors Awards

Today the
UK Bus Awards will honour the commitment to quality and innovation in the bus industry. You'll be pleased to hear there's a special category for London promoted by TfL which "focus especially on the challenging task of running reliable and high-quality services in the capital." So there will be awards for Best London Bus Garage, London Bus Service Quality Award and Top London Bus Driver.

Freedom Pass EC1 by Malcolm Edwards

The last category will be a major challenge as I rarely meet a cheerful bus driver (one of my brothers is a London bus driver so I speak from experience) and they seem to take pleasure in charging past stops when you're running for a bus. Another skill is looking as though they're about wait for you as you're running & then pulling off sharply. It'll also be interesting to see if a bendy bus driver wins this category.

Earlier in November, I missed blogging about the Railway Interiors Innovation and Excellence Awards. These worldwide gongs were handed out to "recognise and reward the rapidly increasing sophistication of railcar interior design, equipment, technology and furnishings."

I don't think the London Underground is classed as a railway as the Tube weren't in the shortlist for any of these awards. Although the Tube's not exactly sophisticated or that innovative when it comes to interiors. It tends to take the lead from other countries.

Priority Seat Moquette

The Japanese were ahead when it came to priority seat markings on upholstery or moquette.

The new air conditioned Tube carriages with stretchy bits won't be in action until at least 2010 so they probably didn't qualify.

Single Seats, Tranverse Seats and Stretchy Bit by Bloo Phoenix

However, amongst all the overseas winners, there was one UK winner. Virgin Trains won Passenger Service Innovation of the Year for "overall passenger service excellence".

Had the judges travelled on a Virgin Train recently? I hadn't noticed anything particularly innovative about their "passenger service". Maybe apart from the fact they're calling us passengers now and not customers.

Ross Spicer, operations director Virgin Trains, collected the award and said, "Upping the standards of service is our goal, across all passenger classes. Investment in new trains is part of this, but there must also be investment in staff to improve the service. It's about the people, not just the trains."

Very noble and if you've any examples of Virgin Trains excellence (or otherwise) in passenger service, I've love to hear them.

Good luck to all in the UK Bus Awards today. But it's sad to report that UK's most famous bus driver, Reg Varney, died on Sunday 16th November. Varney played Stan Butler in the long running Seventies ITV sitcom "On The Buses".

when i get old? by *version-3-point-1

Transport for London gave a nod back to the cheerful seventies image of London Transport in their recent campaign for the Freedom Pass for senior citizens (see the picture above & at the start of this blog post).

On the Buses painted a picture of London bus drivers as a group of work shy, lecherous, sexist, union driven, cheeky chaps. However, it was a big part of my TV viewing as a kid and part of me hopes there'll be a re-run of the series or films.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tube Mirror, Tube Mirror on the wall

When Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty next fall out of the newly re-opened Hawley Arms, you might be pleased to hear that they can check out their pasty faces in a London Underground map mirror.

Tube Mirror in Hawley Arms taken by Andy

It's in the corridor downstairs on the way to the toilets of the Camden pub, the home of such stars as Ms Winehouse, Mr Doherty & Mr Borrell out of Razorlight.

Many thanks to Andy for braving the pub to take the picture & send it to me.

I almost bought this mirror on eBay once (SuckUK sold out of their stock a while back). But in the end thought that £60 was a bit much & also didn't want to have Old Street sticking out of my right eye all the time.

I settled on the much smaller & affordable pocket sized one, which I've actually never unboxed and will probably end up as someone's Xmas present.

London Underground map pocket mirror

Thinking about it, I bet some of the Hawley regulars can find a fair few other uses for this credit card sized mirror. So perhaps it should be in their back pockets too.

However, if you fancy getting a similar reflection to the wasted and famous in The Hawley Arms, you can buy the full sized mirror Tube map online at various places including iwantoneofthose.com.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 17, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tube Electrician Strike - Any Affect?

There's nothing on the RMT's website to indicate that the electrician's strike on London Underground has been called off. The
industrial action was due to begin at 19:59 last night, November 16 and end at 07:59 on Tuesday November 18th.

However, luckily for us, it's looking as though EDF Energy Powerlink's spokesman was right. He said: "In the event action is taken, arrangements are in place to ensure that the London Underground can continue to operate normally and that the safety of passengers and staff is maintained at all times."

Transport for London also said the strike would not affect services on London Underground and that it expected the network to run as normal. Although Bob Crow from the RMT union was far more optimistic in predicting doom and gloom and said the strike had "the potential to shut down large sections of the Tube network".

