1. Transport
June 22, 2015

TfL has unveiled London’s new “Night Tube Map” and it is beautiful

By City Monitor Staff

You know what we could do here in London? A new tube map. Haven’t had one of those* in ages.

To be fair to the city’s latest exciting contribution to transport design, this one, unlike the last couple we’ve reported on, has the advantage of being an official Transport for London effort.

The new map, which will begin appearing at tube stations at some time before the autumn, shows the “Night Tube” service that’ll run later this year. At the moment, most tube lines pack up at some point before 1am: from 12 September, though, selected trains will run all night.

Not every night, of course: a lot of important maintenance tends to go on in the early hours, so the Night Tube will run on Fridays and Saturdays only. Nor will it simply be a matter of extending the existing network to 24 hour service. The Night Tubes will be less frequent than their diurnal equivalent, and will initially cover only all or part of five lines.

Here’s what you’re getting, London.

Jubilee line: One train roughly every 10 minutes, the entire length of the line. (Woo.)

Victoria line: ditto. (Hoo.)

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That’s the easy ones dispensed with.

Central line: In the core section from White City to Leytonstone, it’ll be one train every 10 minutes again.

Not so on the outer branches, however. At the eastern end of the line, about half the trains will continue to Epping, and half to Hainult via Newbury Park. At the western end, about half the trains will continue to Ealing Broadway, while the other half will turn back at White City.

Want a train on the West Ruislip or Chigwell branches? You’ll be waiting a long time. Until the day time service kicks off again, in fact.

Piccadilly line: One train every 10 minutes or so between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5. Nothing on the Terminal 4 loop, though, or on the branch from Acton Town to Uxbridge.

Northern Line: One train every eight minutes between Morden and Camden Town. About half of these will continue to High Barnet, the other half to Edgware.

No service on the Mill Hill East branch, which makes sense because there’s nothing there.

No service on the Bank branch, which makes less sense, since that goes to Old Street and London Bridge, and if the purpose of the exercise is to provide better transport for London’s night time economy you might think those would be places worth sending trains to. But apparently not.

This, as we’ve noted before, means that the Night Tube will serve Epping Forest, Canary Wharf and four different stations in that ultra-hip night spot Acton. But it won’t serve large chunks of town (Shoreditch, Farringdon) where people tend to stay up all night dancing. Never mind, we’re sure they know what they’re doing.

To be fair to TfL, this is just phase one, and further services will be rolled out in the years to come. According to a statement:

We also plan to expand the night time service to parts of the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines once our modernisation programmes are complete. Additionally, services could operate on parts of the London Overground in 2017 and the Docklands Light Railway by 2021.

That just leaves the Waterloo & City and Bakerloo lines out in the cold, where they’re likely to stay for some time. A spokesperson told us in February that “we don’t think there will be demand for it”.

So much for the network. What of the map itself?

It’s… rather lovely we must say. Here it is:

The use of two tones of blue to highlight both fare zones and night-iness is very effective, and a massive improvement on the white/grey combo you get on the day time map. The white text is nicely readable, while the thin white borders makes the lines themselves stand out nicely. 

The stripped down colour palette that the limited services allows is also quite easy on the eye. There’s no longer a cramped tangle of overlapping lines in the north eastern quadrant. And call us soppy, but we just love this guy:

To be fair, it is much, much easier to make a decent map of a simple network than it is to do the same with a complex one. Perhaps the increasing bleurgh-iness of the main tube map is simply an inevitable result of the fact it’s trying to communicate vastly more information than this one.

Nonetheless, the night tube map suggests that TfL can still make its maps beautiful when it tries. So, yay.


*This is an example of the rhetorical device known as “irony”. Here are some other new tube maps we have reported on over the last few weeks.

Transport for London’s zoomable new tube map is completely terrible

This amateur London Tube map someone posted on Wikipedia is far better than the real thing

Here’s another unofficial tube map that might be better than the real thing

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