Regular readers who use Cannon Street station will be aware of the massive changes that have been taking place over the past few years. What was left if the original station frontage was replaced as a result of a bland property development in the 1960’s by corrupt architect John Poulson. This too has now been superseded with a striking new building.

As part of the redevelopment the entrance to Cannon Street underground station has been replaced. The modern design exemplifies the current thinking when it comes to underground station design. The only notable exception is that disabled access is provided for the westbound platform only. To have provided this for the eastbound platform as well would have been technically challenging and expensive and was probably beyond what could be reasonably demanded from the new property development in way of a section 106 contribution.

With the project nearly complete now seems to be good time to look at the new features and compare the situation today with old photos of what stood there before which are available on Wikipedia.

The 1960’s underground entrance. This was part of an era where the car was seen to be the future and underground use was declining. Even so it is difficult to believe that even then the minimal entrance provided would have been considered sufficient for usage it would get.

It is difficult to imagine a more awful design. The steep steps go immediately down. To go down the steps you have to step over an initial concrete step which is a trip hazard. The route from the station involves a sharp 180° turn and even negotiating getting past a newpaper vendor!

In the event of station closure potential passengers will be blocking the narrow pavement if not the road as well and unbelieveably someone thought it would be a good idea to put a pedestrian crossing here so that people waiting to cross would block this station exit. Do not be fooled by the lack of people. This picture was almost certainly not taken during the peak periods.

A building widely regarded as of no architectural merit whatsoever.

The 1960’s was also an era where the needs of pedestrians were ignored despite the vast numbers of them pouring out of the station in the morning rush hour. Cannon Street station had and continues to have the largest percentage of users (80%) of any London mainline station who continue their journey on foot. Clearly no significant effort was made to accommodate their needs in those days.

Note that for good measure a bus stop, which probably attracts queues in peak hours, is located right by the bottom of the steep narrow stairs from the main-line station.

We now look at the vast improvements that the latest redevelopment has brought. There are many lessons learnt but probably the most valuable is don’t put an underground entrance on the main street if you can avoid it. This is a something that Crossrail grasped before the designs for Tottenham Court Road station (west) were finalised. This will now have its entrance in Dean Street rather than in Oxford Street.

Once the decision to locate the entrance on a side street is made a lot of other desirable features become possible and we can see many of the advantages at Cannon Street.

The entrance has now been moved around the corner to Dowgate Hill. Note that the main-line station now has wide welcoming steps. The pavement outside the main-line station is now much wider. Whilst the metal City of London bollards are probably primarily there to help prevent vehicle-based terrorist attacks they also serve a useful second purpose in preventing delivery vehicles blocking space set aside for pedestrians. Because the main entrance is now on a quiet side street it become possible to provide a large pedestrian area in front of the station. In the event of an emergency evacuation there is space for people to safely congregate without blocking access for emergency vehicles on the main road. One downside of locating the entrance off the main road is that it is not so prominent so needs to be clearly identifiable. A number of large underground totems placed high up to be easily visible from a distance solves that problem.

The entrance is now much wider, more welcoming and it admits natural light. It is unlikely that space would have been available for such a wide entrance on Cannon Street itself. The only downside with this wide entrance would appear to be that there is no step free access …

.. but then you realise that the previous picture did not show the full width of the frontage. And to the right is the step free access (not yet in use). This entrance also has stairs leading directly to the concourse of the main-line station.

Inside the entrance is much brighter and less claustrophobic than before.

We include the obligatory picture of a lift. When commissioned this will take passengers to the main-line concourse. There is also another lift, quite well hidden, which is inside the paid area and goes from the underground concourse to the westbound platform.

When open this entrance on the main-line concourse will lead to stairs down to the underground. The upper level of the lift will also be here.

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There are 82 comments on this article
  1. Fandroid says:

    It’s amazing now to think of how people not in their own vehicle were ignored in the great heyday of the car. They seem to have dreamt of a world where car drivers could park right inside their own workplaces, somehow avoiding that dreadful hassle of having to walk twixt car and destination! Mind you, I could point to plenty of places where relatively recent street layouts seem to have been designed by people born with four wheels and no legs. The (well-justified) security measures that the City had to impose have actually had a positive spin-off in allowing the planners to realise that its streets are not just conduits for motor vehicles.

  2. Greg Tingey says:

    All very well & good, but the rebuild of Cannon St main ( the ex-SER lines “up top”) has been a disaster …
    Empty, echoing & appallingly draughty.
    Just beyond (South) of the barrier-lines, the sides of the building don’t exist, so there is a large hole running E-W through the station, so that with even a slight breeze, there is a very chilling effect on anyone waiting or working on siad concourse, like station staff. The rest of the station has solid walls, so that any wind is funnelled very effectively through this gap!

    This is not as bad as the environmental disaster outside London Bridge, of course.
    I wonder how long it will be before very expensive mitigation works have to be undertaken, because of the “Shard” and it’s minature twin, the latter still under construction.
    Standing on Pf 4 @ LB, I have noted clouds moving from the SW, with a strong NE breeze @ platform level – that’s right – a big eddy around the spire!
    The new construction will make a perfect venturi funnel right in to the new bus station.
    How long before, in a strong SW gale, people are blown off their feet, & bus shelters damaged or broken?

