Confessions of a Political Animal

October 14, 2008

People in free papers shouldn’t draw maps

Filed under: London Politics,Media,Transport — Political Animal @ 11:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,

OK, so this particular spot is only going to appeal to the London transport buffs amongst you, but I thought it was quite a good example of what happens when media outlets cut their journalism and research budgets to the bone.

There’s been a proposal doing the rounds for some while for a radical re-configuring of the way that the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines work – having lots of trains on varying routes conflicting at lots of flat junctions doesn’t make for a reliable or efficient service, as anyone who has ever waited for a Circle Line train will know. The erstwhile London Connections blog reported in July that the decision had been made for the re-configuration to go ahead, by 2012 at the very latest. The proposal is that trains will start at Hammersmith, head up what is now the Hammersmith & City Line via Ladbroke Grove, joining the Circle at Edgware Road and travelling round the Circle clockwise until they reach Edgware Road again. Trains would then reverse and follow the same route back to Hammersmith via the Circle, passing Edgware Road for a second time en route.

For some reason EDIT: Following a London Travelwatch meeting on the subject, one of London’s two apocalyptically bad freesheets thelondonpaper (their lack of capitals and spaces, not mine – don’t they have a proofreader?) has decided to run on this story this evening. The article itself, under the headline ‘The semi-Circle Line’ is actually reasonably accurate. Where it all goes wrong is the map, scanned in above, and in particular its left-hand corner. Whoever drew the map obviously didn’t read the headline, because they decided that the Circle line must remain, well a circle. Having scanned the article and seen the name ‘Hammersmith’, they got out their Underground map and drew the above – which show trains continuing through Hammersmith, via a mythical link to the District line to get back to Earl’s Court and the Circle.

If you’ve ever tried interchanging as a pedestrian between the two entirely separate stations at Hammersmith (Hammersmith & City Line and District/Piccadilly line), you’ll know its hard enough without trying to take the train with you. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, take a look at this aerial photograph: the station marked ‘Underground – Hammersmith’ is the H&C line station, whilst the District line is in the station to the south (with lots of red buses next to it), in the middle of a gyratory system. There is, quite simply no rail link between them, nor would it be possible to realistically build one, thanks to busy roads and a huge difference in the levels of the lines. What a good job the map is entitled ‘How the Circle Line might work’, because be assured, it won’t work like this.

Evidently, thelondonpaper’s researches could do with a bit of an education in the ways of the Underground – or perhaps they know something we don’t? Is Boris cutting everyone elses’ transport schemes so that his loyal voters in Hammersmith & Fulham can be rewarded with an utterly useless and multi-million pound level-crossing/funicular railway combination to get trains between the two lines in Hammersmith? I think we should be told…

PS: Anyone who would like to keep up with progress on this proposal, rather than just giggling at freesheet’s various stupidities, would be well advised to keep an eye on the London Re-connections blog, which does an excellent job at keeping abreast of TfL board papers and the like.



  1. The western section of zone one and neighbouring section of zone two does need work doing to it. I think I’m right in saying that the confusion of lines there is largely a result of the unplanned way in which competing, private companies set up lines in the area. I used to go quite regularly from King’s X to Hammersmith and, despite the direct H&C line, it was quicker to go via the Piccadilly line because of the relatively low frequency of trains and the often long waits. The stretch of District line from Earl’s Court to Edgware Road also suffers from poor service.

    Going from Hammersmith District & Piccadilly line (which sits underneath the bus and coach station) to the H&C line station could be a bit of a mission as you had to cross the gyratory around the station and then Beadon Road. The gyratory is a big interchange, handling a lot of the traffic from the Hammersmith flyover as well as all the buses and coaches that use the station. You quickly became used to directing people between the stations or, as often happened, back down King Street. A line, painted on the pavement, would have made life a lot easier.

    It’s unfortunate that the people at thelondonpaper never played Transport Tycoon, as they’d realise one of the big problems with circular lines – there’s no space to allow trains to be delayed or catch up as one train affects all the others on the line, right back round to the one in front. Effectively going to a spiral keeps the advantages of having lots of links between main stations but solves some of the congestion problems. Relatively few people are going to be doing semicircles around the line as there’s almost always a quicker route via the centre. I understand that there’s also an issue with wheel wear – if trains keep going round a circular track in the same direction, one set of wheels (the outer, I think) wears down more quickly. The solution at the moment is to occasionally send the trains down to Aldgate East before Aldgate, which turns the train around.

    Talking of that part of town, I wonder if it would make sense to replace the service to Olympia with a bendy bus. Nah, stupid idea.


    Comment by Dave Cole — October 15, 2008 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  2. Actually, the Circle line needn’t run through Hammersmith; rather, the Hammersmith & City line could run along the Thames and the Met line could run out to Barking. I think both the H&C and Met lines are getting the s-stock trains.


    Comment by Dave Cole — October 15, 2008 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  3. Hmm. I’m more concerned about the effect this would have on the Hammersmith and City line. Already the announcement that “All lines are running with good service” (and, incidentally, in which city would this ever be worthy of an announcement other than London?) seems to exclude the H&C line. I often have to wait 15 minutes or more during rush hour at Barbican while several Circle and Met line trains go through. Mess further with H&C routing at our peril.

    Comment by The Scribe of Notting Hill — October 15, 2008 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  4. And I was *so* looking forward to the yellow and pink striped ‘Hammersmith and Circle’ line…

    Comment by Paul — October 15, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  5. Scribe – if I understand things correctly, it will decrease congestion on the Circle line, which in turn allows more trains on the H&C.


    Comment by Dave Cole — October 18, 2008 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  6. The existing Hammersmith & City service will continue unchanged, so the diverted Circle Line will double the service to Hammersmith. In fact, this is one of the main aims of the scheme.

    Comment by Graham — October 21, 2008 @ 9:02 am | Reply

  7. Ah, I hadn’t realised that – that will be quite some improvement down the Hammersmith branch. I suppose I should have worked that out from the lack of any provision for the Liverpool Street – Aldgate East curve in the Circle Line plans (as I understand it, the suggestion of some/all Met trains going to Barking has now been dropped).

    Comment by Political Animal — October 21, 2008 @ 9:29 am | Reply

  8. Hang on: you say it’s not possible to join the H&City line and the Distric at H’smith.

    It would be expensive and would require some digging to link both lines but surely it CAN be done -even if the District and Picadilly stations end up underground.

    There’s just a total absence of will and planning for a really integrated transport system.

    The idiot who separated the Hammersmith bus station in two (result: you miss your bus trying to catch the earliest one in the wrong station) proved my point.

    Comment by Ludovic — October 21, 2008 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  9. I’m not sure I said that it couldn’t be done (throw enough cash around and most things are possible), rather that it isn’t being done and almost certainly won’t be done. As far as I’m aware there has never been a proposal on the table to link the two Hammersmith stations. And personally, I’d say somewhere like West Hampstead is a more crucial interchange to spend cash on improving – I just can’t see that the H&C is really that important a line in terms of interchanging at its western end.

    Feel free to tell me that I’m wrong about that – my point is simply that thelondonpaper has got its map spectacularly wrong.

    Comment by Political Animal — October 21, 2008 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: