On 1st December 2015 Transport for London (TfL) unveiled its new design bible, the Design Idiom. Though the name may sound grandiose, the goal is simple: create a document that captures the design aesthetic of the Underground, so that good design can help drive decision-making at London Underground.

“It’s all about bringing good design to the forefront of our thinking.” explains Mark Evers, Director of Customer Strategy at TfL. “Very simply, setting out the key principles that can help us deliver well-designed stations in the future, every time.”

“This Design Idiom is about taking that step back and making sure that in the future we are thinking far more holistically about the way we should be undertaking work on our stations.”

In practice then the Design Idiom will be a reference guide. As such it may seem strange to cover what is, effectively, an internal TfL document here. As our piece on the Johnston typeface has highlighted before, however, few transport networks in the world can boast the design heritage enjoyed by the tube, and thus few have such a high standard they should at least try to maintain.


Idiom Park, the fictional station TfL now use to convey design concepts.

An idea takes shape

Indeed it is an awareness of that history that has helped contribute to the Idiom’s creation. For in part it is a reaction to the celebration of London Underground’s 150th anniversary in 2013.

“There was lots of backwards focus on some really good architecture and good design: obviously the tube map, the font, the roundel, some of the Pick stations, the glorious days of Holden.” remembers Jon Hunter, Design and Print Manager at TfL. “And then we thought, actually, probably we need to reinvigorate some of the exciting times – the exciting energy – we had at the time.”

In essence, looking back at 150 years of design on the Underground had highlighted that London Underground had lost its way a little in design terms since the 1980s.

“Some of the stations we were seeing could have been any civic building with a roundel put outside.” Hunter admits. “We were becoming increasingly frustrated by the way our making a station look like a station [was] by putting a roundel logo outside and really it should look like a railway station.”


Every station on the Underground, categorised by design. Download full size image.

It’s a statement that an observer of TfL’s recent station builds and rebuilds would find difficult to dispute. Indeed in recent years it has become almost impossible to picture a new Underground station as being anything other than glass, brushed steel and concrete. A clean and efficient style, certainly, but hardly an inspiring one.

“If you think of the Holden and Pick era.” says Hunter. “If you think of St Pancras. If you think of a great London station there is a typology to them that is unmistakably transport, unmistakably rail.”

“So that is the focus that drove us to producing some very formal guidance – which hopefully isn’t too prescriptive that we end up with every station looking the same – but has some really core principles that should enable our next generation of new build and refurbishments to have more of a sense of London Underground about them.”

“You’ll look at them,” he says with a smile, “and you won’t necessarily have to see the roundel but you’ll see actually that’s a London Underground station. You’ll recognise it either through the design language, the use of interiors, the use of colours, the use of lighting, that it is actually one of our stations.”


Inside Idiom Park at ticket hall level.

As those behind the Design Idiom describe it, TfL’s aspiration was a bold one: to make sure that when London Underground celebrates its 300th anniversary, it is a unified aesthetic that is centre stage, not just Holden or Pick. Armed with this ambition and the drive to create consistently better design across the network, the organisation embarked on a three-year process to create a new language of Underground design.

“We spent a long time thinking to ourselves: ‘what is it about the stations that work that are on the network at the moment. What makes them special?’ ” Mark Evers says. “You can get lost in the excitement of designing something, but what is it that we want to do in this station. Actually you need to start with what our customers want: Where are the pain points for our customers? Which of our stations do they think most highly of? And, which of the stations do our customers think least?”

“By going through that process,” he continues, “we can identify common features and factors that customers like and then that is factored in when pulling together our principles.”


A station passage at Idiom Park.

Rolling out the programme

With arguably more station work underway on the network than at any point in the last thirty years, the opportunity to shape the design our era will be remembered for is perhaps now.

“Unless you give that proper consideration to good design both at specific locations but also how that fits into with the network,” agrees Evers, “you potentially find yourself ten, fifteen, twenty years from now looking back and saying: ‘well why didn’t we think more holistically about what we were doing?’ ”

With this in mind the Design Idiom is to be applied across the network from November onwards. Where possible, this will also include locations where work is already underway. Cannon Street station is to be the test bed and will showcase some of the design elements that are to become standard across the network, such as circular-framed customer information areas and more nuanced lighting design. New stations, such as Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms will then be built using the Idiom.

Nor will minor works at existing stations be exempt. The Idiom’s principles are to be applied to every station and on every intervention, from small-scale patch repairs to major refurbishments and brand new stations.

“The principles are instructions and should be used as checklist throughout the design process.” confirms Ann Gavaghan, Design and Development Manager at TfL.

Those principles are there to help everyone involved creates well-designed stations. In combination they are to ensure a holistic approach. There are nine in total, each of which highlights an area to devote particular attention to.

“We started off with probably about twenty.” Jon Hunter recalls. “Twenty principles is a bit too many to actually deal with. So we started combining them. There are only Ten Commandments so we thought: ‘if we go for less than ten, then we have more of a chance that people will actually use them and remember them.’ It’s much easier to say these are the principles, pull out the ones that are important and them in balance as well.”


Escalators at Idiom Park.

Hierarchy of customer needs

As Mark Evers indicated above, key to the Design Idiom is the belief that its nine principles should directly address customer issues. To help with this, TfL undertook research on customer perceptions of their built environment back in 2014. That research sought to understand what impact, if any, the built environment actually had on people’s travelling experience on the Underground. It concluded that the impact was significant. Nor, it found, was it just that passenger’s journey experience that was impacted. It had a clear effect on their perception of TfL itself.

The research’s headline finding was interesting. In 1943 American psychologist Abraham Maslow had theorised that human beings have a “Hierarchy of Needs”. That is, that our psychological health is predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority. TfL’s research suggested that it was possible to extend this principle into a hierarchy of customer needs that applied to its passengers.

It uncovered that at the most fundamental level passengers first ask themselves “Can London Underground get me safely and efficiently from A to B?” They then look for cues in the built environment to reassure them that minimum levels of safety and order are met. This makes those cues critical, as they are part of our basic expectation from London Underground.

Beyond this minimum expectation, people then look for a sense of order. They want strong clues as to how to navigate and to consume useful information as they move through the station. Then comes comfort, which includes an environment that encourages other customers to behave considerately and then finally life-enhancing elements such as signs that the station and the wider network are celebrating their heritage and feel connected to the wider community. All these elements are interlinked, whilst elements further down the priority chain are less effective if needs further up aren’t met. Comfort and life-enhancing elements of the built environment add value to the journey experience, for example, but are easily undermined if hygiene or safety factors are not being fulfilled.

The quantitative part of the research revealed that there are parts of that hierarchy that London Underground are failing to deliver in the eyes of their passengers. Most particularly, that they are currently underperforming with regards to the quality of customer information and the openness and orderliness of station environments. In contrast, the report revealed that London Underground are performing relatively well in the safety and sense of order categories, but less well on life-enhancing elements in stations. The research suggested that London Underground should improve in that category by making stations better reflect their local areas and by creating a positive atmosphere within them.


More than anything, the research highlighted the need for a holistic and well-managed action plan, which the Design Idiom is clearly intended to deliver. It also identified two clear cross-cutting themes: lighting and performance inconsistency. For this reason, it is perhaps not surprising that the Design Idiom has an entire principle dedicated to lighting, which the research suggests contributes to all levels of the customer needs hierarchy. Here, the Idiom has taken inspiration from how homes and retail are lit.

“Layer light, use light to draw focus.” it explains. “Make it intuitive so people know where the entrance and exits are. The exit is brighter of course.”

Lighting, it suggests, should also be used to reduce signage and clutter by creating zones of interest and subtly directing passenger movement. This doesn’t mean that it should be dull or standards rigidly adhered to without thought. In the past this has produced spaces with very flat and stark light where particular standard features are highlighted: such as customer information zones or areas with ticket machines. Instead the Idiom pushes for a more thought through, task-specific use of light. Just as we use light to create atmosphere within key spaces at home, it suggests, so should designers of stations.

Tackling performance inconsistencies, meanwhile, means dealing with problem design areas that have a habit of bringing down the whole experience. As the Idiom explains: “there remain inconsistencies in the quality of our station environments at every level of the hierarchy which undermine the pockets of brilliance, and ultimately drag down the overall customer experience. The Idiom helps to address these discrepancies and hits every part of the hierarchy in order to deliver outstanding customer environments”.

Overall, the Design idiom clearly epitomises TfL’s latest slogan “Good Design Makes Life in London Better”. It highlights that good design is about well-considered spaces and bestsuited interventions. It seeks to instil an approach of thinking about today, paying homage to the past and planning for the future.


Platform level at Idiom Park.

“[Well-planned spaces] are critical from an operational perspective.” Evers confirms. “You have got to make sure that they are able to get passengers through the station and onto trains, so that they can get to where they need to go.”

“But stations can be so much more than that.” he adds, thoughtfully. “If they are well designed it can make our customers feel safe using the network, irrespective of what time they are traveling. [A] well designed station environment actually changes the customer’s perception of journey time and reliability. If you are starting your journey in a station that, putting it bluntly, is a bit grubby, then irrespective of whether you are experiencing a great service it seems like it is taking longer and you feel like you are waiting on the platform for longer. Whereas if you are starting your journey within a station that has been well designed and is free from clutter it either has some wonderful heritage features within it, or some fantastic contemporary design – it makes that entire journey experience better for you.”

“The tube means so much more to Londoners than getting from A to B. We are a part of the city and what we want to make sure is that we are doing our best to make sure that life in London is getting better as well. A result of that is a real focus on design. I guess what we recognise is that great design doesn’t happen by accident.”

From train design to transport planning, you can find more articles about London transport in our archive.

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There are 125 comments on this article
  1. Frankie Roberto says:

    You can read the Station Design Idiom in full here:

  2. John U.K. says:

    Much as one may welcome many of the thougts expressed about a unified design pattern for the 21st.century…
    Dark blue ceilings here, and dark green on another thread.
    Is it not a basic rule of interior design that dark ceilings bring the ceiling down, and in UndergrounD passages and above platforms may be somewhat claustrophopia inducing, Or I have I been mis-informed?

  3. AlisonW says:

    Those non-platform tunnels appear to be substantially larger in diameter than currently exist. Is there a plan that new builds have them larger or is that just wishful thinking?

    Also; fewer adverts?