Your best bet is to check the Tube's website before travelling and listen out for any last minute station closures or disruption.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 17, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tube Bite inspired film making on BBC Three

Last week I published a post about
Bryony Matthewman who was bitten by a bloke on the Tube and it inspired her to create a zombie movie, written, auditioned & produced collaboratively through the internet. Somehow the BBC got in touch with me & I ended up sitting outside the ICA at the Tuttle Club on Friday interviewing her.

Golders Green Zombie by Andrew :-)
Photo by Andrew Mwai

Bryony gets tons of people asking her about the London Underground biting incident, and what happened to the man, whether she reported it, etc etc, but is fairly philosophical about it. I suppose it's something you'd want to wipe from your memory rather than dwell on. But luckily the experience made her wonder whether the guy could have been a zombie and if some of the weirdos we meet on the Tube are actually the living dead.

We spent a while chatting about the shenanigans & challenges involved in getting a bunch of people together through online forums, YouTube & blogs to actually write a zombie film. Despite the time & location differences & artistic strops, Bryony managed to stay relatively sane and pull it all together.

From BBC Three's Bryony Makes a Zombie Movie

She was pretty pleased with the video blogs on YouTube where people were reporting & filming cases of Happy Chomping (like Happy Slapping but with err.. zombies) & the video diaries of people wondering if their family were turning into zombies.

I asked if any of the film was shot on the Tube, as a lot of it is set in London (there's also footage from New York, South America & Germany). "We actually filmed some outside Tube stations", Bryony said. "We felt it would be too much of a headache to approach the London Underground as they have lots of restrictions on filming on the Tube itself, and we wanted to try to get something out quickly".

Zombie Commute by by Andrew :-)
Photo by Andrew
- from his World Zombie Day Set

"We do have some nice bits of footage from a Zombie Walk that took place in London in late October for World Zombie Day. Some people filmed their journey there and back on the London Underground & gave it a weird commonplace mood. As they were just filming on mobile phones this really added to making the film a lot more personal, which was one of the aims. We wanted to try to get people wondering what the hell was happening from all the YouTube video blogs"

The film World Wide Dead, still isn't completely finished yet (although had a mini premiere last week) but Bryony's determined to make it a success and I wish her well. TV producers, Hat Trick loved Bryony's idea and followed the project for the BBC. You can see the result "Bryony Makes a Zombie Movie" tonight on BBC Three at 11.45pm.

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, November 16, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tube Alert on Mobile phone for Misery Line

Occasionally a little error can inadvertently show a more accurate truth on the London Underground. Thanks to
Jon W for a picture of his TfL travel alert for the Northern Line this morning.

Tube alert - :S :S :S by Jon Juan

He said "Some weird formatting in the text alert has made a confused smiley :S - which I guess is unintentionally appropriate for the severe delay!"

It's almost worth signing up to the mobile alerts to see what other weird emoticons the Tube can come up with.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 14, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tube Sleeping in Jobs Bloodbath

The Evening Standard must pray for days when they can inflict dramatic doom & gloom on the London Underground. British Telecom cutting 10,000 jobs over the next year is bad, but is it really a "bloodbath"?

Evening Standard Bloodbath Headline

Lucky that some people can still sleep through such murderous times. Just a short while after seeing the gory headline, and changing lines, I saw a guy flat out on the Tube.

Tube Sleeper

At least he had the sense to use his evening paper as a seat protector rather than actually read it.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 13, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Pants in St Pancras

New York started
No Pants Subway Day, but today at St Pancras station we'll have Pants Day or a Pant Flash. Hundreds of people will brave the weather to make the largest gathering of people wearing underpants. It kicks off at 9.30am this morning (Thursday 13th November) at The Betjeman Arms, a pub inside the new St Pancras International railway station, on the Upper Concourse.

Animals on the Underground Mens' Trunks Animals on the Underground Hipster knickers

You get a free pairs of kecks (sadly not the Animals on the London Underground underpants above) if you join in and a shot of whisky to keep you warm.

I'd be surprised if people travel on the Tube in their underpants as it is a bit nippy today.

no pants commute by sgoralnick

Full details of how to take part, plus the inevitable photo shoot at 10.30am are on the Pants to Poverty blog.

Perhaps this does mean we'll be getting closer to the first No Pants Tube Ride next year. It's just unfortunate that pants in the US and pants in the UK have different meanings as a No Pants Tube Ride would either lead to some serious chafing with people going commando. Or some arrests for indecency - if you really wanted to display yourself properly.

UPDATE - It's official the Pants people are record breakers - see the video on CNN!

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 13, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tourism Minister apologises for London Transport Delays

Whenever people discover that I blog about the Tube, it gives them the opportunity to tell me their London Underground woes. On Monday night, while I was at
bloggers rum cocktail tasting, one of the guys from Elements 8 said "Oh my God, the Olympics is going to be embarrassing. How are we going to cope? Wouldn't the money be better spent elsewhere? Have you blogged about that?"

