The thing is that London’s tube map is beautiful. Harry Beck’s diagrammatic representation of how to get around London underground is also extremely effective. It tells you how to get from one place to another, and it allows you to decide if you’d rather go more stops and change less often, or vice versa.
It does not, however, tell you everything you might want to know about London, above and below the pavement. It rudely makes stations look much further apart than they are in real life, especially if they’re on different lines. The addition of the Overground lines has made that all the more glaring – South Hampstead looks to be roughly as far from Euston as Machu Picchu, despite being a paltry six minutes away.
So you can see why someone might have thought we needed a new map. A map which dispenses with the elegant Beck angles, and represents London as the size and shape it really is. A map which, amongst its other virtues, makes me want to cry.
Mark Noad designed his new map with the non-Londoner in mind: ‘A number of my friends from outside London and overseas have told me they found it confusing and made navigating the city difficult for them.’ Which is all very well, but has anyone asked if that is something which actually needs to be fixed?
The whole point of visiting another city is that you have to learn how it works, and that shouldn’t be too easy. Try and use the metro map in Brussels, and you will discover it’s so far beyond baffling that it is simply easier to walk to your destination, or perhaps forget about going there, sit down and have a waffle. This leaves the metro system conveniently empty so that people who live and work in Brussels can get around with ease. It also adds considerably to the takings of waffle-vendors all over the city.
Given that the Tube is so over-crowded already, and that’s before the Olympics adds the extra event of seeing how many people you can cram in a carriage before Norris McWhirter starts spinning in his grave, I think we should make the tube map as impenetrable as possible. The least we can do is add in the ghost stations which no longer exist, chuck a couple of extra rivers in up the top, and continue to pretend that Queensway is nowhere near Bayswater.