There was a palpable sense of anger on Twitter on 23 February when the Evening Standard revealed that, once open, the long awaited new Crossrail service through London will be named the Elizabeth Line.
That’s right: transport planners, or perhaps more likely our former mayor Boris Johnson, decided that the new railway should be named after the London resident who is perhaps least likely to ever actually use it.
Needless to say, as a lefty republican type, I was furious. Not just because I’d now have to boycott the new line on principle (it’s hard enough avoiding the Victoria and the Jubilee). No, I was also angry because this vanity exercise has presumably cost hardworking London taxpayers big.
So, to find out, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to TfL to find out exactly how much.
And the news is… slightly underwhelming, actually. It turns out that, rather than an outrage-inducing six figure sum, the cost to adjust all of the branding and signage was apparently just £5000. To put that in the most tabloid-friendly terms possible, that’s the same cost as 23 per cent of a nurse or 23 per cent of a trainee firefighter.
“The cost of the branding change has been identified as circa £5,000 for a revised roundel prototype,” Transport for London (TfL) told me. The cost of the name-change was so cheap, apparently, because the cost of switching the branding from the construction-phase Crossrail brand to post-launch Crossrail brand had already been factored in. It appears the five grand was to pay a designer to change a piece of text in a photoshop template.
That said, this number doesn’t price-in the intangible costs – the fact that the “Crossrail” brand already means something to Londoners who have put up with years of Crossrail-emblazoned hoardings blocking pavements. Nor does it take account of the fact that Crossrail is a better name.
What’s also curious is that TfL told me that, “There is no identified physical signage that needs to be replaced as a result of the renaming”.
And yet, if you take a trip to the new ticket hall at Tottenham Court Road, you can clearly see where signage already has “Crossrail” printed, ready to be uncovered in 2019.
Image: author provided.
TfL also sent me an internal Powerpoint presentation showing how the new name would work across TfL’s branding. There isn’t too much in there, other than the fact this is perhaps the first time we’ve seen the full Elizabeth Line Tube Map with the new railway in the correct shade of purple (this map only had the rest of the network in shades of grey; others show the line with a distinctly more pinkish hue).
The map does reveal one other branding quirk we’ve got to look forward to, though, which will enrage pedants and tube nerds alike (a venn diagram with a big overlap).
The Elizabeth Line isn’t a line, exactly – it’s a new railway system, complete with its own special purple roundel. It’s more like the London Overground or the DLR in their entirety than a paltry little Tube line.
But the decision to call it “the Elizabeth Line” is forcing the Tube map to add the “line” suffix to every other (real) line listed on the map, just so it doesn’t look weird on its own.
Click to expand, if you must.
But maddeningly, it will still be referred to as simply “Elizabeth” on “wayfinding” signage.
Conversely, where the EL shares a station with the Tube, on the roundels out front, it will be the only line to explicitly refer to its “line” on the roundel.
Annoying, yes. But also surprisingly cheap – which means we can’t really use the cost as a stick to beat either the former mayor, TfL, or the Royal Family. But we can all still agree that it is a really stupid name, right?
James O’Malley tweets as @Psythor.
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