  4. lmm says:

    Those renders all look very dark. I hope that’s not reflecting the future intent for the network.

    I actually think the design of the Jubilee line extension stations (the main recent example I can think of) is very good: they’re functional first and foremost, but have enough character to make them distinctive (and in a very coherent way). I think in 150 years they’d already be appreciated.

  5. ChrisMitch says:

    The platform at Idiom Park looks horribly dark. Hides the dirt I suppose. More white walls and/or ceilings please!

  6. Old Buccaneer says:

    I am sorry not to see a roundel at right angles to the facade at “Idiom Park”. A useful visual clue is missing, although it appears on the other side of the road at the subsidiary entrance.

    I am not sure why we need a level crossing and an underpass for pedestrians; perhaps for people with restricted mobility; I guess it also depends on where the gate line is in relation to the underpass.

    Looking at the platform, it seems they are seeking to save money by leaving the engineers’ metal showing on the bore rather than having a smooth finish. Jubilee extension cross passages seem to be the source for this. I deprecate the “unfinished” look; and makes it dark as well.

    Also I would have thought “Overground” Crossrail and ‘TfL Rail’ should also be guests at this party.

    Finally: Good work Nicole, welcome back!

  7. @ChrisMitch

    Whilst I like the bold colours used in the renders, my experience too is that darker colours really bring down the mood of a space, be it an office lobby or subway station. The Métro de Montréal has some great architecture – every station is unique – but some darkly clad stations are really gloomy. It’s like the walls soak up all the light. Given the Design Idiom gives premier importance to quality of lighting, I’m surprised they’ve used such relatively dark colours.

    But I personally disagree with white walls – too sterile and characterless, too hospital-like, too generic. It does not create a warm inviting ambience in my opinion.

  8. Anonymous says:

    As other people have remarked, it’s dark to hide the dirt, obviously plenty of ‘raw’ finishes to keep down costs, plus to reduce fire risks, perhaps TfL should dig back into its heritage and bring back tiles – obviously not the expensive bespoke type, but perhaps areas with some sort of glitter finish to enliven the endless featureless surfaces.

  9. Alex4D says:

    “Johnston’s typeface, originally designed for wood block, has been adapted and modified over time, most notably in the 1980s, and will be re-issued in a more original version in 2016.” – p.37

    more original?

  10. Greg Tingey says:

    and thus few have such a high standard they should at least try to maintain.
    And, IMHO, thrown away with both hands in the Jubilee line extension stations, that remind me (As I’ve said before) of Piranesi’s prisons.
    And, those “Idiom Park” drawings are more of the same – all much too dark & gloomy.
    The opposite of the Leslie Green or Holden/Pick stations which were “Light”. The irony is that the post-Maslow hierarchy actually recognises this, as you say, but the drawings show the exact opposite, which does not fill me with good forebodings for the future, if they can say & do exact opposites in such a short space of paper.
    See also John UK’s & everyone else’s (!) remarks about dark colourings – I agree completely.
    Next question, will LUL/TfL notice?

    Going down that list, I come to “Comfort” & I’m going to ask the mods, in this case to leave this bit in,as it is directly relevant: –
    Comfort includes not being deafened or harassed by unnecessary “announcements” which are much too loud. [ And I wont’t repeat it in this thread, unless challenged, ok? ]

  11. Frankie Roberto says:

    I had a chance to speak to some of the designers of this idiom at their exhibition earlier in the year.

    It’s my understanding that their intent is not simply for stations to be darker, but for lighting to be used more effectively – instead of flood lighting the whole platform evenly, they suggested using lighting to pick out things like the platform edge and the cross-tunnels, so that passengers can navigate more instinctively.

  12. MikeP says:

    @AlisonW – I’d say the illustrative non-platform tunnel is close to, or only marginally wider than, the existing decades-old one at Green Park from the Jubilee to the Piccadilly.

    Which always seems narrower than it really is when you have two people walking slowly side-by-side to try and get past.

  13. Kit Green says:

    Idiom Park seems to have a bad BCR judging by the passenger numbers.

  14. TonyW1960 says:

    The top picture indicates that Idiom Park is to be served by a special bus route that has some bus stops with island platforms in the centre of the road!

  15. John Bull says:

    It’s my understanding that their intent is not simply for stations to be darker, but for lighting to be used more effectively – instead of flood lighting the whole platform evenly, they suggested using lighting to pick out things like the platform edge and the cross-tunnels, so that passengers can navigate more instinctively.

    This is very much worth emphasizing, and indeed is mentioned in the article which a few people seem to have missed.

    Basically it’s not just about blanket lighting everywhere, it’s about using light appropriately.

    I might add an additional image of light mapping to the article to help emphasize that a bit more.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I would appreciate if they avoid using the cheapest materials for roundels. Some of them looks really bad.

  17. PM says:

    The images of ‘Idiom Park’ perfectly show where architects’, planners’ and designers’ visions, cleanly and beautifully rendered on the page or computer screen clash with real life. Just taking the platform image for example. This shows a clean, uncluttered space, but one that no tube user will ever see. Instead of the darkened granite-mottled flooring with a shiny, freshly polished finish, the real commuter is afflicted with a lighter version that appears constantly dirty on the floor. Over the last decade, I’ve seen it used in freshly refurbished station after station, and it ALWAYS looks filthy. Other materials that just look grubby despite excellent cleaning, care and maintenance of stations are the light mosaic glass tiles used at the expanded King’s Cross St. Pancras, and the overhead cowling covering trunk wiring on the refurbished Central Line platforms. It’s a particular bugbear of mine that TfL introduced colour schemes and materials that will simply never look clean, no matter how well-maintained.

    So much for looking down. Now let’s look up. At Idiom Park, there is no train indicator, which is the first thing any impatient Londoner wants to see upon arriving at the platform. I need to know how long I’m waiting for my train. There is a clearly visible ‘Way Out’ sign, but again, this is something that would be completely invisible from more than 20 feet away on a real tube platform. Why is that? Go to the Central Line platforms at Oxford Circus, and look up. No more perfect an example of visual clutter will you ever see. It is impossible to see the exit / interchange signs or the platform indicators, which are the two things the tube passenger wants to be able to see on arriving on the platform (one for disembarking, one for boarding passengers). The eyeline is completely taken up by other equipment, most egregiously the CCTV cameras and projector equipment for advertising, but also with mandatory emergency escape / equipment signage. At Oxford Circus, if you are more than 10 feet from a platform indicator, you cannot see it. For Way Out signs, again these are not visible, and reference to the signage board running the length of the platform above one’s head usually shows arrows pointing in both directions. It’s maddening. The metro system I most contrast this horrendous and unnecessary clutter with is the Washington DC metro, which preserves clean lines, avoids the visual clutter of excessive advertising, and by judicious placement of vertical standard signs keeps everything neat and easily visible.

  18. John U.K. says:

    @Anonymous – 3 December 2015 at 11:48
    I would appreciate if they avoid using the cheapest materials for roundels. Some of them looks really bad.

    The new Tottenham Court Road Entrance, here
    and here

    appears to have no roundel at all!

    Or is this pre Idiom Park?

  19. ngh says:

    Re John Bull and Frankie,

    “instead of flood lighting the whole platform evenly, they suggested using lighting to pick out things like the platform edge and the cross-tunnels,”

    But if you look a the last image in the article the cross tunnel isn’t picked out by lighting it just has the large blue band hence why I think so many (including my self) are confused!

    (platform edge is picked out…)

  20. Pincinator says:

    Speaking of darkness – the headings on this page are unreadable if the page is viewed in ‘dark’ mode. The Dark Blue on dark grey is invisible!

  21. Rj90 says:

    So not on Crossrail then? They talk about a big period for station rebuilds and that is the biggest and seemingly excluded.

    Obviously designs have been done for them so it’s too late, but when are we next going to see 10+ new stations or parts of stations on the underground?

  22. Gio says:

    Ironic this came out on the same day that the announcement of a another featureless glass cube/box/entrance, this time for Tottenham Court Road station, was released! I have used the new entrance and could hardly believe it was a tube station ‘ticket’ hall – there was pretty much nothing there except escalators going down.

    This release is all well and good, but I didn’t think there were any new stations being planned, nor refurbs, so what’s the point?

  23. Anomnibus says:

    Re. “Dark and gloomy” renders:

    It’s worth noting that video displays use an additive colour (primary colours: red, green, blue) system, while print uses a subtractive one (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Furthermore, most consumer device displays aren’t particularly well calibrated, so images you see on your computer screen rarely appear quite as intended.

    I suspect the environments depicted would be a lot brighter in person, were Idiom Park ever built. Also, LU have trialled interior designs in disused stations like Aldwych.

    And, yes, there is such a thing as “too brightly lit”. The human eye is very good at edge and motion detection, so you need some contrasting elements in the station-scape to help guide the eye where it is needed.

  24. Malcolm says:

    It’s all very well contrasting print with screens, but the real world is different from both of these. The ideal way, in my opinion, of evaluating this sort of visual issue (essentially: “Is it too dark, or not?”) would be neither screen nor print, but in a life-size model, made using authentic paint, and some realistic dirt, and untidy people wandering about.

  25. David M says:

    The map with the design groupings on is quite interesting but also shows its limitations. The platforms might share some similarities with those other stations but the station building was re-built as a no very attractive brick box in the 80’s:

    @John M:

    TCR is a work in progress, which is why the Roundel is missing I think. My expectation would be once the new public around the two new glass entrances is completed, there may well be a Roundel on a pole somewhere next to either (or both) entrances.

  26. Alex McKenna says:

    Talking about filthy looking floors, has anyone noticed how stained and filthy the new escalators are at TCR? Even from the first day they opened… The treads are shameful on what is supposed to be a prominent Showcase station…

  27. Mark Townend says:

    @ngh, 3 December 2015 at 12:19
    “But if you look a the last image in the article the cross tunnel isn’t picked out by lighting it just has the large blue band hence why I think so many (including my self) are confused!”