    Thinking along these lines, I do trust the sides of the new x-river Blackfriars are going to be closed to wind/gales/rain? Otherwise the shiny new station will become a really good spreader of pneumonia …….

  3. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Given that pneumonia is primarily an infectious disease I would have thought an open air station with gales howling through it would be an excellent prevention measure against pneumonia. An enclosed space with crowds of people would spread it much better.

  4. Anonymous says:

    2nd paragrpah – Section 106 contribution, instead of 105?

    Informative as always!

  5. StephenC says:

    I do think the new underground station is better and this article sums it up nicely. However, the first time I wanted to use it I couldn’t find the new entrance. It was only exiting that I found out where it was.

    Looking at the pictures, I think there needs to be some eye level roundels added around the corner with an “Entrance ” wording – the roundels high up get you close but don’t locate the actual entrance. It may sound stupid, but first time I went into the main line concourse and couldn’t find the entrance. I gave up and walked to Monument instead.

  6. @Anonymous: Thanks. Now corrected. No wonder I couldn’t find any references when searching for “section 105”.

    @StephenC: I am sure this must be a known problem to psychologists. Sometimes things are unexpectedly so big you don’t notice them. I suspect when you went to the main line concourse the new entrance was not visible then. It ought to be easy to find now and when open one hopes it will be clearly signed. Also one hopes that the local street signs will be updated to direct people to the entrance.

  7. Fandroid says:


    You have hit on a problem that seems to be endemic with new signage on main-line stations. I once whinged at Heathrow Express because they didn’t sign the route to the Hammersmith & City line from their platforms at Paddington. Later on I realised that it’s the fault of Network Rail. In their efforts to standardise their information signs they have adopted minuscule fonts. The result is that accompanying logos such as the world-renowned LT roundel are also tiny and just not visible unless you scan the whole list of things the sign gives directions to. The immediately recognisable LT roundel is the thing we are used to looking for. Its function is the same as it was back in 1933 (or earlier!): to provide a simple guide that cuts out the need to read things! Network Rail in its desire to have a ‘house-style’ has completely wrecked something that has functioned well for a very long time.

  8. Fandroid says:

    Greg highlights a problem that’s been around a long time (and ought to be included in every environmental assessment now). Back in the 1970s I remember the Whitgift Centre in Croydon being highlighted in the technical press for the way a tall building combined with covered but open passageways into a courtyard created a wind-tunnel effect. That blew doors off hinges and blasted flying debris at potential shoppers! I have seen trees uprooted and copper roofing stripped off an art-nouveau building due to nearby office-block slabs placed square on to the prevailing wind. Architects have mastered solar gain at the same time as they have forgotten ground-level wind effects.

  9. Alan Griffiths says:

    “Architects have mastered solar gain at the same time as they have forgotten ground-level wind effects.”

    My mate who worked on the Cannon St development would claim the first for Building Services Engineers (like himself!) rather than Architects.

  10. Ig says:

    Maybe an editing error: “…provided for the westbound platform only. To have done this would have been…” maybe should read: “…provided for the westbound platform only. To have also provided disabled access for the eastbound platform would have been…”

  11. Josh says:

    Ooh shiny. And with rounded corners. Better for not stubbing your toe.

    So that’s the fancy new exoskeletal building I remember seeing from my last walk around the City. There’s a quite sophisticated model of it on the Google Earth, but new Tube entrance part is shown all hoarded up.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @ Fandroid – how very true about Paddington. Last time I had a walk round I was really quite surprised at the size of the signage and the font used. It’s visually horrible and also not very effective. The area round by platform 12 where there are escalators up to the taxi rank has a low ceiling so there are some issues to deal with but given that it is now a main route up to the new H&C ticket hall the signage for LU is surprisingly low profile.

    Given the comments in this article about station entrances and visibility you have to wonder quite how Crossrail will present itself to the public at Crossrail only entrances like Hanover Square. Will it have its own variant of the TfL Roundel or do we go back through the guessing game we had with the Overground as to whether the National Rail symbol will be used in addition to the roundel?

    On the topic of tall buildings and freezing winds then I have too many memories of waiting for s/b buses (24,29,38 etc) at Centrepoint (when they ran past there – all on diversion now) and being chilled to the bone. I have not been out on the concourse at London Bridge for quite a long while but given the proximity to the river you’d hope that the architects would have thought about wind channels. Try standing outside at North Greenwich on a windy winter day – eeek! Frozen within seconds because of the effect of the river and few obstacles. No wonder the Dangleway has to stop when a breeze gets up. I hope that Greg is proved wrong at LOB about people being blown over but I fear he may well be right,

  13. A pedant in Purley! says:

    “With the project nearly complete now seems to be good time to look at the new features and compare the situation today with old photos of what stood their before which are available on Wikipedia”

    Should be “there”.

