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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
If you like this you'll LURVE One Stop Short of Barking, the fun and informative book about travelling
on the London Underground.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Has the London Underground Map lost its way? - revisited

Guardian pondered what Harry Beck would do with the Tube Map today in the light of the expansion of the Oyster card & a new map to illustrate this.

"What would Beck himself have done? A man of vision as well as courage – and a pragmatist if ever there were one – he might well have recommended something drastic, even iconoclastic: tearing up his own Underground map, and suggesting that we begin again from first principles. No doubt this would be an occasion as emotionally charged as the introduction of decimal currency was nearly 40 years ago, but it might be the only rational thing to do." Thanks to richjm for the heads up.

2012 London Olympics - Alternative TFL London Underground Tube Map Design Proposal

A few years ago, I went to a talk that London Underground map expert Maxwell Roberts. He had similar thoughts. I wrote:

Max believes we've now got to the state with the map trying so desperately to please everyone (wheelchair access, station closures, partial station closures, zones, future extensions), that it has become a bit of mess. The network has grown so much that even Harry (or rather Henry) Beck would have tearing out his hair.

Now more than ever we can see the tension between the map's need to be legible, usable, attractive and simple and its counter need to convey information. The addition of Cross Rail and the Olympic Line will only make matters worse. Take a look at TfL's own projection of what the Tube Map could look like in 2016
(with Boris's arrival this projection no longer exists) and you'd need a pretty big diary map to cope with that.

Curvy Tube Map 2 by Maxwell Roberts

What's the solution? If designers went back to the drawing board would they go curvy as Max Roberts recommends?

Max said "So, does this map 'work'? With extra railways on it, the simplicity of Version 1 (his earlier version) has been diluted, and the map needs a bit more mental effort to make sense of it (as for any complex map). I think I have shown that there may well be some mileage in designing maps in this way, but die-hard Beck fans will not be convinced. On the other hand, it's hard to know just how bad the design of the current official map has to get before they would be."

Detail of Curvy Tube Map 2 by Maxwell Roberts

Will the design team board™ have their way with a proposed 2012 Tube map based on Olympic rings (see first image) - they say "recent usability feedback has been very positive." Would going geographical help or hinder? Has the map got so bad it needs a total re-design?

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 27, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Extreme Tube Sleeping

The London Underground seems to be one of the better places to sleep in the winter if the following pictures are anything to go by.

Whatleydude snapped this guy going through Maida Vale sound asleep:

Rest Easy lad by Whatleydude

He said "What's that? No feet on seats? What about legs? They're ok, right?"

Melanie Seasons saw a pretty dishevelled man on the Victoria Line and said "I've seen people fall asleep on the Tube before, but never face down into their Metro. I don't think the poor guy even got through the second page."

Falling asleep in Metro by Melanie Seasons

Didn't realise that Metro was that boring!

If you manage to spot any other heavy Tube sleepers on your journey, you should have plenty of time to take a picture. Let me know if you do and I'll add them to this post.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 26, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is Tube investment being cut back?

We've started, so we won't finish, should be the catchphrase at Newbury Park. Although the London Underground fare increases are supposed to "
sustain vital investment", Matthew V found the opposite at his local station.

Newbury Park Tube station by Ewan

He said: "For the last few months at least Newbury Park has had major construction work to install lifts. Signs went up last week that they are halting the work due to lack of funding, and yesterday there were severe delays for a while due to 'obstruction on the tracks'.

Newbury Park Station sign taken by Matthew V

"From the looks of things it might have been to remove some of the tools etc, but the platforms still have massive blue hoardings limiting the space available – which was bad this morning as the station, which is a major hub for the Essex and areas East of London (it's got about 500 car parking spaces), was closed for a while. I'm a little annoyed at this since having lifts would really make the station fit as a transport hub, and would mean I didn't have to keep offering to help women up stairs with buggies (there are no escalators).

Is this just a sign of the recession? Money being diverted to pay increases for drivers? Given the price hikes I've got a feeling it can't be due to general lack of money!

Has anyone else seen any instances of this? I know that improvements at certain stations seem to take longer than planned to complete. But it seems unusual to say that work is going to be stopped because of lack of funding just before we're about to have a fare increase. Not the greatest timing.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

If you can't film on the Tube....

Build your own version. This is lovely animation for Coldplay song Strawberry Swing by
Matt Clark

Thanks to richjm for the heads up for this.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should the Circle Line be renamed?