    I don’t mind blue for passageways etc but not on the track as well. If someone became instinctively conditioned to blue as a way out could the track being so colored fool them into wandering towards it? Equally what would the track mood lighting mean to approaching train drivers. You’d want to keep away from signalling colours. I think the track should remain unlit generally or lit only very subtly in a more neutral colour. If you start to use blue for passageways, it starts to almost becomes a de facto safety colour so you need to think about consistency and the blue would probably need to be there in wall finishes as well if the accent lighting fails. It’s important to consider what partially sighted or colour blind people will see, so relative light intensity and patterns could be important as well as well as pulsing and movement. Perhaps a blue glowing ‘gap light’ could appear from below once a train has stopped with its doors open. Then there is a valid ‘portal’ between the train and platform.

  28. ngh says:

    Re Mark,

    I’ve no objection to the Blue indeed it should work reasonable well for partially sighted and colour blind if the get the surface textures sorted too (Possibly a white edge strip to the blue if against dark coloured background such as the dark grey painted cast iron ring segments?). I was thinking about lighting around the cross-passage portal similar to that in the escalator bank image above.

  29. 100andthirty says:

    The last time a designer for an LU train (sorry, not station) tried to use lighting to create a mood, it succeeded, but arguably the wrong mood……….1992 tube stock – too dark, too red.

    Since then bright and cheerful has been the idiom (is that the right word?). I’d rather have an S stock or 2009 tube stock than the retro (will tire quickly) proposals from Priestman Goode

    I do find the illustrations uninspiring.

    Also, many years ago, LU realised that lighting the platform edge was “a good thing”, and that if you use bare tubes and a white ceiling – especially a semicircular one – you’d light everything else too. Simple, cheap and recognisable as LU without seeing the Roundel. Cynical – moi?

  30. Greg Tingey says:

    Thank you
    What I presume is the older sign, with beading on tiles “shows up” much better than the flat-printed one doesn’t it?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Old enamel roundels are better they are nice after many of years lot of these new roundels are corroded already.

  32. marckee says:

    As touched on in the previous thread underneath the article announcing the latest issue of the magazine, although this approach and the studies behind it are welcome, and necessary, the Design Idiom will only succeed if:

    – it’s acknowledged that it will be made obsolete through new research, behaviour and tastes, and will need to be periodically updated. The faint suggestion that the author’s assume that it’ll still apply in 150 years is a little worrying.

    – there is flexibility with its application on existing stations, especially when there are heritage features involved. The following paragraph concerns me slightly in that it implies that they are seeking to smother the individual periods of station design under one whole aesthetic:

    “TfL’s aspiration was a bold one: to make sure that when London Underground celebrates its 300th anniversary, it is a unified aesthetic that is centre stage, not just Holden or Pick.”

    Like with the current system of standards, guidelines and categories within those, there needs to be a process of allowing for concessions and variations where appropriate. Although the auditing bodies try to be pragmatic, there are often occasions where the management of this process is frustrating and seemingly arbitrary, and I don’t see how this can be avoided when there are so many bodies inside and outside of TfL with a stake and a say in the design and construction of the fabric of stations.

    Also, I’d wonder about the accuracy of the following statement:

    “With arguably more station work underway on the network than at any point in the last thirty years, the opportunity to shape the design our era will be remembered for is perhaps now.”

    The twelve years from 2000 to 2012 saw more station investment and station refurbishment than at virtually any other time in the network’s history – perhaps even dwarfing the periods when the lines were created in the first place. And it was necessary – most stations had been barely touched in 30 years. Since then the station refurbishment programme has slowed dramatically, even when you account for the Crossrail-driven interchange station upgrades. There are a few new stations being built (eg on the Nine Elms end of the Northern Line), but in comparison to the past decade and a half, there won’t be nearly as many station projects in the next decade or two.

    The investment push provided a lot of the evidence for this document (and a lot of the bad design that made it necessary!), but I think it will be a long time before many of the stations are revisited and brought into line.

  33. Hugh.S. says:

    Re PM.
    Lack of indicator boards on platforms that can be clearly seen from all points most infuriating!Ideally three of these on each platform that can be seen from all angles!

    Worst offenders in my opinion are the one on the Northbound Victoria line at Finsbury Park which is at the Southern end of the platform so that impossible to read at the other end except by working out how many letters in the destination are showing and closely followed by the one on the Westbound Met/Circle/H & C line platform.This board at the Eastern end and obscured by the bridge over the tracks.

  34. Anonymous Orchard Sidings says:

    Good to see thought going into design but I feel inadequate attention is given to accuracy in sign detail. This is particularly prevalent at interchange stations with National Rail. e.g Signs at Moorgate say “Trains to Stevenage” not very helpful when Hertford North/Welwyn is the core service . Signs at various LUL stations still refer to British Rail!

  35. Brockley Mike says:

    On the visual of the platform, the line diagram at the far right of the image looks like a district and circle line service is running. (Possibly a deep level tunnel part of BML2..!).

    I do agree that the sightlines to high level signs on platforms are critical to get right – conflicts with train indicators, fire exits, passages to other lines, etc do so often obscure each other and contribute to general visual clutter quite often.

    This ‘complements’ the audio clutter that I think Greg is such a fan of (not!) and I totally agree with him there. I think sound / audio should have been included as much as lighting in achieving the goals of clarity / route reassurance, etc.

    As an architect I can see the desire for consistent elements across different stations both for user reassurance and for brand consistency, but one thing I quite like on the tube are the few stations that feature design elements related to their location – eg Charing Cross – which can give a sense of local identity as an overlay to the general branding.

  36. Stuart says:

    Does the “testbed Cannon Street” comment mean they are going to redo the platforms? Only 5 years after the rest was refurbed and to a non-Idiom compliant standard?!

  37. Anonymously says:

    @Anonymous Orchard Sidings….Well, we only have rail privatisation to blame for that, don’t we? Over time, I expect these will be changed to read ‘National Rail’. As long as the famous symbol is there, people seem to be able work out where they have to go, tourists included.

    @PM……I couldn’t disagree more with you about the Washington Metro! Those ‘judiciously placed’ vertical signs you mention are not at all helpful, since their vertical, four-sided orientation and infrequent placement made it difficult to easily find the correct exit or platform at interchanges. Much better to have horizontal signs with directions on them as in the Underground, IMHO. In addition, being used to brightly lit underground platform environments, I was rather stunned by how everything was so dimly lit. Combined with the ‘brutalist’ concrete-clad walls and 30 years of general neglect since the system was built, it all made for a dingy, thoroughly depressing environment.

    Following on from others’ comments, I really hope TfL doesn’t go down this ‘mood lighting’ (a euphemism for ‘sparsely lit’?) approach for future new and refurbished stations. The latest energy-efficient LED lighting can be used very cost-effectively to provide bright, inviting station environments. And leaving the platform tunnel walls exposed really doesn’t help in this regard….for many years after the JLE platforms at London Bridge opened, I thought the exposed walls were a result of the rush to complete and open the line in time for the Millennium, as well as to save money (we all know the project was hugely over-budget). I never would have guessed it was done on purpose as an ‘aesthetic’ choice!

  38. Anonymously says:

    Like Brockley Mike, I am also fan of the individuality that different stations have on the Underground (the mosaics at TCR are my favourite example), and I dearly hope that these features aren’t lost in future station refurbishments, since these are what give the stations a lot of their character. We have already lost most of the ‘backlit’ roundel signs from the 60s/70s on the Victoria line, Jubilee line Phase 1 and Picadilly line Heathrow extension (a few remain at Hatton Cross), as well as the 1940s design elements from the KXSP Met line platforms (although that was perhaps unavoidable in order to modernise the whole station); please let us not lose too many more….

  39. Anonymously says:

    @Stuart….I think the platforms at Cannon Street were last done up in the 1960s, when the Poulton office block was constructed, and were left untouched when the rest of the station was rebuilt during the recent modernisation you mentioned. Due to its location (very close to Mansion House) and the erratic use of the surface rail station over the years (for example, it only gained a Sunday service earlier this year as a result of the Thameslink Programme), it does seem to have been a low priority for platform refurbishment compared with others (such as Temple station). That’s why TfL might see it as an ideal test bed for implementing their new design idiom, at least for the platform areas.

    I wonder if they are planning the same for the Euston Square platforms (which also appear to be 60s design, if I’m not mistaken), whenever they rebuild and finally link the station to the rest of the Euston complex (which is probably why they have left them alone so far!). I hope not….given the heritage of the line at this point, I would much prefer if they refurbished it in a similar way to Great Portland Street and Baker Street station platforms on the same line.

  40. The Future's Bright, The Future's Orange says:

    Euston Square had structural problems with cracks in its ceiling, hence the cross members that were added underneath the original at the same time as the tiles were put on. The platforms are also short for the trains and may be extended if there’s another entrance built.

  41. Nameless says:

    1. I hope that they abandon the 40 year old idea of leaving the cast iron tunnel linings bare and painting them matt black. This was done when BR acquired the GN stations from Highbury & Islington to Moorgate in 1976. The stations were dismal and unwelcoming then and they haven’t improved since. They are still scary and depressing places at times when passengers are sparse. Once ground water starts leaking in you also get unsightly white stains and stalactites.
    2. The Idiom Park exterior picture is more than a little worrying. The road markings do not comply with legal requirements, there are no Belisha beacons or tactile paving, the subway entrance looks positively lethal and the Arriva bus appears to have the doors on the wrong side. And why does the shadow of each pedestrian appear to indicate a different time of day? At least the shadows of the lights, street furniture and trees are consistent. If you are going to present fancy graphics, surely you should take some care.
    3. “traveling”? Is this person Evers an american? Perhaps Design Idiom haven’t used a UK spellcheck.

    Everything I have so far seen from Design Idiom indicates a lack of attention to detail. How much did this project to state the obvious cost us? Who picked them? Was their work supervised by anyone competent? Perhaps the second word of their name should end with a Titan, not a Metrobus.

  42. Nameless says:

    Sorry, I have just managed to see the tactile paving, but it appears to be the wrong colour.

  43. Anonymously says:

    @Nameless…Which is exactly why the Northern City line services should be given to TfL to run and manage as part of LO! Until they are, the stations there will continue to exist in their ‘preserved NSE’ state of neglect.

  44. Ian J says:

    The map of tube stations by period is fascinating and most striking in how weak the legacy of the latter half of the twentieth century is – between the nationalisation of the Combine in 1948 and the opening of the Jubilee Line extension only a handful of completely new stations were built (Pimlico, Hatton Cross, the Heathrows) and most of those had no surface buildings. A photograph like the one on this page shows that even white painted tunnels and bright fluorescent lighting could convey a sense of menace in an era when you just had to mention being down in the tube station at midnight to convey a sense of threat and violence. The nadir was the King’s Cross fire in 1987.