  14. Anonymous says:

    ” To have done this would have been technically challenging and expensive…” should read “To have done the Eastbound platform as well would have been technically challenging and expensive…”

  15. Article corrected. Thanks.

  16. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous09:22PM, 1st October 2012

    You aren’t supposed to out-pedant the ONE from Purley. It just isn’t done.

  17. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous08:40PM, 1st October 2012

    “you have to wonder quite how Crossrail will present itself to the public at Crossrail only entrances”

    Those of us on the Shenfield line are expecting to find out when the Crossrail TOC franchise begins. So far, a few mock-ups have shown the Crossrail logo.

  18. Anonymous says:

    What about at platform level? Have they got rid of those dodgy seventies tiles (I think they were orange) and the bad lighting. It made the tube platforms feel very dingy and dated so hope that is part of the planned renovations.

  19. Pedantic of Purley says:

    You aren’t supposed to out-pedant the ONE from Purley. It just isn’t done
    I don’t mind at all. I would rather the article was grammatically correct so fell free to point out errors. Amendments can then be made. As I have often written, I find it very difficult to proof-read my own work and John Bull isn’t always around (claims he has to travel for work purposes and not always contactable).

    What about at platform level?
    Still the same unpleasant dark station with the orange tiles. I understand that improvements at platform level is a separate project that will be done in due course as part of the station modernisation programme.

  20. timbeau says:

    “fell free to point out errors”


    an illustration of Muphry’s Law – “if you write anything relating to editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written”.

  21. THC says:

    I expect Muphry would be in full agreement, Timbeau. As would Murphy…


  22. Littlejohn says:

    @timbeau 09:08AM, 2nd October 2012
    “fell free to point out errors”
    an illustration of Muphry’s Law –

    Who is ‘Muphry’? Is this a Freudian Slip?

  23. timbeau says:

    Aha! Muphry is Murphy’s typographical cousin: see –

    also known as the Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation, or McKean’s law

  24. Fandroid says:

    Methinks pedantry has got out of control here. Back to Cannon Street!

  25. Holly Greathead says:

    While it’s true to say that the LUL entrance has been moved around the corner to Dowgate Hill, at the risk of adding more pedantry to the thread, perhaps it’s worth clarifying that the Dowgate Hill entrance itself is not new as such. I used the old Dowgate Hill entrance, albeit in a much smaller and dingier form than the current incarnation, during my daily commute for several years.

    I think it would have been just out of shot in the second photo (to the right of the M&S shop).

  26. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I didn’t know that. In the photo there is what looks like a small doorway immediately to the left of the rightmost no entry sign which I hadn’t spotted before. It is between the unmanned newstand and the traffic cone. Could that be it ?

  27. Abe says:

    Yes, that anonymous-looking doorway was the Dowgate Hill entrance.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Agreed the previous station was grim but there were, I think, three entrances to the old tube station. A second one is visible down Dowgate Hill in the second photo; and the third led directly down from the national rail concourse. So the dangerous u-turn described in the text was not a route normally taken by commuters.

  29. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Yes, the out of date article on Wikipedia mentions an entrance from the main line station concourse so I presume that there has been one for a long time although I just cannot remember ever using it or even being aware of its existence.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I have started using Cannon Street as a route from Deptford to my tailor in the city.

    Everytime I walk through the entrance steps to the station I am struck by how filty the steps are, and how little they are cleaned. Also I am struck by what a lot of steps are required to get up to the platform level. I have not yet found if there is a lift…but I will do so soon. As a disabled older person I am appalled at how little the railway companies attempt to improve access.


  31. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The steps are needed to get the concourse high enough to be level with the railway bridge across the Thames. That in turn needs to be high fairly high so as not to hinder shipping.

    There is an existing lift (step free) lift opposite platform 1 but it is well hidden. Once the new Underground entrance is open on the main line concourse there will be an additional lift and step free route available to Dowgate Hill.

    I cannot really agree with the comment about how little the railway companies do to improve access as I would have thought that is exactly what they are doing at Cannon Street. True it is still not as good as it could be but it will soon be a lot better than it was previously.

  32. Valentine says:

    I think it looks great – and I really love those blinged up heritage roundels. They’re bulkier than the original roundels which were thinner and more elegant… but they still seem to retain class and quality and just look, well… cool.

    When no-one comments on a re-design, that’s when you know you’ve got it right!

    Not so keen on the office building above the station though (not shown in photos), it’s a bit ‘lego-world’ and externalising the support structure looks kind of ugly to me, although the developer probably just wanted to maximise internal space Im guessing so won’t be too bothered.

  33. m8ie says:

    I’ve been told by a Tfl-er that Crossrail will have it’s own purple roundel 🙂 Hurrah!

  34. Michael Jennings says:

    On that, but possibly off topic otherwise, I am curious what they will do with the Tube Map when we have both Crossrail and Thameslink Program finished and in operation. As (amongst other things) they will both be providing a high speed metro service through central London, the central sections at least should be on it. This will complicate the map quite a bit though.