Not that the Circle Line ever looked like a circle, but from December 13th it's going to look even less like a Circle. The extension to Hammersmith will mean that a "tail" will be added to the line. An article in
yesterday's Times is already calling it a tadpole. Are they right? Is there a better name for it? Why wasn't the Circle Line ever called the "Bottle Line", which is far more what it currently looks like?

London Underground poster by Bowroaduk

Spiral, corkscrew and tea-cup have been some of the offerings on Twitter, when we were discussing a few weeks ago.

New 'circle' line

Any more suggestions welcome in the comments below. This is just for fun, as TfL have already said that the line won't be re-named. I'm not sure if they've ever renamed an entire Tube line since the London Underground existed!

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 24, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bob Crow appearing on Have I Got News for You

RMT Leader Crow will be the first trade union official to ever appear on the comdedy quiz show "Have I Got News for You".

He'll be on this Friday and apparently is a long time fan. He said to the
Evening Standard "I'm looking forward to an evening of sparring with Ian Hislop, Paul Merton and the rest of the panel. I've sat across the table from some sharp operators in my time, but I know that the Have I Got News For You crew will pose a different challenge altogether."

RMT Leader Bob Crow - not looking like a barrel of laughs

Luckily there's still just under a month to go before the ballot for the pre-Xmas Tube strike takes place. So that won't be part of this week's news.

It'll be interesting to see how funny Crow is, and how well he'll react to being poked fun at. It's hard to imagine he'll get an easy time from the other panellists.

Ianvisits will be in the audience when the show is recorded on Thursday, so he might be able to give us a heads up on how it all goes. The show will be broadcast on Friday BBC1 at 9pm & repeated on iPlayer if you're in the UK.

Bob Crow & HIGNFY panel by Jimmy Carr

Update - Here's Ianvisits's post on how he thought Bob Crow came across. Photo above is from Jimmy Carr who was one of the panellists.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 23, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can the Tube save energy?

Travelling through London Bridge London Underground station last night I saw the following poster at the top of the escalators

Escalator Energy Saving

You've probably seen some of them around too. Escalators are switched off at quieter times of the day to save energy & "help lower the temperature" (not that the temperature needed much lowering in November).

I wonder how many stations this actually happens at? There must be some high traffic stations like Tottenham Court Road, Holborn and Angel which have pretty long escalators. But I'm sure the escalators there are never turned off.

Also why do some Tube stations which are open air and have large glass ticket halls have all of their lights on, all of the time? The Guardian questioned TfL about the lights at Stratford Tube in the summertime & although there was a standard "we're reviewing this" comment, there's no update as to whether anything was done.

Lights behind advertising hoardings on platforms and in corridors also seem to be constantly on & there's no mention of them being turned off at quieter times during the day. This is particularly annoying if there's no ads in them!

Do you have any other suggestions as to how the London Underground could save energy? Have you seen any other energy saving initiatives on networks outside of London?

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 20, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Weirdest things left on Tube Poll

Thanks to
The Huffington Post & The Times who'd picked up on a post I wrote a number of years back on some of the weirder things left on the London Underground. It's in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Lost Property Office

Strange thing left on London's public transport

Not exactly sure what the thing above it - but thanks to Lost Property Office for sending it!

The Huffington Post have made a poll out of the top items. They said: "Little explanation is given to how or why these things might have been left on public transportation. The mind boggles. Let us know what you think is the weirdest, any ideas as to why it might have been left there, and things you have left/seen left behind on public transport."

So far the skull is coming out on top as being the weirdest thing. Feel free to disagree!

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 20, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Transformed by the Tube - Oliver Green Talk

Last night I attended a fascinating talk at the London Transport Museum on how the London Underground transformed and in some senses actually created suburban towns between the 1st and 2nd World War. It's always good to see a
full lecture room, and even better when the room is filled with people of all ages and a roughly equal mix of men & women.

Live in Edgware posters

Oliver Green began with a quote from George Orwell on the "huge peaceful wilderness of outer London" and how few people actually admit to living in the suburbs. Much of the theme of the night was really how the suburbs aren't actually suburbs when they get a Tube station, as they change into this place that's neither town or countryside. There's a difficulty of marketing a place as the peaceful place to live, when at the same time you want to say it's really easy to get to the City. However, much of Transport for London's advertising tried to do that.

Golders Green posters

The poster of Golders Green, which was the first Tube suburb was a good illustration of this. You had the father still in his work clothes having time to tend his idyllic garden just after work & enjoy time with his wife & baby. Yet the London Underground can be seen in the background.