    As the Idiom puts it, The ordered lofty spaces of the first half of the 20th century, designed by Charles Holden and Leslie Green, have been gradually compromised and the original perception of space lost.

    Another interesting couple of points it makes:

    A smaller amount of well-placed advertising is more valuable to advertisers – and
    therefore London Underground – than a lot of less prominent advertising…

    Imagine a platform with nothing to look at while waiting for a train – or the opposite, a station filled with customer and safety information (risking increasing a customer’s anxiety about their journey).

    And I did like this aspiration:

    Each station must have at least one distinguishing feature, one special moment, which allows it to be memorable and engage with its immediate neighbourhood

    An interesting contrast is with the Paris metro’s “métro + beau” programme, a 25-year programme to systematically refurbish its stations, which seems to rely on a much more homogenous approach with literally millions of white tiles.

  45. Ian J says:

    @Nameless: Everything I have so far seen from Design Idiom indicates a lack of attention to detail

    That’s because it is intended to be a statement of principles informing design of stations, not a manual for traffic engineers (London Underground doesn’t design road markings – and anyway the tactile paving is in the form of metal studs on the stone pavers and colour contrast is provided by the different coloured kerb). It is also pretty picky to criticise someone for the spelling in a transcript of an interview with them – should Mark Ewers have stopped the interview and said, “I want you to make sure you spell that with two ‘L’s”?

    To be honest if these are the only things that you can find to criticise and you actually agree with the main thrust of it (which is the implication of saying it “states the obvious”) then the Design Idiom must be a pretty effective document, since it makes a fairly abrupt change in LU’s station design seem like just “common sense”.

  46. Ian J says:

    @marckee: in comparison to the past decade and a half, there won’t be nearly as many station projects in the next decade or two

    True, but it seems to me that looking at some of the emphases in the Idiom document, there are a few things that are driving this, all to do with the financial pressures on TfL:

    1) The closure of ticket offices. What do you do with the space where they were? And you need to rethink what a ticket hall is for when its main function is no longer selling tickets.

    2) A push for more revenue from advertising: how do you create new opportunities for advertisers without impeding station navigation and cluttering the station environment?

    3) A push for more revenue from retail: again, how do you make space for commercially viable shops that don’t impede the station’s passengers?

    4) A push for more revenue from property development around and above stations – we will see more and more station entrances integrated into oversite developments. TfL need to decide what the minimum standards to insist on for these are (eg. the document stays that station entries should be at least two stories tall).

  47. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, they really don’t seem awake, do they?
    Also there is THIS very scary piece in the notes:
    Video walls along the entire length of the escalators are planned; hopefully, sound, lighting and perhaps smell will also be available for a completely immersive sensory experience.
    Words fail me – can I SCREAM instead?

  48. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    nly a handful of completely new stations were built
    Err, no.
    The entire length of the Victoria Line, where you can always tell which station is which by the very attractive tile-designs in the seating – a touch I have always liked.
    Their pale-grey colouring has always struck me as a happy medium of tone & lightness, too.

  49. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J ( again – oh for an “Edit” button!)
    That’s because it is intended to be a statement of principles informing design of stations, not a manual for traffic engineers
    Sorry, but if this is being put up for general public view, & especially by interested parties, & these, err, um, supposed “experts” can’t get their design right on the first document they issue, no-one is going to believe a word of it.
    I certainly don’t & my cynicism level has gone up to “10” already.

  50. timbeau says:

    @Ian J
    “And you need to rethink what a ticket hall is for when its main function is no longer selling tickets.”
    yes it is – the ticket machines have to be somewhere!

    A mistake made in the redesjgn of my local NR station was to reduce the entrances to only one, “so that people would be steered towards the ticket machines”. This overlooked the fact that most users of the station don’t need to buy a ticket because they fall in to one or more of the following categories
    1. they are season ticket holders
    2. they have a return ticket
    3. they have an Oyster
    4.they are leaving the station rather than entering it

  51. Malcolm says:

    Greg says “Err, no” to Ian J’s claim that, in a particular timeframe, “only a handful of completely new stations were built“, citing “the Victoria line”.

    Greg apparently missed the word “completely“.

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    Like I said: “Oh for an “Edit” button.”
    Too late now …..

  53. Gio says:

    Cannon Street case study is an interesting one. I would’ve thought that that particular underground station has a very small number of customers purchasing tickets. All those thousands of workers using it probably have season tickets which were purchased at a ‘home’ station – elsewhere. In all the years I worked nearby and used it, I didn’t see that many tourists queuing up to buy tickets. Call me cynical, but maybe this station choice will go in TfL’s favour as they try to demonstrate that hardly anyone uses stations anymore to buy tickets 🙂

  54. Malcolm says:

    Greg: Yes, sorry about that. I left your Victoria Line comment unmoderated (commenting on it instead) because of the rest of the comment, about the tiles and the colouring. Anyone can ask for one of their own comments to be removed, and moderators would normally do so on request (not normally instantly), but such actions (and an Edit button if one existed) can get complicated if someone has commented on the comment in the meantime.

    For clarification, such a request (or any other message relating to moderation) is best done by email to [email protected]

  55. Malcolm says:

    Anonymously: It is not the Northern City Line any more. It is part of London’s suburban rail network. Of course one can argue for TfL takeover of that network, or any part of it, but in practical terms, if Essex Road becomes part of the Overground then so must Gordon Hill and Oakleigh Park (and a whole lot of other stations, ending I’m not quite sure where).

  56. PM says:

    @Anonymously – of course, aesthetics will always be individual. I really like the DC metro look, and I’m a big fan of the (seemingly very unpopular on this thread) JLE stations. What I think can be agreed on objectively is what might be termed ‘visual clutter’, particularly obstructed sightlines, which is where I was contrasting the deliberately stripped-back DC metro stations with (e.g.) Oxford Circus. I don’t wish to make the same point twice, but I did last night make special note of the placing of CCTV cameras on horizontal bars that obstruct the platform indicators immediately placed behind them.

    I do not wish to get into a civil-liberties / security argument about CCTV – it’s just that I think consideration should be given to the sightline of the customer as a whole – as long as it is correctly positioned and given the correct cabling, why not mount the camera onto the housing of the platform indicator rather than in front of it, for example?

  57. Johnny says:

    Beautifully designed article to match the new design standard!

  58. Anonymous The First says:

    For some reason this notion that there is a standalone Northern City Line is a long time dying.

  59. Old Buccaneer says:

    I feel part of what we are yearning for is a directing mind and a creative partner a la mode de Pick and Holden; the Idiom appears to be external to LU and muddles its roles as transport operator and guardian of the built heritage. There is also some high flown language quoted by Diamond Geezer about openness which has very serious operational consequences.

  60. timbeau says:

    “All those thousands of workers using [Cannon Street] probably have season tickets which were purchased at a ‘home’ station – elsewhere. ”

    Not necessarily – A nice quiet queueless ticket office during your lunch break, or waiting in line in the morning to renew, and risk missing your train? (And the ticket office at the home station closes before you get home in the evening).

    But at Cannon Street they would probably buy their season tickets upstairs – indeed as most users will work close many of them will use point to point tickets which are only available “upstairs”.

    Does the north bank entrance at Blackfriars have a shared ticket office now or is it still them (TL) and us (TfL)?

  61. Greg Tingey says:

    “DG” also picks up on the relentless push for more advertising, too ….

  62. Nameless says:

    @Anonymous The First and others.

    I am not commenting on the ownership or neglected state of the former Northern City line.

    I do however strongly object to the proposed dingy, filthy depressing black station tunnel ceilings. The Design Idiom team should go and see how bad these actually look before recommending them for new and refurbished tube stations.

  63. Anonymously says:

    @Malcolm….I only referred to it as the ‘Northern City line’ for ease of reference… opposed to ‘ex-GN&C railway’, ‘ex-LU Northern City line’ or ‘GN City/Moorgate branch’. Given that it runs to the City, and is served by Great Northern trains, referring to it as the Northern City line seems reasonable to me.

    I would have TfL take over services and stations (excluding those served by GN slow services as well e.g. Potters Bar) on both branches up to Welwyn GC and Hertford North (leaving Hertford North to Stevenage as a GN-operated shuttle). Given how many services TfL already operate in the west of the county, I don’t see Herts CC objecting to this, particularly if it results in a better service for all.

    @Nameless….Agree 100% re. black station tunnel ceilings. The contrast between Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Road and Tottenham Hale station platforms (which has ceilings much as you described, with hanging light fixtures) and the other station platforms on the Victoria line is quite literally like night and day!

  64. Malcolm says:

    Anonymously: That’s fine. But a takeover such as the one you describe could not be justified, or argued for or against, on the basis of the Finsbury Park to Moorgate section alone, and it seemed to me to be a bit misleading to think of it in that way. But discussion of that takeover, or any other conceivable TfL takeover, does not really belong in this topic, so let’s leave it at that.

  65. erinoco says:

    That’s because it is intended to be a statement of principles informing design of stations, not a manual for traffic engineers

    My own feeling is that any manual of this kind must be driven primarily by the engineers if it is to be effective: function must dictate form, and that was something the inter-war Underground understood very well. The key is to enable engineers and architects to take a multi-faceted view of function at every stage of the process, without allowing project bloat.

  66. Andrew M says:

    This obsession with glass-covered staircases is terrible, both at TCR and at Idiom Park. Local yobs will etch their tags onto the glass within days of opening, and it’ll cost a fortune to replace.

    The Victorians used open stairs surrounded by black metal railings: tough, graffiti-free, and low-maintenance. Paris and New York have the same. In Chicago and Toronto they sometimes use concrete instead of metal, but it’s still a lot cheaper to fix than glass. In design terms, metal and concrete convey a feeling of solidity and durability; whereas glass implies fragility and weakness (not to mention dangerous shards crashing over your head at any moment).

  67. Anonymous says:

    Just looking at that cgi of a station you know nothing changed. Tiny station platform, no seats, same crappy train size, no safety emergency exits, no vents. The same early XX century design in different colours.

  68. Malcolm says:

    To add to what erinoco said, I think it is important to note that “design” is not (to engineers anyway, but I suspect to everyone else too) just about appearance. Of course, the appearance is what we sometimes judge, especially when we are presented with pictures. But for a station to receive the accolade of “well-designed”, it must (in addition to looking good) work properly, involving things like passenger flow, information flow, and many other functional criteria.

    If it doesn’t work properly, it is bad, however pretty it looks.

  69. timbeau says:

    “Just looking at that cgi of a station you know nothing changed. . The same early XX century design in different colours.”

    For new build, all those issue can and would be addressed (new underground stattions must have two exits, new underground lines would have main line sized trains and tunnels to fit, etc) But some of those won’t be fixed in a mere upgrade –
    We are stuck with the “same train size” on the deep tubes for the forseesable future: it would be quicker, cheaper and less disruptive to build a new line than ream the existing ones out
    Indeed Crossrail and Crossrail 2 are essentially the New Central Line and the New Victoria Line (or possibly the New W&C/NCL).

  70. Kent Railman says:

    Timbeau asked:
    Does the north bank entrance at Blackfriars have a shared ticket office now or is it still them (TL) and us (TfL)?

    It’s still them (TL, should be open Monday to Friday 07:15 to 20:30, closed at weekends) and us (TfL, closed permanently).

  71. Mikey C says:

    As others have said, that platform is grossly simplistic.

    Leaving aside the lack of destination screen, cctv etc, that platform seems to have one entrance/exit only. Most platforms have several, depending on which line you are connecting to, so will all of them be blue? Just the exits, or entrances as well, bearing in mind that these often get swapped around during engineering work?
    And with a station like London Bridge (Northern line) with lots of connections to a central concourse, will all be blue or just certain ones? Those platforms will end up looking like a Sheffield Wednesday/Brighton shirt!

  72. Alan Griffiths says:

    Mikey C
    4 December 2015 at 20:54

    “Those platforms will end up looking like a”
    gold and white dress!

  73. Ollyver says:

    I was saddened to see one of the leaning benches in the last photograph. The design notes themselves only mention seating as an accessibility issue, i.e. as Malcolm says, considering people’s needs, rather than just aesthetics. But since the photo doesn’t have real seating: what need does a leaning bench fulfil? It doesn’t help people who need to sit down (be they tired, ill, heavily laden or whatever).

  74. NickBXN says:

    For those concerned about the blue and black platform image, it is unlikely to be rolled out much beyond Nine Elms any time soon, since we are in the fortunate position having Crossrails (plural) rather than more 12-foot Tubes in prospect. The guidance thankfully places the heritage as a top priority, so I can’t see a concerted effort to impose much of this on the Leslie Green platforms, for instance. The idea of the blue exit band is identical to the yellow bands on the original Jubilee platforms which were intended at the time to be applied across the network. This never happened, probably because there is always something more urgent to spend the money on, before ideas move on again. The same goes for the intended roll-out of the ‘identikit’ polypropylene cable-duct platform name friezes such as survive at Baker Street Bakerloo.

    Furthermore, if they ‘idiomise’ the new Bank platform to the extent shown, it would be a rather random intervention in a place where they went to such great lengths to unify the entire complex with the white tiles. The project visuals
    show something more affiliated with the existing spaces, yet with many materials and methods consistent with Idiom Park. Perhaps this should reassure us that it is supposed to be flexible enough to cater for the whole variety of situations.

    Overall, therefore, I find the document fine, and well intentioned, bar a few ‘bones to pick’:
    – Page 38 and 39, about the circle and the bar, are straight from “Perfect Curve” of 2012 / W1A fame
    – The guidance that new surface buildings to be circular where possible is a bit bizarre. I think the consultants must have been bowled over by Southgate, to the exclusion of much else.
    – I’m very sceptical about page 101’s suggestion of introducing birdsong and running water sounds, along with special Night Tube lighting schemes on alluded to on page 161.

    In the right hands, the ‘idiomization’ (I got that word in before Boris) could be very positive. I’ll take a step back first to explain how: My childhood memories of the Tube – possibly nostalgic – go back to a very strong ‘mood’ affinity between the cream coloured plaster (wooden) escalator ceilings bathed in a mellow glow from the tungsten uplighters, and the mellow interiors of the maple-strip floored, tungsten-lit 1938 Tube stock. There was also an affinity between the dark red exterior and green and cream palettes of the rolling stock with the Leslie Green surface stations. (Brief digression: the platforms were dim, dirty, with Green’s original tiles very scratched and chipped).

    That’s why I think colour, lighting and mood are important. When the New Tube comes, it looks likely that platform edge doors will be part of the package (curve debates notwithstanding), which will have a significant impact on the heritage. The deft application of such design guidelines will therefor be very important. In the right hands on the Piccadilly Line, it could actually achieve a level of harmony between Holden, Green, and rolling stock not hitherto seen.

    There are pros and cons with the varied lighting levels and darker palettes. The guide illustrates Westfriedhof in Munich, which is one of several excellent stations on the U1 extensions that use these devices. As with the JLE, were was no overbearing/uniform design style, yet they hang together through common elements and attitudes to design. On the ‘con’ side, I find the interiors of the new C-Stock rather sombre, with its muted grey side panels (Crossrail trains take note) compared to their cheery and chipper London counterparts.

    As for the DNA of a Tube station, I have put a couple of photos of archaeological interest in the Flickr pool for your enjoyment. Who remembers that Bond Street was tiled in Holden Northern?!

  75. Graham H says:

    @NickBXN – I entirely agree (especially about the reference to W1A – I very much doubt that any of the ideas expressed on pp 38-39 were at the back of anyone’s mind when the previous diamond and bar became circular). I still worry about the lighting standards applied to Holden and Green stations – it would have been extremely helpful if the design team had given us some examples of the standards applied to existing stations; I believe that would have strengthened their credibility – but then, who are any of us to comment, not being qualified architects? [I am still fuming for a rebuke on matters of taste on a parallel thread – all of us are entitled as taxpayer/consumer/patrons – to have a view. Ever since Bernini annoyed the Papacy, architects have failed to understand that diverse views are possible and do not depend on being a trained architect. The word arrogant springs to mind*].

    *For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that the authors of this report are like that! And I very much hope that consumers/taxpayers/patrons will all express a view to be considered….

  76. Fandroid says:

    I have a strong like for the bright tiled stations of the original central London Tube stations, with advertising on the walls opposite the platforms complementing the bright ambience on the platform side. I admit that I am not so happy about the JLE stations. Bare concrete can look good when new but can deteriorate to fairly awful as it ages. Being grey, it’s a naturally gloomy colour, with lowering of mood as an inevitable consequence. Only generous coats of paint can rectify the aging problem and the drab greyness. Many pre-metros in Continental cities show these characteristics. Bright central London Tube stations mostly look really safe and welcoming in contrast.

    As has already been said, modern lighting no longer has to be blazing fluorescent vs energy hungry incandescant. Subtlety is achievable now without sacrificing good illumination. Keep the stations bright and cheerful. That is the real London idiom.

  77. Anonymously says:

    @Fandroid….I completely agree with you. One only has to visit the Washington Metro to see how exposed concrete and ‘mood’ lighting leads to a dull, depressing environment. The contrast with the Tube (or the Paris Metro for that matter) couldn’t be starker.

  78. Greg Tingey says:

    Seating, yes well. Another reason I dislike the JLE stations is the pathetic little “bum-rest” ledges & shortage of seating.
    So, what about, not just the disabled, but the tired, those with luggage, those whoiwant to catch their breath, those who have children, those waiting for others on $_Named_Platform, etc?

  79. Snowy says:

    Presumably the movement away from having seating is to minimise platform clutter to maximise the number of passengers that can be waiting for a train.

    With signalling improvements maximising train throughput, if the longest time spent waiting for a train in normal service is ~90seconds (current Victoria & future jubilee/northern), is seating really necessary? Or rather if service reliability can be maximised is the cost of providing seating worth it?

  80. Malcolm says:

    @Snowy: granted tube service intervals are shortening at peak times. But at other times, particularly evenings, they may still be at the 10 minute level. (Even greater at certain extremities). So I suggest that some seating is needed, but probably quite a limited amount. Compare bus shelters, where the typically small number of “seats” (or perches) do seem to be well-used, even with frequent buses.

  81. AlisonW says:

    Doesn’t matter how frequent the service is if every one is full up, in which case the respite of sitting down for a few minutes before or after the scrum is welcome.

  82. Golfingmad says:

    Very little imagination employed in these ideas for the Underground. Colours are too dark and dreary. The blue is a good copy of several nightclub lavatories that come to mind – blue being a such a ‘cool’ colour for the loos. We will all be consigned to a very featureless world, devoid of all creativity, as we march through the 21st Century.

    @Imm Completely agree with your comment re the Jubilee extension. Perhaps the last expression of individuality on the Underground before we all descend into a slab of dark colours and vacuous minimalism.

  83. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, but, excuse me it damned well IS necessary.
    If only because of the crowding & the heat/humidity.
    You know the “announcements” in Summer about bottled water & feeling faint, etc? [ note ]
    Well, there are times when “taking five” on a seat on the platform is a very good idea.
    That is why seating is at least 100% necessary.

    note] I’ve sat down at Holborn, to allow the dangerous (IMHO) crush at the exit-tunnels to die down & at my home station, because even I couldn’t face the exit up the escalators until I’d “got a breath”.

    Alison W
    I might also add the occasional times I’ve had to let 2 – 5 trains go past, before I could actually get on to one ….

  84. peezedtee says:

    For those of us who are old and decrepit, having somewhere to sit down – even if the next train is coming in 3 minutes – is a good deal more important than the colour of the tiles.

  85. NickBXN says:

    @GrahamH – on “who are we to comment, not being qualified architects” – well, it so happens that my concern is actually voiced as a qualified architect – not that anyone else’s view on these things is worth any the less (architects do need reminding of that sometimes). To my mind, the most credible image was that of the extended Camden Town lower concourse. I don’t think the images of Idiom Park surface building or the curious surface platform awning were by an architect anyway – they just don’t ring true to me. The semi-circular entrance awning they show is very alien to the LU canon*. Hence my suspicion that there is a bit much of the “Perfect Curve’-ness about some of it – which is also where I think the suggested light halos over the ticket machines have come from (“hey guys, what else can we do with a circle…”). In some spaces I can think of, they would add to visual clutter.

    *If it looked as though it would be as elegant an innovation as Pick & Holden’s roundels impaled on flagstaffs perpendicular to the frontage, then fair do’s for something new.

    On your wondering why there aren’t images of the system applied to existing spaces, it’s notable that the Camden Town image does not use the Holden Northern flashcard palette on the extended space, but the 2015 one, and they talk of handling the ‘tidemark’ between old and new. Perhaps the intention is not to impose the 2015 palette on existing spaces and v.v. . I think it would be a sound policy, so that one can continue to ‘read’ the architectural layers throughout the network. The counter argument to that is that there ought to remain the possibility of big-time retrofits if they bring something as outstanding as the David Gentleman murals at Charing Cross.

    I agree with Android that modern lighting systems do raise the opportunity for more creative effects, such as wall washing and the halo effect around escalator shaft portals – perhaps even bringing something of the Holden glamour back. The one trouble (or perhaps blessing for others) is that in the case of the Leslie Green platform wall restorations a few years ago, the good effect of the wall washers concealed behind the frieze as used early on at Mornington Crescent was never extended to any of the other refurb sites. As with concept cars, the production ones end up being a bit more ordinary – which may happen with the idiom generally.

    Finally, my photos of platform renovations in progress in 1982 are rapidly disappearing down the Flickr page, so direct links for the curious are here:

  86. Ian J says:

    @timbeau: its main function is no longer selling tickets.”
    yes it is – the ticket machines have to be somewhere!

    But fewer and fewer people are using ticket machines – only a minority of people passing through a station ticket hall these days actually buy a ticket. Ticket halls are more combined information/entrance/circulation/ticket checking spaces. An interesting detail in the Idiom report is that TfL are moving away from their insistence on being able to empty ticket machines from the back into a secure area. If they move to National Rail-style front-loading ticket machines then they have a lot more flexibility about where to put them.

    @erinocoo: My own feeling is that any manual of this kind must be driven primarily by the engineers

    But not by traffic engineers, surely? The objection was to scenes in a render that were (dubiously) presumed not to comply with road traffic regulations – but London is full of terrible designs by traffic engineers that comply fully with all applicable standards and guidance but are a) ugly and b) not actually very functional. For example, road engineering standards for years required guardrail next to pedestrian crossings, despite a total absence of evidence that it improved safety. An awful lot of London’s worst “public realm” was designed by engineers.

    @nameless: why would they go and look at the poorly maintained platform tunnels on the GN&C line when they can see the exact tunnel lining treatment that is proposed already in use (and well maintained and kept clean) on the Jubilee Line?

    As for why the idea of the line won’t die – because it is London’s only deep tube line not run by TfL? That makes it interesting because it is a kind of alternate universe that answers the question “what would the tube look like if it was run by Network SouthEast” – and unique now that the Unmentionable Line is run by TfL (I notice “1980s Network SouthEast” doesn’t count as a design type for Bank or Waterloo).

    I’m not sure what it is about metro operators and slightly whacky seat designs – Paris is standardising on these. Like in a fast food restaurant the message seems to be “make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable”.

    @Graham H: consumers/taxpayers/patrons

    Judging by the comments so far, the problem* is that some consumers/taxpayers/patrons tend to fixate on their reactions to details in images (like colours) and gloss over the text and the underlying principles. But London Underground in the 1930s was an example of a good working relationship between the client and the architect(s) with mutual respect on either side, so far as I can see.

    *or from the architect’s point of view, perhaps an opportunity to slip things past the radar while people are arguing over the colour of the bikeshed…

  87. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    Oyster refunds?
    Amazingly difficult to get, now it seems.
    Some of us have our dark suspicions about that….
    [ As in, though WHC is now an “Overground” station, & sells Oysters, you can’t get LUL Oyster refunds from its ticket office, even though it’s run by TfL.
    Errr … ]

  88. Fandroid says:

    Waterloo station on the unmentionable line might now be TfL run, but the TfL cleaners have obviously not been told. Standing in disciplined ranks for the next train, Bank travellers are treated to the fine sight of a lots of dirt nestling on the joints in the whitewashed brick wall opposite. Perhaps someone could get the scrubbing brush out Sundays, when the trains don’t run.

  89. Fandroid says:

    Ian J highlights a problem that seems to be all too common among publishers of documents ie the illustrations don’t really complement the text, and can be either just irrelevant, or even contradictory. Note to editors- good well chosen illustrations which have been designed to fit the text can add to the overall understanding of the document. Random ones that are chosen to make it look pretty are a waste of space on any serious publication.

  90. Anonymously says:

    Ian J…..It took quite a while, but the Unmentionable Line now looks fairly indistinguishable from other Tube lines. Aside from the NSE platform edge symbols, the absence of ‘suicide pits’ and the curious lack of platform roundels at Bank station, you’d be hard pressed to know its interesting ownership history.

    And yes, the Moorgate line is uniquely trapped in a NSE parallel universe. I can’t think of any other part of the NR network that has been allowed to retain so many of its pre-privatisation features (even the Island Line on the IOW seems to have had more care and attention devoted to it!).

    @Greg Tingey….I recently had to get a partial refund for a journey I made by contactless card. All I had to do was ring the TfL hotline, and the helpful person at the other end arranged for my refund without any difficulty. I didn’t even have to wait for any length of time in a phone queue (at 4pm on a weekday)! Was quite impressed…..I would suggest giving it a try.

  91. Ian J says:

    @Greg Tingey: Oyster refunds?
    Amazingly difficult to get, now it seems.
    Some of us have our dark suspicions about that….

    LUL encourage people to do them online or over the phone. And you can get cash refunds from ticket machines. LUL have never made any secret of their intention to get rid of all ticket offices, it is hardly a conspiracy.

    @Fandroid: a problem that seems to be all too common among publishers of documents

    Actually I meant to highlight as a problem that readers pay more attention to the illustrations than they do to the text. Hence almost all the comments on this article have been responses to the illustrations (and many to incredibly minor aspects of them), and not to the interesting things Mark Evers says in the interview, or the text of the Idiom document (which itself has interesting additional illustrations, not least in giving real-life “how not to do it” advice, like a good example of a platform with overhead visual clutter as discussed above).

  92. Karl, Dover says:

    Regarding the “bum rests”. In the picture at least, they are right under the station signs. Not really a good idea.

  93. erinoco says:

    but London is full of terrible designs by traffic engineers that comply fully with all applicable standards and guidance but are a) ugly and b) not actually very functional.

    Just so, Ian J. In my lay opinion, these are examples of sub-standard engineering practice, as they fail to consider all the needs associated with a particular requirement, or the context in which it is placed. I would be inclined to blame the commissioners rather more than the engineers here, however.

    This is where I feel the Idiom carries a risk. If it becomes no more than a checklist for station design, then it will be applied in ways and to places where it is functionally ill-suited and aesthetically discordant. What is needed is for the engineers to keep the principles behind the Idiom in mind, and to be prepared to depart from them whenever they can make a good case for a different approach which serves the needs of passengers, staff, and the rest.

  94. Mr Beckton says:

    When I first came to London I lived on the Victoria Line, and in more recent times it’s been the JLE, which are two opposites in design.

    To start with, the Victoria makes extensive used of cross-platform interchange. The Jubilee goes out of its way to avoid these. The twisting marathon with three sets of escalators and three lengthy passages at West Ham to get from the Jubilee to the District, when the two islands could have been on top of each other Canning Town style (albeit at right angles) is just one example of passenger convenience being placed last. Someone else wrote that whereas Green Park is one of the best JLE interchanges for ease of use, it’s one of the Victoria’s worst! That’s all part of station design.

    The number of different architects involved in JLE station design was only exceeded by the number of architectural industry awards they all gave each other, generally all fixed up in advance before the nonsenses became apparent. Someone designed Waterloo with what must be the longest interchange tunnel on the system, between JLE and Bakerloo/Northern, despite the lines actually crossing each other – and then when it opened portrayed it as some sort of wonder, with long-lens art world stylish photographs down the length of it.

    I understand the word has gone out from The Treasury that never again is a transport project to be allowed like the JLE to come in so over budget again which has been some architects’ ego trip for awards and cost.

    Those Victoria Line stations even today, all done to a standard, are still fully functional. The platforms would probably be a bit wider nowadays but that is just basic engineering specification rather than design.

    Moving on to the Idiom Park renders, it does seem the conceptual designers have little understanding of reality.

    The station signage only faces across the road, yet almost all users approach from along the road, from where no signage would be visible. The bus stop infringes a number of design criteria, for example a second bus arriving before the first has left would need to stop illegally on the crossing markings. This is just basic stuff which shows they never had a highways engineer on the team, although the highway-to-train interface is what a station is all about.

    A zebra crossing in that location and with those pedestrian flows would never pass a highway engineering risk assessment.

    Down on the platform key basics like train indicators seem to have been missed out. Seats set at a 45-degree downward angle are a triumph of design over function. What chance a pensioner with arthritic legs managing to wait for a train on one of those.

    I am sure the LUL advertising department will soon deal with all those elegant blank walls in passageways.

  95. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mr Beckton – I think you are being unduly harsh about the JLE. You remark on HMT’s concerns about costs but then say stations are built wrongly and yet they are probably built in the only practical locations even if interchange distances are long in some cases. I don’t imagine sticking the JLE platforms directly under the LTS / District line tracks would have been cheap. Ditto somehow excavating the Jubilee Line in the lowest depths of Waterloo rather than to the side.

    The Victoria line stations are functional to a point but many are creaking at the seams because they were shoved into existing spaces with not much allowance for expansion. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but we can see that trying to sort out places like Finsbury Park is pretty much impossible and I dread to think what cost will be incurred to raise low level / egress capacity at Highbury and Islington. One of the reasons for chronic platform congestion is because cross platform interchanges are uncontrollable unless you stop trains stopping at platforms. Having some distance on interchange flows can provide holding space or space out the rate at which reach connecting platforms. It’s never ideal but ever growing patronage points you to longer interchanges in order to increase operational control.

    Having worked on speccing the JLE ticket offices and gatelines I have partly left a “mark” on London. Yes the architecture is varied but I happen to think decent architecture in public projects is a good idea provided you also have a workable facility at the end of it. Form and function not just form. As an aside I recall a remark from the advertising people that as soon as Roland Paoletti (JLE Architect in Charge) was off the scene they’d be along with their trackside advertising. Roland had deliberately designed it out of the JLE stations but the advertisers won in the end! Exactly the same will happen in the Idiomised stations – they’ll be forced to be massive advertising and video billboards.