    In Berlin recently I was struck by how well London does these things. Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn system is excellent, but the map (and signage generally) is simply nowhere near as good as what we have in London.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Its worth remembering Thameslink has nothing to do with TfL (being a mainline franchise, with routes extending well away from london) unlike Crossrail and the London overground (both of which are run on a management contract basis and are either wholey within or terminate not far from the Grater London boundary).

    Therefore I fully expect Crossrail to appear on the TfL / ‘tube only’ TfL map just as the London overground (and DLR +tramlink for that mater) does at the moment. Thameslink however is likely to appear only on the ‘london connections’ style maps unless they go back to the 90s incarnation which gave a gruding acknowledgement of Thameslink between London Bridge / Elephant & Castle and Kentish Town.

  36. Josh says:

    If there was one thing to commend about the old entrance, it displayed the lines. I’ve seen other metro systems around the world display the lines on their entrances. Why don’t we do that?

  37. ChrisMitch says:

    Tramlink ain’t on the tube map.
    For some reason TfL consider trams to be more like busses than like trains.

    Hopefully the current rail franchising cock-up will cause a bit of a rethink at the DfT, and let TfL take over all London’s train services… (well, we can hope, can’t we?)

  38. Long Branch Mike says:

    As Thameslink and Tramlink are both key transportation networks in London, and therefore must be on TfL’s Tube Map. I like the 90s incarnation which shewn Thameslink between London Bridge / Elephant & Castle and Kentish Town.

  39. Mikey C says:

    I’m sure Thameslink has been removed from the map, due to its current erratic service (closures at weekends, relatively poor frequency out of London Bridge etc), but once Thameslink 2000/2018 is finished, I’m sure it’ll reappear.

    I don’t TfL will get away with a purely TfL tube map that misses out a key central London route, but includes trains to West Croydon!

  40. timbeau says:

    The London Connections map is much more complex than the Tube map, even with the Overgrojnbd on the latter. But without NR services, many people are misled into unnecessaryly circuitous journeys – look at Moorgate to Finsbury Park, Victoria to Balham, Liverpool Strreet to Walthamstow, or Paddington to Ealing Broadway on a Tube map!

    A good compromise would be to put in NR services (possibly as thinner lines?) where they do provide such useful links between tube stations which are reasonably frequent-
    e.g. Liverpool Street to Seven Sisters/Tottenham Hale/Walthamstow Central
    Moorgate to Finsbury Park
    West Hampstead to London Bridge/Peckham Rye
    Paddington – Ealing Broadway
    Waterloo – Richmond/Wimbledon
    Victoria – Balham/Peckham Rye
    Charing Cross/Cannon Street – Woolwich (both routes)
    Possibly London Bridge – New Cross Gate/Peckham Rye

  41. Long Branch Mike says:


    That’s an excellent idea.

  42. Greg Tingey says:

    Very much like trying to persuade visitors, that, having bought a day travelcard (or even an Oyster) that ….
    …& isn’t “just” a bus-&-tube ticket.

  43. Anonymous says:

    @Pedantic 07:54AM, 3rd October

    The steps from the NR concourse to the Underground were definitely in place when I commuted via Cannon Street in the 1980s. I used them regularly.

  44. peezedtee says:

    timbeau is right. It is particularly absurd that the Tube map does not show Thameslink between Blackfriars and St Pancras. This section can be used as if it were part of the Tube network, as it has turn-up-and-go frequency (except perhaps in the late evening) and Tube/Oyster tickets and fares apply. The fact that it has “nothing to do with TfL” (as Anon says) is of no interest at all to the user.

    Note that considerably less frequent services *are* now on the Tube Map, e.g. the GOBLIN line.

    Imagine somebody wanting to go from Blackfriars to Farringdon. If they only look at the Tube map they will go all the way round the eastern part of the Circle line, a journey of 20 minutes instead of one of 5 minutes. City Thameslink, a nice modern underground station serving Holborn Viaduct at one end and Fleet Street at the other, is entirely absent from the map. I can’t imagine this kind of nonsense being tolerated in any continental city.

    Any excuses that temporarily existed for not putting this section on the map (endless service disruptions due to the upgrade works, and no service at weekends) have now ceased to apply.

  45. Patrick says:

    @Timbeau – a magnificent idea, but I’d be wary about putting Moorgate – FP on there, given it doesn’t run at weekends. I’d dearly love it to.

    @m8ie – magnificent news about the roundel!

  46. Long Branch Mike says:


    The Tube Map daggers (†) ‘Check before you travel’ section covers this, eg the Waterloo & City line Sundays…

  47. Mikey C says:

    @ peezedtee
    Similarly, I’m sure there’s tourists going fron Trafalgar Square to London Bridge (for HMS belfast or the London Dungeon say) who have no idea there’s a NR train that will take them directly there from Charing Cross, with a nice view as well!

  48. timbeau says:

    Mikey C

    ….or who think that the DLR is the only way to the tourist sites at Greenwich

  49. Whiff says:

    How about making the Inner London rail map in this booklet more widely available; it seems to cover most of the places that visitors are likely to want to go.

  50. Long Branch Mike says:


    Thx for this link! As a frequent visitor to London I asked at a new Overground station for the latest version of this map (I had an old one) but all they had was the London Connections map. As a map & rail nerd I liked it, but the Inner London Rail Map’s much simpler & more useful. TfL should definitely have it available standalone at all stations, as well as at, which I don’t recall it being there.

  51. ChrisMitch says:

    Hmm, that Inner London map makes everything seem even more complicated than it actually is! Not a very well designed map at all in my opinion.
    Any map which includes both tube lines and individual national rail routes needs a serious design rethink, to make it both useful and as aesthetically pleasing as the standard tube map.

  52. Mike P says:

    @peezedtee: “Imagine somebody wanting to go from Blackfriars to Farringdon.”

    I can, and I’d advise them to walk to achieve the most reliable journey. Google Maps (which seems to assume a slow pace) says just 14 minutes. I’m increasingly finding out just how large a radius is best travelled on foot (or BorisBike, though full docking stations at destinations limit that mode too). F’rinstance, travelling from our old office close to what will be the western entrance to Farringdon Crossrail, to our new one by Vinopolis, was a 20-25 minute walk. It was hard to achieve 20 minutes by tube, and on too many occasions it took colleagues 30 minutes.

  53. Mike P says:

    As we’re full of corrections here :-), I’d better correct that post to “eastern entrance to Farringdon Crossrail”

  54. timbeau says:

    That map (which is essentially the central portion of the London Connections map is too complicated. What I had in mind would omit NR routes which run parallel to Tube lines – for example Victoria to Brixton, or Kings Cross to Finsbury Park, where the better frequency of the tube more than compensates for the three extra stops. Essentially only those where it would be worth interchanging between the tube and NR to use them.

    Now that the Overground penetrates deep into Southern’s territory, , where everything is more joined up there would be some difficult decisions on what to include in that area: – do you include
    West Croydon – Crystal palace – Balham? (and if so why not also the Norbury route?)
    Crystal palace – Peckham Rye?
    Wimbledon – Elephant?
    West croydon – Wimbledon (Tramlink)? (and if you do, do you then include the NR route to Mitcham Junction?)

    All of these journeys look incredibly complicated on the Tube map – e.g. it appears to suggest Victoria to West Croydon via Whitechapel: or Victoria to Clapham Junction via West Brompton!

  55. Greg Tingey says:

    Mike P
    Otherwise known as… wait for it …
    “Aldersgate & Barbican”

    It looks complicated, bacause it IS complicated.
    And I think you are seriously wrong if you leave anything out, since that is precisely what people are complaing about on the classic tube map, So going from Liverpool St to Walthamstow via Kings cross or Moorgate/H&I happens.

  56. Fandroid says:

    That map does look too complicated. Sorting out the colours would help. Although ATOC are desperate to ‘brand’ each TOC, it hardly means anything to the average traveller. Identifying all NR services in just one distinctive manner would reduce the dazzling effect somewhat. Also, they could only show the services that offer 4 tph or better. I haven’t checked whether that would make any real difference, but it’s worth a try. I think I’d still leave in duplicating routes such as Victoria to Brixton NR as that’s an extremely useful alternative if the Victoria line is disrupted. 100% better than buses. As for the Tube map leaving off Tramlink, that’s just plain loopy. Even TfL bosses appreciate the ‘magic’ effect of permanent way, as opposed to a deserted bus-stop with no real-time service info.

  57. Tim Burns says:

    @Fandroid 0939 06-Oct A few years ago they coloured the lines by main line termini. It was very useful. But then the ‘branding police’ got in on the act and the rest, as they say, is history

  58. stimarco says:

    I think there’s an elephant in the diagrammatic maps room: the mish-mash of modes makes it increasingly difficult to make these easily legible.

    I favour a major change in favour of a stylised (but geographically accurate) map of London, drastically simplified to show only the Borough names, key tourist spots, and stations.

    The lines would be coloured by mode, not route. The routes would be numbered instead, with each station showing the route codes serving it. A route code with no letter prefix is a bus route. A route code with an “S” prefix is an SSL route (which means it’s closer to the surface and unlikely to require a long walk or escalator to reach); a “T” prefix is a deep-level Tube route, and so on. But only the “local” maps would likely show all the modes including buses. The usual maps would be rail-based only, only showing other modes where needed.

    London’s various modes have caused debates over how they should be shown. Personally, I feel the DLR has grown up into a fully-fledged urban metro. It is “light rail” in name only and has long since lost its tram-like aspects.

    Tramlink is trickier: trams really are trolleybuses on rails with stops typically very closely spaced, like buses, so should be treated as part of a bus map, not a metro map. By all means show an “interchanges with Tramlink” symbol on metro stations, but don’t clutter them up with too much confusing detail. Only much smaller cities, often relying on trams as an urban metro substitute, can get away with showing both modes on the same map. Rome has trams, but you don’t see them shown on their metro maps, for example.)

    TfL already have to include a big key on their maps to explain the colours, as well as explaining all the daggers and other symbols. In my alternative map, the key would simply describe each route. E.g. “T1” might be the Victoria Tube Line. “S6” might be the current Wimbledon-Edgware service, and so on. On larger maps displayed at stations, the route key could also include additional descriptions, like “Victoria Line – Brixton to Walthamstow Central via Victoria and King’s Cross.”

    The SSL and Tube would generally share the same maps, but you could add or remove layers according to purpose. A “local area” map at a particular station could show nearby bus routes, Tramlink, etc., while the longer-distance modes would be less emphasised. A larger “All London” map would eliminate the more local modes (buses, trams), and add more detail of the national rail network, which doubles as an urban metro in some parts of London. (And, yes, TfL needs to take those routes over from the DfT too. Consistency is critical.)

    But it’s the geographical accuracy that matters now. Beck’s more diagrammatic approach makes more sense for individual networks, but London now has three such networks, as well as the heavy rail urban metro services currently operated by the likes of First Capital Connect, South Eastern and Southern. At the moment, the lack of consistency makes the maps a pain. This needs to end. It may seem a bizarre concept, but TfL really do need to take over all of London’s urban metro services for the sake of clarity and user experience improvements. It’s a design issue as much as an engineering one.

  59. ChrisMitch says:

    I disagree about the geographical accuracy, and Timbeau’s strange route-numbering system, but I agree that TfL should take over London’s rail network.

    London’s small core and stretched-out suburbs cannot be easily displayed on a legible map. Colours work well on the current tube map, but adding in national rail routes as well creates too many distinct routes to display clearly.
    Displaying ‘tourist spots’ on the map would cause more problems than it would solve, as every tinpot attraction would demand to be included, thus adding even more clutter to the map. This is a classic cartography problem. There is always a trade-off between clarity and amount of information displayed on a map.
    One of the problems is that we have too many bloody train companies, so there is no consistency in how information is displayed at stations.

  60. ChrisMitch says:

    Oops sorry, I meant Stimarco’s strange route numbering system, not Timbeau’s.

  61. Jonno says:

    That inner London map is bizarre. The merging of the Southeastern/FCC service north of blackfriars; strange end destinations names in the south – no trains or tourist is going to want to terminate at catford or swanley! Also I don’t think you can get a train to gatwick from north dulwich!

    They’ll have to think of something better if and when certain southeastern and greater Anglian services transfer to lorol or equivalent

  62. ChrisMitch says:

    …also Jonno, on my bit of the map, what’s with the bizarre disconnected Haydons Road section? It just looks like it was drawn by a lazy cartographer who didn’t have the time or the inclination to do a better job.

  63. Whiff says:

    While I love a good discussion of rail maps as much as the next LR commenter I do wonder if the old paper maps are still relevant. With the rise of smartphones presumably more and more people are using the latest technology to get their information rather than relying on a piece of paper that may or may not show where they want to go.

  64. Fandroid says:


    You are partly right. However, there are plenty of us without smartphones. As a stranger in a new city, it’s going to be a lot quicker to look at a map on a station wall rather than finger away on a smartphone seeking the bespoke app for that particular mode of transport.

    It’s the same with paper timetables. We have had on-line journey planners for a long time. However, the paper timetables at my station seem to disappear at a phenomenal rate.

    That said, some city maps have got Beck’s non-geographic habit really bad. Stuttgart has all lines at a 30 degree angle to the horizontal. There, I always struggle to identify where I am let alone where I want to get to. They do show tourist attraction symbols, but only at five stations, so there is little clutter.

    I would go for numbering routes on London maps, but only Overground, DLR and Tramlink. The Tube line names are too well entrenched. I did once toy with the idea of numbering NR routes based on a initial letter (or letters) identifying the London terminus followed by a route number.

  65. Anonymous says:

    If you are a foreign visitor, ridiculous Data prices mean that paper is more useful than Smartphone once you’re there.

  66. Mikey C says:

    Someone will have to make some decision in the future as to how much of Thameslink (under NR control) and Crossrail (TfL) should be shown on the Tube map.

    Presumably Crossrail to Heathrow will be shown, and going the other way to Stratford and Canary Wharf, but any further?

    Similarly, it would be ridiculous to not show the upgraded Thameslink on the map, but just the central section from Elephant/London B to Kentish Town/Finsbury Park?

  67. timbeau says:

    As I suggested upthread, I would go out to the last interchange with the Underground or Overground, which for Thameslink is West Hampstead – I would disregard the 2tph service to Wimbledon as even from Elephant it is quicker to use the Bakerloo and SWT

  68. stimarco says:

    The points about smartphone data plans may be valid (although there’s a lot of free WiFi around these days), but given how long it’ll be before Crossrail 1 and the Thameslink Upgrade are completed—we’re talking at least five years away, and a lot can happen in five years; the Apple iPhone is only five years old this year, for example—I don’t think this is a valid argument. Data may not be free by then, but it should be a lot cheaper.

    But this is beside the point: in five years’ time, are we really expecting TfL to stick with static, printed maps?

    We used to have (rather primitive) journey planning machines in ticket offices like that at Victoria as far back as 20 years ago—probably earlier; my memory’s a bit vague when it comes to dates and times. Given today’s, and tomorrow’s, technologies, it’s not that difficult to envision interactive journey planners with large displays instead of the traditional printed Beck-ish maps.

    Tourists don’t care about the “what”. They just want to get to Buckingham Palace or Oxford Street from wherever they happen to be right now. There is nothing carved in stone that says the information has to come from a big sheet of paper.

    As for my route numbering suggestion: we already number bus routes. We used to number train routes as a matter of routine, with headcodes on the front telling passengers if this was the Orpington service via Kent House, or the one via Catford. (I think Southeastern kept them for a while, but I don’t remember seeing them displayed consistently during the late ’00s.)

    Beck’s colour coding worked well when it was only the “UndergrounD” network being displayed. As more and more modes have been thrown at the map, the colours, dashes, patterns, shapes, icons and so on have turned it into an unholy visual mess. It’s a classic user interface blunder.

    As long as TfL insist on trying to nail every bloody mode onto their printed maps, each with its own set of route colours, the result is never going to be anything other than a confusing Technicolor disaster. Colour coding only works if you have a limited number of colours. Too many and the brain can’t cope.

    London’s unusual spread of transit modes—Tube, SSL, DLR, Heavy rail masquerading as urban metro, trams, buses, etc.—don’t help. The DLR is effectively an independent network of its own. Tramlink likewise. The Tube and SSL networks also rarely connect to each other sensibly. (“Bank – Monument” is particularly nasty and could form the basis of a complicated map all by itself.)

    The design of user interfaces—and the Tube map is just such an interface—speaks volumes about the underlying system. It’s part of the feedback loop of a holistic design and planning approach. The present Tube map is telling us something very, very important: the present system is becoming too complicated to understand.

    Oh yes: Geographically accurate maps are possible. Not only that, but they’re already in use: This NYC Subway map is a good example. Note, too, the use of route numbers.

  69. Whiff says:

    To take Stimarco’s ideas one step further is there any reason why we couldn’t have machines in ticket offices that print out personalised journey planners and maps. After all London is a big city with an increasingly complicated transport network but how many of us need to know about more than a small section of it at any one more time.

  70. Greg Tingey says:


    This is why proper timetables are almost impossible to get hold of any more, because everyone only wants to do single end-to-end-journeys, right?
    Though LUL seem to have started to learn actual tube timetables can now be found, if you burrow in the right place….

    This sort of fragmentation is a disaster for anyone else…..

    Erm “smartphone” maps are TINY and can’t show the surrounding “terrain” whioch is important.
    Lots of us don’t have & don’t want smartphones anyway.
    “London’s unusual spread of transport modes”
    Like Berlin & Paris, you mean?
    However, I do agree about “numbering” rail routes, i.e. ex-SR-type route codes.
    All trains already have a TRN, why can’t that be displayed on the front screens (again)?
    OR a simple route-code?
    And spread that around the capital, and anywhere else that has a complicated system?

  71. ChrisMitch says:

    However much the spread of ‘personalised’ maps for mobile devices grows in the future, there will still need to be a basic ‘overview’ map which shows as much (relevant) information as possible. Whether this map is accessed via mobile internet devices, or displayed in pamphlets or on posters is moot.

    The classic tube map is a great example of choosing which information to display, and showing it clearly.
    It shows routes and interchanges – that is all.
    For future maps which include crossrail, thameslink, plus selected NR metro routes, etc – this information can be included cleanly and clearly, if the overall map design is right.

  72. Long Branch Mike says:


    I agree. The Tube Map is indeed a design classic and has been the model for subway/metro system maps all over the world. I know of only a few such maps however that are geographical as well, the NYC subway map as mentioned. It seems to work well, but is the exception not the rule.

    Thameslink in central London was successfully integrated on previous versions of the Tube map. Crossrail should be too. As TfL makes various tube maps available online, they could also print other versions, like the Inner London Rail Map, to have available at central London stations.

    The Tube map is indeed handy, light, transferable. Apps have not made paper obsolete, just added further information & interactivity.

  73. Chris says:

    Re: stimarco’s comment on geographical maps, and the link to NYC map at

    That map is NOT geographically accurate! It performs a very similar trick to London, by making Manhattan far bigger in comparison to the other boroughs than it really is.

    No large city would sensibly have a geographically accurate map, for the sensible reason that services are typically concentrated more in the centre than the outskirts. Otherwise you waste a vast amount of space (whether paper or smartphone screen) showing empty white space in Zone 6.

  74. Josh says:

    Regarding the 60s design, before you get too much of a public transport persecution complex, absolutely any and every structure built between 1960 and 1975 is an atrocity.

  75. Fandroid says:

    Technology is slowly adapting the map. Just this week I was on a city centre underground station platform that had touch screens on the walls. These showed the same old network map that they also print on paper, but the traveller could zoom and scroll the map and select timetables for all of the services passing through that platform too. London could look at doing that. ie have buttons that bring forward the system you are interested in – either Tube, DLR, Tramlink or National Rail and fade the others into background outlines. A zooming and scrolling capability would allow the traveller to focus in on the places they are really interested in. There are far flung corners of the system that are normally just a distraction on a map, except on those rare occasions when you really want to go there. I suspect the bus network would be a step too far, but they could use an interactive screen to bring up the appropriate spider map if the punter fingers a station name.

  76. MWS0775 says:

    On a slightly different note, I have just just returned from a holiday in Venice and was very interested in observing the vaporetto services that ply the lagoon. The sensory overload of art etc etc there was nicely balanced by the down to earth nature of the boats acting as the main people- movers. The maps available are largely diagrammatic but for some reason I found them less than easy to read and comprehend. My conclusion was that the basic geography of the city was essential to understand before the map’s simplification of it was helpful. Some strange non-sequential numbering of routes in Venice and clearly a complication caused by there being basically one set of central routes using the same limited waterways added to my disorientation. There were routes that did not stop at ‘all stations’ and parallel routes that seemed to have different stopping patterns. I am so familiar with London maps and a the same time carry a “bird’s eye view” of London in my brain that work together to process any new information presented, but a new tourist approaching a new city with little pre-planning is seeing everything in two-dimensions. Surely any city authority must make some attempt to provide a balance between a basic structure and detailed location information. Leaving their hotel in the morning going to a tourist attraction for the day requires a simple ‘satnav’ approach unless the individual has a mindset similar to that which I take to be common amongst posters on this site (ie one that delights in detail and absorbing even more of their environment than is necessary!). Thus a printed set of instructions is fine. But better is surely the ability to look at a ‘map’ in the evening and actually plan a day out taking in complex deviations and ‘what abouts?’ which allow for changes of mind and weather interventions.
    After this rather overlong paragraph my opinion is that smartphones are only ever (well, in the next 15 years?) going to be a solution for a minority who want the satnav approach. Most true tourists want to absorb themselves in a place and getting lost is not too much of a problem and for some of the psychogeographers amongst them a positive pleasure! To absorb yourself a map is essential. Such a map for them must at least give some compass points (Beck’s map could be read upside down with the text reversed with no loss of use as NSE and W are irrelevant to its ability to get one from Epping to West Ruislip and surely that is its key feature). Self-contained systems such as the ‘old’ underground as just that, self-contained. As soon as you add heavy rail lines coming or going to lands off the map the actual geography of the south of England is relevant. More bits added that require a basic understanding of the geography of the place lead away from a diagrammatic map as the two types are hard to reconcile. So as the TOC lines get included they confuse rather than assist. There seems to be no real prospect of getting a map that suits all needs and perhaps it is better to keep it simple!

  77. peezedtee says:

    The thing about the boats in Venice is that there are a lot of skip-stop services, different route numbers being essentially the same route but with different stopping patterns: it is really quite complicated for the uninitiated. In London this problem hardly arises, only the Metropolitan line having skip-stop services. On all other lines, every train stops at every station. Arguably the Beck model does not really work where this is not the case. See also New York City.

  78. MWS0775 says:

    I was certainly uninitiated but did catch on! Slightly off-topic again ….. The service bus we took [as the weekly pass available on all ACTV boats and buses was not available on the airport shuttle] to collect our car near to Marco Polo was a “bendy bus” driven at speed through the outskirts of Mestre! The driver clearly enjoyed giving his passengers, mostly with cases galore, a thrill (or not!). On the whole the operator has a good website with a flexible and user-friendly journey planner and the pass is good value for money, but not once did I see any form of revenue control in a week of frequent travels. No barriers, nothing for us but to touch in with our cards and no ticket machines anywhere but the few main stops. Quite a few bewildered tourists asked us, on hearing English spoken, where we got our passes as they could not find out how or where to pay.

  79. Stu says:

    I’m new here – apologies if I am lacking in protocol, but as a Cannon Street user of many years, I have a few comments

    – There was always a staircase from the mainline concourse down to the LU station, it was only closed during the development of the mainline station before they got to work on the LU side

    – But why is the new mainline to LU staircase and lift closed so often, including in rush hour ?

    – Lack of lift access to the Eastbound LU platform is a crying shame. Given that the Walbrook office development was completed so soon before the Cannon Street work, why was access from the other side of Cannon Street to the Eastbound side not considered ?

    – Isn’t the whole Bank/Monument, Mansion House and Cannon Street underground station thing a bit of a mess ? Cannon Street underground is undoubtedly closer to Bank than Monument, and the three District/Circle stations are so close together, it’s a shame that a more radical bringing together of sites has not been considered. Particularly given that all the major office sites between Bank and Cannon Street either have been redeveloped in the last 3 years, or still are being, there would be a good opportunity to tidy it all up

    – The new mainline station is, indeed, too open and cold in winter …

  80. Stu says:

    Meant to say good article, and damned good site too

  81. D-Notice says:


    The new building that is being constructed on Walbrook (on the current building site facing Cannon St station) will include an entrance to Bank’s Waterloo & City line bit.

  82. Stu says:

    Yes, I have just read that, but I meant a different new building – the Walbrook Building which is immediately opposite CS station, whereas the one currently being rebuild is the old Bucklersbury House, which runs the other side of Walbrook itself. Confusing, eh ?! ;-?

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