Golders Green was an example of how the area changed within about five years of the station being built. A shopping centre, theatre & cinema also helped the transformation.

Ickenham's station didn't transform the town

This was a good contrast to Ickenham, which hardly became a thriving suburb. I used to pass through Ickenham each day when I went to Brunel University & travelled into town on a work placement and even in the eighties, I hardly saw anyone get on or off the station.

Tube means housing

Green showed a beautiful poster from the 1920's which again tried to show how once a Tube station existed, housing and a town soon followed. No words were needed to put across this message.

Yet there was still this problem of keeping an idyllic suburban image. Once your town's built up it's not "the country" any more. People building houses often gave them a mock Tudor facade, with fake wooden beams. However, the stations were all modern.

The success of Morden

It was interesting that when stations like Morden were built, there were cheaper "workman" tickets before 8am. So people used to queue from the early morning & then hung around in central London before work. Green said that the picture above showed the really long orderly queue (top right) and that Morden was victim of its own success. "It had the beginnings of the Misery Line, even before that term was used", he said.

Here's a picture of the wooded area of Arnos Grove before the Tube came along, with a rather basic sign showing the area was reserved for the Underground.

Arnos Grove reserved for the Tube

These early stations along the Piccadilly Line built by Charles Holden were based on a library design from Stockholm. Holden called them "Brick boxes with concrete lids", but now they stand out for their art deco design and are all listed buildings.

Southgate Tube like a spaceship

I loved the image of Southgate Tube station at night. It really looked like a spaceship illuminated in the darkness.

Arnos Grove advertising

Again Green showed some Tube advertising at the time. Transport for London's principle was that a timetable wasn't needed and only the frequency of the trains was shown.

Two ways of advertising Piccadilly Line Extension

The problem of not knowing what image to portray to travellers was highlighted by the posters above. Transport for London used one of their best artists, Edward McKnight Kauffer, to produce a very modern (at the time) poster which just advertised the extension of the Piccadilly Line. Yet the poster on the left was less striking and more factual. "It's as if they weren't sure what customers would respond to best, so they tried everything", said Green.

King's Cross station with show home in the foreground

An area outside of King's Cross station was known as the "African Village", due to the chaotic mixture. But amongst that chaos, a show house was built (see the house in the front to the left), so you could compare this to the calm place you could live if you moved to the suburbs.

Green also showed the first printed example of Beck's Tube map. The map has always had the river on, just as marker rather than having any geographical relation to how the river runs through London.

Becks first printed Tube map

He advised us to pick up copies of the current riverless Tube map. "They'll be collectors items. The mayor's guaranteed that the river will be back on the next ones, so this current ones will be worth something", he laughed.

Green ended his talk with a look at Queensbury station. The name of the station came as the result of a competition where the public could win a few bob for naming it. The name of the station then became the name of the town that grew up around it. It was a great way to show how an area owed its whole development to the Tube.

Queensbury named after the Tube station

Hopefully some other people will write about Green's talk as I've not covered everything we learnt in the hour. All of the pictures I took on the night are in this Flickr set - Transformed by Tube.

Thanks to Oliver Green and London Transport Museum for putting this talk on and I'm looking forward to the next in the Suburbia series which will be on Betjeman & Metroland on January 19th 2010.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winners of Blurb Tube Photo Competition

It was a tough decision but
Blurb & their agents chose five winning entries who will get voucher worth £30 to make their own book. Thanks to everyone who entered the competition. London Transport Museum also liked a number of the entries and may well be in touch about getting permission for some to be used in an upcoming exhibit.

But for now, congratulations to the five winners:

Westminster by threadweavle

Westminster by Threadweavle

Tube Roundel by ianvisits

Tube Roundel by ianvisits

jubilee jam by chutney bannister

Jubilee Jam by Chutney Bannister

Under the watchful eye

Under the watchful eye by routemaster_fan

Westminster by threadweavle

London Underground 002 by brenz1989

Blurb's agent will be in touch by email with the winners & if you manage to create your book before the end of the month, you'll get be able to take advantage of a 20% discount & free postage meaning you get even more with your £30 prize.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 17, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, November 16, 2009

London Undercover Moquette Umbrella

Today was the perfect wet day to try out my
London Undercover umbrella. I looked like a comedy commuter when I left my house though as I opened it ridiculously quickly & turned it inside out in the wind. This was great for exposing the moquette design to everyone down my street, but not so great for keeping me dry. Luckily, the umbrella is made of really sturdy stuff and I was able to turn it back the correct direction & make it to the station in an unsoggy state.