Scramble to get on bus - Olympic Handover -  BBC Screengrab

Obviously I had blogged about 2012 & london transport (a number of times) and although it's still several years away, I currently have no more confidence in the system making us proud. Particularly with the recent mess at this week's World Travel Market. Yesterday, Tourism Minister Barbara Follett, issued an apology after problems with the DLR and heavy congestion on the buses delayed the arrival of 50,000 people attending the largest travel and tourism trade show in the world. This is being held at ExCel in East London which is an Olympics venue.

Follett said "I apologise on behalf of the Government for the difficult journey that you have had for the two days reaching here. The weather and transport system can be variable in this country."

The weather is variable in many other countries and their transport system doesn't have major delays whenever there's some heavy rain. It's not as rain is something unusual in the UK.

John Probyn, the festival director at Live Nation, the country's biggest events promoter, told The Times that London's transport system had an awful international reputation and felt it was getting worse. "For a major city, it's so frustrating in London sometimes. London Underground do try really hard but they are not allowed to get creative with their scheduling [for improvement works]. It's not good enough. You go to New York or Singapore and you can go anywhere you want, any time of the day."

I think that's going to surprise most visitors to London in 2012, the fact that the Tube doesn't run 24 hours or at least for much after 12.30am. When I was in New York recently, I saw loads of engineering and repair work being carried out late at night, and the subway ran perfectly well while this was going on.

Night Time Contractors on New York Subway

Maybe I'll be proved wrong and the London Underground will run like clockwork in the summer of 2012. There'll be no threat of Tube strikes, it won't be hot, stuffy and overcrowded, we won't have cartoon giant fans as air conditioning and everyone will get to the games on time. But then again pigs might fly.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 12, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tube Strikes planned for November 16th

Just when you thought we hadn't had any threats of industrial action on the London Underground for a while, RMT have announced two 36 hour strikes.

After a 21 to two majority, 25 RMT "shift testers" responsible for fault-finding and maintaining the electrical supply to the Tube will not book for turns. That's "unless there is a direct and imminent danger to human life." If it's danger to pigeon or rat life, I guess they'll stay on strike.

Tube Strike

On the RMT site union leader Bob Crow said "Shift testers at EDF Energy Powerlink are seeking nothing more than parity with their day-work colleagues, who some time ago received a £3,000 rise in exchange for flexibility in signing on and off. Shift testers have also displayed flexibility and have seen their work-life balance turned upside down by the change from 10-hour days and 14-hour nights to a 12-hour shift system."

If the pay agreement is not reached, this strike by 25 staff, has the potential to shut down large sections of the London Underground. The workers are planning to stop working from midnight on Sunday November 16th 2008 for 36 hours and again from Sunday December 7th.

Watch this space and the news for further updates.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 12, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Valuing the past - Vintage Railway Posters

On Saturday I visited the Antiquarian Book Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall. Mainly to marvel at the old books on display, and also to see if I had any unexpected hidden gems on my own bookshelves. Turns out that some of the first editions I bought for ten quid are now worth about £50, but I was amazed at the value put on some posters & maps:

Vintage Travel Posters Catalogue from Chelsea Book Fair

Sadly we couldn't take photos inside but there was an absolutely beautiful map of the District Line from 1898. It had hard covers & was printed on that hard wearing old map paper (the name of which completely escapes me) - that the very old Ordnance Survey maps were printed on. I was pretty scared to unfold it. It was being sold for £175 which you might think quite expensive for a London Underground map.

However, just round the corner I saw a signed first edition of District and Circle a collection of poems by Seamus Heaney which was first published in 2006. The title poem is about a journey on the District and Circle Lines. This was valued at £300. I think this is a huge amount of money in comparison. Clearly I would be rubbish at valuation.

Do you think you'd be any better? I took some pictures of some old British railway posters from the Vintage Travel Posters catalogue pictured above. As a guide, the lovely poster for National Railways of Mexico below is from 1950 and is £550.

Handy Mexico - National Railways Poster

The posters below are from 1922 to 1960 and promote the delights of travelling by rail to Southend; Greatstone by the world's smallest public railway (which I visited a few years ago); an exotic looking Cleethorpes; Portcawl (which has everything including mermaids) and Sunny Rhyl, where donkey hugging means a healthy happy holiday.

Railway posters - Southsea -  1953; Porthcawl has Everything! - 1960

Railway Posters - Greatstone - 1930, Southend - 1922, Sunny Rhyl - 1959

Cleethorpes - British Railway Poster - 1955

See if you can guess the price of some the posters. No prizes, but just the satisfaction of knowing whether you'd be able to give the Antiques Roadshow guys a run for their money.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 11, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE