IMG 6650fi 1 - Edgware Road station goes full throttle!

Remember the furore… (was there actually one? Probably! Anyway it blew over quickly!) Okay, it was the one about the new London Underground heritage posters replacing tube maps at many stations – some station platforms ended up without a single tube map to be seen anywhere! Well there seems to be a madness (of sorts) behind this very strategy! The answer seems to be a desire to make things very big – so big one just cannot miss any maps! TfL have taken that concept on board and upgraded the look of their station maps.

Instead of a small street map a whole section of the ticket hall’s wall space has been given over to a gigantic map which can currently be seen at Edgware Road (Chapel Street) station. That’s the one that serves the Circle, District and Hammersmith & City Lines as opposed to the other one nearby serving the Bakerloo.

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The map and street index in its entirety. The circle depicts a ten minute walking range.

The map is no temporary measure – its a permanent fixture. It is known there have been large street maps displayed on the tube before, these were usually as part of an exhibition or event and even as a contribution to an area’s history. This one is different!

This new map was placed overnight on the 13/14th October – thus it was fully seen for the first time by passengers using the station on the morning of 14th October.

Staff informed me it was the first such map of its size to be used by TfL for its stations, however they were not able to tell me whether TfL was planning more large maps at its other stations.

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View of the map with the older style ‘Continuing your journey from Edgware Road’ map on the far right.

In terms of other possible locations I think Embankment could have one (given the area’s new status as the North Bank) but of course it depends on whether local companies or organisations (such as The Northbank BID) will be able to sponsor the concept.

It would also depend on what sort of attractions and places of interest were on offer. Because of the map’s large size these are not immediately going to be a useful asset at other stations unless they are placed strategically – and there are places people would want to visit that makes it worthwhile to have these gigantic maps.

In retrospect, yes Embankment has two entrances however it has one large main hall and one ticket barrier so the idea could work there too with a map on one of the walls because it will be quite a central focus. I don’t know how effective it would be at other tube stations with multiple entrances and many ticket barriers (King’s Cross for example) plus it would depend on whether there was the space available or not, which is why I think the concept is ultimately limited to just a few potential stations.

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The map – with the ticket barriers and platforms out of sight to the left.

The main reason the map works well at Edgware Road station is because the layout is such that people are facing the map whether they come through the barriers or the main entrance. From either direction the map becomes a main focus and its easy for people to look at.

Its good that Edgware Road station has the honour of having the first such example, seeing the area has many choices for sightseeing, shops, museums, galleries – besides the one everyone knows which is the area’s very popular Arab cuisine.

In terms of tourist locations, Tower Hill (the exit hall) would be another good location, and South Kensington too if TfL were able to place the map strategically and a focal point towards any such map could be maintained. Not a lot of touristy tube stations have this potentiality if one really thinks about it!

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The map denotes the area as the Gateway to the West End.

One of the nice things about that map is it shows a quite advantageous side of the legible street signage. The maps we usually see on the streets of London – by this I refer to the monoliths and miniliths in many locations – are quite small even though they have this same amount of detail. Increased to this huge size the maps still have loads of detail but do not in any sense overwhelm anyone looking at it.

A niggly problem with the map is it has rather outdated detail. I had understood TfL kept their maps databases updated constantly, but this one does not show that as having being done. The subways at the junction of Edgware, Harrow and Marylebone Roads are no longer extant – they were closed about two years ago! The Portman Early Childhood Centre (which I wrote about) has also closed. The map also shows sites under development around the Paddington area – most of which are complete now. The Elizabeth Line too is not shown (its services starting this December to Reading) though there is at least a TfL Rail symbol for Paddington.

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Big map and big detail!

I looked at TfL and Marble Arch London BID’s social media and it seems there’s no mention at all of this new map being launched. It simply was put up without any ceremony or an single mention being made across these social media accounts and not one mention has been made about it. Perhaps TfL did not know when the map would be put up – and the sponsors are not any wiser as to its existence?

The new map will not be replacing the old one which is part of the ‘Continuing your journey from….’ series. Both have a different purpose. The big one is more visual whilst the older one depicts the area’s transport links, as well as some streets and the area’s main landmarks.

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The streets index and general information top panel of the map.

The large sized map naturally display more streets than the smaller ‘connections’ one – and it will help people easily identify, for example the canal basin at Paddington, the nearby main line railway stations, Marble Arch itself, the area’s many historic Georgian squares and the main London parks.

Not only that, because the map is huge it will be able to convey a better sense of walking distance (and the time taken to do that distance) so that’s another advantage of this new look map. Conversely Edgware Road station is often a nodal point where weekend engineering works begin or finish, so people could see from the map if it might be better to walk, eg to Paddington, or to Baker Street.

One never knows, someday there may be tube maps this big! I think that would be a good idea because it would give a far better sense of placement and travelling distances, plus it would be easier to absorb critical detail such as interchanges and so on.

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