  96. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Mr Beckton,

    Like Walthamstow Writer I disagree with you. To take two specific points:

    To start with, the Victoria makes extensive used of cross-platform interchange. The Jubilee goes out of its way to avoid these.

    Sorry, but disagree entirely. Once the Victoria line route was decided it was comparatively easy to do. But lets not kid ourselves. It doesn’t seem too wonderful at Warren St or Green Park does it? Or Victoria or King’s Cross come to that? Or the fact that Blackhorse Road wasn’t even considered an interchange initially because, well, it wasn’t.

    To their credit they put considerable effort into the cross platform interchange at Euston that involved switching over to right hand running to achieve that and one could argue that they made an effort at Stockwell given that the direct route would have probably almost been at right angles with the Northern line.

    Note also Walthamstow Writer’s comment about the danger of having interchange being too convenient – something I have commented on before.

    With each successive tube line it gets harder as there are fewer options available.

    The reality was that the interchanges on the Jubilee line just did not lend themselves to cross platform interchange. At Westminster the line needs to be deep to go under the Thames and elsewhere the lines just did not align to make it realistic to even consider it.

    Finally, on this subject, you say the Jubilee line goes out of its way to avoid cross platform interchange but Baker Street wasn’t a no brainer given the deviation it had to make to get to Bond Street – yes I know one platform was already there. And actually the Jubilee line has one of the best cross platform interchanges on the network at Finchley Road and yes I do realise it inherited it.

    I understand the word has gone out from The Treasury that never again is a transport project to be allowed like the JLE to come in so over budget again which has been some architects’ ego trip for awards and cost.

    Possibly a good soundbite but at a variance with the facts. The Jubilee line went over budget for various reasons but whatever the architects cost I don’t believe that was outside the budget.

    The Jubilee line primarily went over budget because it was built on the presumption that sprayed concrete lining (then called the New Austrian Tunnelling Method) would be extensively used.

    This caused two problems when a hole appeared at Heathrow where this method was used (unrelated to the Jubilee line):

    – Work on the Jubilee line had to be halted where this technique was used – extensively at stations.. However workers still had to be paid and the delay had a knock on to other parts of the project.

    – The unbuilt tunnels then had to be redesigned using geodesic structures in metal mesh. This design alone was expensive. Too much had been built to go back to traditional tunnelling.

    – The implementation of the geodesic structures was very expensive indeed.

    Other problems included:

    – Canary Wharf. Here it was assumed that much of the surrounding development would be in place which would stabilise the ground and provide resistance to horizontal forces. They then found themselves building the station before the developments which meant using an awful lot more concrete.

    – The planned ATO signalling was undeveloped and wouldn’t work so they had to strip it out and install conventional signalling

    – There was considerable fraud and some sabotage. There was a subsequent fraud trial that was related to £65 million of fraud but the trial was a bit of a disaster due to all sorts of things going wrong and eventually the judge abandoned the case.

    – Because they were building to a deadline (Millennium at the Dome) workers were demanding more and more money and management was giving in to those demands.

  97. Mark Townend says:

    Obvious really but once there are more than two independent lines at a major interchange station, it’s not possible to arrange cross platform transfer between all of them even if weaving the tunnels round each other was practical to achieve it between any two. Someone’s always going to feel left out!

  98. Old Buccaneer says:

    @ Pop
    A telling catalogue of errors, some “forced”, some ‘unforced’, in sports jargon. I have to ask whether correspondents and the OP believe that the “idiots’ guide” will improve the fare payers’ experience.

    If that is not the test, what is?

    (For the avoidance of doubt: yes, I understand that the network is subsidised; so the ‘ratepayers’ have a role. But their agents (see Graham H passim) seem not to discharge their duty to the best of their abilities. )

    Reductio ad absurdum: the “design idiom” merely provides new scope for fights among ratepayers’ agents. Cui Bono?

  99. Anonymously says:


    I may only have been a teenager at the time, but I remember very well all the delays and cost blowouts related to the JLE. I too, like Mr Beckton, have sometimes wondered if a lot of money could have been saved if the stations had been a bit more functional (e.g. Bermondsey) and a little less grandiose (e.g. Canary Wharf), including skimping on fancy ‘extras’ such as platform-edge doors. But hindsight and the various reasons PoP gives (all correct, and widely reported in the news at the time, although I hadn’t heard about this ‘fraud’ case?) has made me realise this actually was only a relatively small part of the overall budget.

    I suspect if that damned tunnel at Heathrow hadn’t collapsed (which IIRC resulted in a few fatalities, tragically), and LU hadn’t opted for an untried and untested transmission-based signalling system (from Westinghouse), it may well have not have gone so massively over budget in the way that it did. The resulting construction delays and that immovable Millennium deadline (otherwise no one could have easily got to the Dome!) meant that unions representing construction workers were easily able to extort more and more money from management as that deadline approached (ISTR the electricians especially causing them a hard time?). In the end, they only ‘just’ made it, with the final section linking it to the rest of the line opening on 20th November 1999! Any further delays, and the resulting political fallout would not have been pretty to watch….

    All of this frustrates me immensely, since if the whole project had been better managed, the Treasury would not have taken fright from funding any more Tube or Rail works within London, and Crossrail, TLK 2000 and perhaps even Chelney would all be built and in operation by now. Presumably this was why that senior civil servant at the Treasury was so dead against Crossrail, Graham H?

    At least Crossrail seems to be coming in on budget and on time, so lets hope the Treasury regains enough confidence in TfL project management to fund other transport projects….

  100. Anonymously says:

    @WW…Couldn’t disagree more about lineside video walls and advertising. Any income that helps TfL to pay the bills can only be welcomed. And besides, some of those trackside walls (particularly on the JLE) look very barren and uninviting without them.

    A necessary evil, as they say….

  101. Graham H says:

    @Anonymously and others – whilst I’m not aware of any decree going out from the Treasury that large projects should be shunned as being out of cost control, I do think that West Coast upgrade under RT round 1 marked a turning point in their attitude to public sector clients’ ability to manage projects to time and budget. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the notorious optimism bias was introduced then, closely associated with a general disposition to see that large projects were managed by the private sector or some other dedicated body. Half a generation of “good behaviour” marked by such successes as HS1 seemed to have helped restore the faith in large rail projects -at least until Edinburgh trams ruined the effect; NR’s antics on electrification will have completed the collapse. The Treasury seems to have now defaulted to “Booze up in a brewery mode”, which is why I suspect that the future organisation of NR will see large projects removed from their oversight.

    On CR1, Treasury opposition seems to have been something more visceral rather than a belief that the project would run away on costs and timings – in fact, it’s been an outstanding example of how to do it satisfactorily. Unfortunately,people remember only the bad times…

    BTW to note that it’s not just transport that is tarred with the incompetence brush – peoplewill have noticed the extraordinary proposal that the Treasury should manage the procurement of the next batch of warships, not the MoD. Truly,we have only one Department of State these days – time to break it up along functional lines?

  102. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    You are assuming that there will be an “NR” at all, then?
    I’m not so sure, given the fiascos mentioned.
    Though the proposal to re-invent “Railtrack” as a supposedly “efficient private company” doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm for the future, either…

  103. In the second photo ‘Inside Idiom Park at ticket hall level’, I’m surprised no-one noticed Gail MacIntyre and Reg Holdsworth checking out the design…

  104. Graham H says:

    @Greg T – I assume nothing! (NR’s apparent response will be to propose integrating its planning and project delivery teams, amongst other things) But we will probably be snipped for discussing the future of NR here…

  105. Nameless says:

    I just have the following brief, and I hope final, observation on the restrictions on the Dft SoS should he wish to dispense with NR as currently constituted. I have extracted the following from the objects stated in NR’s Memorandum of Association:

    5. If upon the winding up or dissolution of the Company there is any property remaining after the satisfaction of all its debts and liabilities , it shall not be paid or distributed among the members of the Company, but shall be given or transferred to one or more institutions,

    having objects similar to the objects of the Company and which shall prohibit the distribution of their income and property amongst their members to the same or greater extent

    as is imposed on the Company under or by virtue of paragraph 4 above. Such institution or institutions shall be determined by the members of the Company at or before the time of dissolution, and if they cannot identify any institution or institutions with similar objects to those of the Company then they may

    pay or transfer the surplus to any one or more charities as they shall determine.

    Get out of that….

  106. Graham H says:

    @Nameless – since the SoS doesn’t own NR he will first have to legislate before he reorganises it, thus creating a “real” nationalised industry.

  107. Nameless says:


  108. Anonymously says:

    @Graham H…..Er, but wasn’t Railtrack a private company when the WCML modernisation debacle unfolded? Other examples of private sector organisations messing up project management when performing work on behalf of the public sector also abound (e.g. G4S and the security staff for the Olympics).

    Someone really ought to sit down and explain to HM Treasury why human incompetence, ineptitude and stupidity aren’t just limited to the public sector……

  109. Graham H says:

    @Anonymously -just so but these things are conveniently forgotten when it comes to making political points. Having worked in both the public and the private sectors at senior levels, I am actually quite impressed with the quality of public sector decision making and project management and have found the private sector indifferent to poor in the matter. Anecdotal evidence is always a poor way of sampling, but I still cherish the action of one of the directors (and owners) of the merchant bank in which I started work, who attended a trade fair and was so taken with the blue stationery there that he ordered 2 years’ supply; when I left the bank, the OR department was still engaged in extensive origami exercises to try and make it fit the automated customer statement folding machinery. The bank went under shortly after (not because they had to bin two years’of stationery but because they invested unwisely in fruit peel futures,amongst other things – as a further example of private sector poor judgement…)

  110. Mr Beckton says:

    I agree that project failures are by no means confined to public organisations delivering them. What we do notice, however, is that private companies delivering to public organisation customers can be a breed apart from those working wholly in the mainstream commercial world. It’s like such work attracts a different type of entrepreneur.

    Getting back on topic, Roland Paoletti deciding unilaterally that he didn’t like nasty advertisements obscuring his stylish JLE station designs, the revenue from them be damned, would never have got past first review with a mainstream commercial business as customer.

  111. Pedantic of Purley says:


    There are various articles on the web relating to the fraud case and the fiasco it was. Probably the best of a bad lot is

    A figure of £60 million was mentioned in but I am sure a higher figure was more commonly quoted at the time.

    I am sure this dwarfs any architects fees.

    In any case, as some architects keep telling us, there is no reason to believe that good architecture should cost more than bad architecture.

  112. Ian J says:

    @Mr Beckton:

    a second bus arriving before the first has left would need to stop illegally on the crossing markings

    Why are people so obsessed with the bus in the picture? (and how do you know that the bus in the picture isn’t a second one behind a first one out of shot?) It is just decoration in a single illustration from a document about station design. LUL have no control over roads and would not be involved in highway engineering or designing bus stops or indeed buses.

    they never had a highways engineer on the team

    Thank goodness for that – the station would be festooned with guardrail, “cyclists dismount” signs, Puffin crossings with red men that everyone (quite sensibly) just ignores and crosses the road anyway, gallons of yellow and white paint, thick chevrons everywhere, traffic cameras, traffic camera warning signs, large yellow signs with the highways engineer’s name and degrees listed, etc etc.

    almost all users approach from along the road, from where no signage would be visible

    Except the large “Idiom Park” on the semi-circular canopy.

    key basics like train indicators seem to have been missed out.

    Could I suggest actually reading the document rather than just looking at the pictures? There is discussion of train indicators and sight lines in there.

    Seats set at a 45-degree downward angle are a triumph of design over function

    Yes, but they have been an LUL standard for years, they are not something newly introduced by the document authors.

    The platforms would probably be a bit wider nowadays but that is just basic engineering specification rather than design

    Hang on, so when the Jubilee Line platforms at a given station are a long way from other lines, that is the architects’ fault (even though the layout would have been a result of the line alignments dictated by the engineers years before any architect became involved), but when the Victoria Line platforms are too narrow, that is the engineers’ fault not the architects?

    Ironically the alleged glory days of the 1960s were exactly the time when one architect working on London transport projects actually was a talentless hack filling his pockets at public expense.

    @WW: Exactly the same will happen in the Idiomised stations – they’ll be forced to be massive advertising and video billboards

    Except that the Idiom explicitly makes allowance for advertising, so there is some hope that the advertising can be well integrated into the design instead of just slapped on top of it – given that an advertising-free system is not going to happen.

    On Treasury scepticism – the megaproject disasters of the 1980s and 1990s were split between the public sector (JLE) and the private sector (Channel Tunnel, WCML). The common factor was arguably not public or private ownership, but that big projects were harder to manage and keep on track than smaller ones (the Bent Flyvberg argument). Since then, the scale of growth in demand has meant that megaprojects have almost been forced back into fashion, and HS1 and Crossrail 1 sticking to budget have increased political confidence in them even as medium-size projects (GWML, Thameslink) have proved tricky. But none of that has much to do with design.

  113. timbeau says:

    “almost all users approach from along the road, from where no signage would be visible”
    “Except the large “Idiom Park” on the semi-circular canopy”

    But that sign just tells you which area of London you are in. It is potentially useful if there are two or more stations in close proximity. What it doesn’t tell you is that it is a Tube station.
    This is unequivocably a railway station, even though you could be forgiven for thinking that a well-known caffeine supplier has diversified into transport.

    As for displaying the name of the station:
    a. anyone on the street outside a station probably knows where they are already
    b. anyone looking for a station is probably doing so because they want to be somewhere else anyway

  114. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I don’t recall saying advertising should be banned. The Tube has long had advertising for well understood reasons. The question is one of balance – when you start getting stations “given over” to one advertiser for weeks and the place being plastered from top to bottom with advertising it’s gone too far (IMO). When step risers, floors, escalator panels, entire walls, ceilings, ticket gates and paddles are all plastered with nonsense it has gone too far. If I want an immersive brand experience I’ll go to M&M World in Leicester Square. I don’t expect it on the tube. Ditto with the never ending stream of all over ad buses. It’s getting silly now.

    I am well aware what the Idiom says – I spent several hours reading the material, looking at mock ups and videos at the architect’s practice. My concern, seemingly not well put across, is that I expect the Idiom’s rules will come under great pressure to be flexed when the Commercial people want more advertising in stations to screw more money out of third parties. Mike Brown told the Transport Committee that he sees this as a vital source of funding given the Treasury’s axing of revenue grant. He has changed the internal reporting lines so Graeme Craig, TfL’s Head of Commercial Development, now reports directly to the Commissioner. I therefore expect a great deal of focus in this area and any “obstructions” to money coming in the door being gently “pushed” out of the way. Who is really going to argue with the Commissioner?

    As for Mr Paoletti – I merely offered that comment as a reminder of times past. He had an ego the size of Canary Wharf station and that’s fine. It was just that he was perhaps a tad naive to think that his “declaration” (whether supported by others or not) would survive the transfer from the project to an operational state. It’s not as if the MTR in Hong Kong, on which the JLE platforms are modelled, is devoid of adverts either.

    And without wanting to be negative about Crossrail I would just point out that we still have 3-4 years to go and we are actually in the hardest bit of the project. If you read the official reports you will see that there are pressure points in various parts of the project and the likelihood that risk monies / contingency is increasing. They’re not yet at the point of spending it but I expect some will be spent soon. I still get a sense that Whitechapel and Liverpool St are proving difficult sites. I saw a percentage completion list for the stations recently (can’t find it again) and Farringdon is in the lead. I hope CR1 does complete on time and budget but they’ve got a lot to do.

  115. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    ” I saw a percentage completion list for the stations recently (can’t find it again) and Farringdon is in the lead. I hope CR1 does complete on time and budget but they’ve got a lot to do.”

    page 10 of the commissioners report
    Paddington 50%
    Bond Street 63%
    TCR 58%
    Farringdon 72%
    Liverpool Street 52%
    Whitechapel 57%
    Canary Wharf 99%
    Custom House 80%
    Woolwich – Box 99% – Easy Fitout 23%

  116. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    @Nicole Badstuber

    I note there is an error in the downloadable image at the top of the page – “Station Design Types” – as this mentions the “Network Railways” which was corrected on page 112 of the released version of the full document to “Network Rail” (at Barking, Richmond, Richmond, Upminster and Addison Road) .

    I did have a rather good visit to the Architect’s office when they presented this document back in June (before my surgery…) and I’m a little disappointed by some of the comments people make when they just look at the pictures, given the careful and detailed though gone into the words.

    They did answer a lot of my rather detailed questions about implementation of this plan (such as “would you hide the historic stations names on platform tiles” – “yes”).

  117. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    Can I also suggest that the “Idiom Flashcards” are very worth people’s time. Download and go to page 199.

    It’s very much an “I Spy” for London Underground architecture.

    If you look at these pages you will very clearly see that the “Idiom Park” examples are for “Stations that do not preserve any major elements of the above design types and that would be reconstructed, redeveloped or modernised using the 2015 LU Design Idiom”

    I understand that a guide that also includes the Overground and DLR will follow…

  118. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    @LBM – questions were asked direct to the Studio Egret West Architech who was “made available” on the Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 3 Brewhouse Yard[1].


  119. RichardB says:

    @WW I recall reading somewhere that when New York proceeded with the construction of the IND lines of the subway money was tight for station design so they went for a fairly austere setup. However much was made of this by comparing with London whose Underground stations were “defaced” with commercial advertising. The proud intention was that New York would not imitate London in that regard! Evidently that resolution was clearly and swiftly overcome. Designers generally would prefer that advertising be excluded as it conflicts with or detracts from their vision.

    I have to say I am not especially taken with a lot of contemporary design thinking as applied to the Underground. The Jubilee by using a dark non reflective colour and exposed matt surfaces combined with light lines which are suspended from the ceiling creates an atmosphere of gloom and shadow. The Jubilee stations can be very bleak places when they are quiet as indeed can the stations on the Washington Metro.

    Designers often like this effect as the exposed matt surfaces have “integrity” and gives the impression of being inside the machine. I do wonder if they are trying for a deliberately “edgy” atmosphere reminiscent of the New York subway? The current Idiom proposals seem to want to adhere to that approach. The presence of posters at the older stations combined with a lighter palette, reflective surfaces and lights clipped to the ceilings actually makes for a more interesting and varied environment and possibly a less intimidating one. I confess I am depressed if this design portfolio is to be the last word as envisaged by the authors with no changes being considered for at least 50 years. I just don’t feel their vision is especially good surpassing all the previous designs.

    Frankly if this it I would prefer we emulate the style espoused on the Moscow Metro under Stalin. The stations are genuinely memorable as indeed they are on the St Petersburg and Kiev metros.

  120. Chris L says:

    @Briantist I would have to argue about well thought out.

    The design for the front of the station takes no account of people approaching from the side as they do at the majority of stations. Projecting signs have been needed and there from the start of the Tube.

    Very few stations have a pavement wide enough for the curved canopy. Again no provision for a station name on the approach sides.

    There are also basic signage rules like Help points have to have signs above them and a contrasting colour circle around them. These are ignored in the visuals. Also arrows directing to the right on the left hand side of the words. Well researched in the past – they should be ranged right to help people read the information they need and walk the correct way.

  121. Fandroid says:

    RichardB. I totally agree with you. The Jubilee Line Extension stations have tremendous engineering and design merit as structures, but they are not generally welcoming places for travellers. No-one worries when the stations are crowded with fellow travellers, but the test of a station’s ‘welcome’ is when there aren’t many people about. There needs to be some real testing of passenger attitudes in these twilight hours, to ensure that the ‘Idiom’ is actually making people feel safe compared with the traditional early Tube designs. When a station is crowded, then it’s essential that exits and transfer routes are intuitively obvious and available, for those who aren’t just moving on auto-pilot. If the designers can combine a maximum feeling of security in the twilight hours with easy navigation during the rush, then they will have achieved something worthy of an LR article in 25 years time!

  122. Stuart says:

    Not directly related, and apologies for that, but in terms of railway branding this takes some beating

    Somewhat iconic, though slightly scary to see what the budget went on back then …

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LR Magazine Issue Five: Overgrounded


With print copies now being prepped for dispatch to subscribers at LR Towers, London Reconnections Magazine Issue 5: Overgrounded is now available to purchase in our online store. Transport is politics, politics is transport You don’t get transport without politics.

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