London Undercover Umbrella

The "Commuter" umbrella has a double layer of pinstripe design and 1970's London Underground District Line, Circle Line Tube and Bus seat moquette design. It's a collaboration between fashion brand London Undercover & Transport for London (just in case anyone thought TfL were about to sue them for using the design.

London Undercover Umbrella 2

London Undercover said: "The perfect canvas for expression, the design aims to encourage people to enjoy and take pride in what is, an indispensable, quintessentially British accessory. In keeping with the British ecological ideology, the umbrella is made using recycled materials."

There's some lovely detail in the handle and on the press stud on the little tag that you wrap the umbrella back with when closed.

At £60 it's not the cheapest umbrella in the world, but if you spend that much on it, you're less likely to leave it on the Tube. It would also make a pretty good Xmas present for the commuter that has everything!

; Posted by annie mole Monday, November 16, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, November 13, 2009

US Interstates as London Underground Map

I love how things can look better if they're re-drawn as a Tube Map.
Senex Prime set out to simplify America's Interstate system & thought London's Tube map was the best way to present a lot of information very concisely and clearly.

Eisenhower Interstate System in the style of H.C. Beck's London Underground Diagram by Senex Prime

He said "Drawing my cues from the original and best metro diagram, H.C. Beck's wonderful London Underground diagram, I have rendered the Interstate system in a much simpler form. I have made the "major" highways (those divisible by 5) the framework of the map, with the "minor" highways reduced in importance and rendered as thinner grey lines..... A full key at the bottom indicates clearly where each highway begins and ends."

Thanks to richjm & Carole who both gave me the heads up to this! Tube map aficionados may say it's not exactly in the Beck's style, but Prime says he welcomes comment on the style and any errors or omissions!

World Metro Map by Mark Ovenden

It also reminds me of Mark Ovenden's World Metro Map, a "playful diagram" showing "all the cities which have, are building or are planning to construct an urban rail system."

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 13, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Transformed by the Tube

Oliver Green, London Underground expert, author & London Transport Museum research fellow will be holding a one hour talk at the museum on 17th November 2009 as part of the museum's "Suburbia" season.

Southgate Tube by OliverN5

"Modernity in Morden, home comforts in Hendon and a spaceship in Southgate. How the Underground brought semi-detached civilisation to London’s new inter-war suburbs. In the 15 years between 1924 and 1939 London's suburbs grew at a rapid pace. Oliver will examine how the arrival of the Tube in open countryside just outside London led to the creation of completely new suburban communities, and how the Underground extensions introduced new architectural styles."

The talk takes place in the Museum's Cubic Theatre and starts at 18.30. Adults £8.00; senior citizens £6.00; students £4.00. More details ans for online & telephone booking details, check out the Museum's website.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, November 13, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Computerised voices on the Tube

Are the London Underground introducing more computerised announcements? We're used to hearing people reading out the vast amount of weekend engineering works. Some of them are getting so long now, that I wonder whether someone thought it would be good to have a computer doing these instead?

Tube Announcer

Paul Mison heard a very artificial sounding announcement at King's Cross which does sound as though stations were inserted at the last minute.

He said "They use a weirdly artificial sounding voice; if you've ever played Portal it's slightly too much like Glados for comfort.

Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if they do the same this weekend. Tourists seemed a little confused but I think they got the hang of it in the end.

Has anyone else heard any more computerised voices on the Tube?

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 12, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Coca Cola sponsors Tube buskers

Buskers on the London Underground have found a new sponsor in the run up to Christmas. Initially it was reported by
Marketing Magazine that the buskers would be singing the Coca Cola jingle "Holidays are Coming" alongside their songs but I've since heard from both TfL and Coca Cola's trade PR agency that this isn't the case - which I'm actually quite glad about.

Coke bottles on the Tube

However there will be ad boarding with Coca Cola branding around the buskers. I wonder whether this will open up the doors for other brands to get buskers to play their jingles. Coke is one of the world's biggest brands and by endorsing London's buskers, it's put the underground performers into the mainstream. Previously a record label paid buskers to sing songs on the Tube from films to help push sales. The Coca Cola campaign will start from 30th November.

First busking Santa of Xmas

Are there any advertisers whose jingles you wouldn't mind hearing on the Tube? Or should the sponsorship of buskers be left purely to some ads around them?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Subway stops inches from drunk woman on tracks

It's coming up to the time of year where you'll see a number of posters on the Tube, warning people about being careful when drunk. Although the video below (thanks to
Richjm for finding it) wasn't on the London Underground, it would be an amazing ad to get people to watch their step.

Fortunately all the people on the platform in Boston had the sense to madly wave at the train as it was coming into the station. That coupled with the quick reflexes of the driver, saved this drunk woman from a horrible accident.

The female train driver said "I saw the people, the people were waving. That's normal after a game. The people were waving, but they were waving a little bit too much and they were really, really close to the yellow line, which they are not supposed to be. So that's obviously telling me 'slow your train down, slow your train down'.

"Then as I'm approaching, the lady pops her head up, and I'm like 'Oh my God, someone's in the pit'. So I just threw it in emergency, exactly what I'm supposed to do. And it stopped just in time not to hurt her
." More information on what happened over on Channel 4 News's site.

Be careful after drinking by bixentro

I wonder if it would be too scary for the London Underground to show videos like this on the network? I suppose their rather sanitised images of shaky stick figures or shaky words do the job. Then again if you were as drunk as this woman & standing on the edge of a platform, nothing's likely to stop you from falling onto the track.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Saturday, November 07, 2009

West Ham Whoopie - Love on the Tube

Passengers waiting for a train at West Ham London Underground station on Thursday heard some sounds that had little to do with "Mind the Gap". Somehow the noises of a couple having sex got broadcast through the tannoy system & onto the platform.

Loudspeaker & CCTV by Tom Pagent

TfL are looking into this as apparently it had nothing to do with any members of staff, who fancied a quick break from normal announcements.

"It was definitely a couple doing it there and then," Laura O'Connor told the Evening Standard. "As the doors opened, I could hear these strange noises coming over the loudspeaker. It dawned on me what it was and I couldn't stop laughing. He was grunting loudly and she sounded like she was having a great time. The driver must have heard it, too, as the doors stayed open longer than usual."

A spokesperson for TfL said "The noises heard by passengers were not from within our station. We believe they were a result of some sort of interference with our public address system,"

John W who gave me the heads up (& title) on this story said:

"This reminds me of when (I think) Mark Thomas or some journo programem years ago managed to broadcast messages on a European train journey without hacking into the system or breaking any wires and managed to broadcast his disgust of the price or journey time or some political thing.

So it makes me wonder: How secure are these systems that are now being rolled out across the network under the hoardings of "We are improving your station" Answers on a postcard please!!!!!

; Posted by annie mole Saturday, November 07, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tube Photo Competition - Win a Blurb Book

If you had to illustrate a book about the London Underground what photo would you use? Have you taken a photo that really shouts out Tube or the experience of travelling on it? The lovely people at Blurb want to see your Tube photos and are offering five lucky winners the chance to make their own
Blurb book.

Eeyore on the Escalator

All you have to do is email me a photo or leave a link to it in the comments below. Blurb & their agency will pick their five favourites. It could be of a crowded commute, a pet or animal seen on the Tube, a great shot of your favourite station or some detail that really caught your eye. Each of Blurb's favourites will win a £30 voucher to make a Blurb book. Throughout November they're also offering 20% off & free delivery too so your voucher can go even further. A personalised book would make a great Xmas gift for someone (if you win for Xmas make sure you order by 1st Dec - Economy, 10th Dec - Priority & 14th Dec - Express - full Xmas shipping info here)

You've got until 23.59pm UK time on Friday 13th November to enter. Maximum of two entries/photos per person.

Good luck with the competition and I'll upload this post to feature some of the entries as they come through.


Light at the end of by Adam S /gingerblokey Mind the Gap look a like by Aref Adib

Palace of Westminster & Underground by damo Snow in London by Aref Adib

Lazy tube rider by Heather I am a regular London commuter by Bully

Tube Roundel by IanVisits Mind the Gap by Chris Season

Old and new at Clapham North - 1 by IanVisits Tube Train by Chris Searson

jubilee jam by chutney bannister baby messiah by chutney bannister

Taken by Adam Smith Gants Hill platform concourse by Fimb

Latimer Road Tube Station with Trellick Tower New Year's Fears  by *version-3-point-1

and we'll hope by *version-3-point-1 It's whispering by chichard41

London Transport Museum London Underground 002 by brenz1989

London Underground 001 by brenz1989 London Transport Museum Depot by CdL Creative

No matter how by chichard41 by chichard41 Down t' pit by routemaster_fan

Under the watchful eye by routemaster_fan Tufnell Park at dusk by BDB3003

Westminster by Threadweavle Barry on the Tube by Paul Oliver

A Trip Underground by blech

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, November 05, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE