Is Crossrail – the Elizabeth Line – consistent across the board? Apparently the answer seems to be no especially when it comes to its signs! Here are some quirks, mistakes, and downright oversights in the new railway’s signage.
Crossrail’s assertion it has seven principles that determine a consistent and easily identifiable look seems a bit questionable especially when one reads three of those principles and then compares those with the following scenarios that I have found.
Three of the avowed design concepts from Crossrail’s total of seven are questionable. Source: Crossrail
In response to this, I find (as we will see in the cases shown below) there are a number of problems related to Crossrail/Elizabeth Line’s signs. Identity? Well yes there’s an identity but in some situations its seems rather poorly thought out. Clarity? Well that’s another problem as we will see later. And consistency? You’ll know the tile of this post includes the word inconsistent and that is because the line’s corporate identity isn’t really very consistent in a number of situations.
The early Crossrail signs
But first, in the early days this rather mish mash of identity and design considerations might be because the line has been through a lot of identity changes. If we look at the seventies, the nineties and then the 2000s, the period after the Crossrail bill was passed, and then the early real implementations of any semblance of a corporate identity, its been difficult to see a consistency. Each phase has its own identity but its only in the last ten years or so we have seen this morph into arguably what is no doubt now seen as a better identity.
But in the quest to become better, bigger, has it actually sort of lost track? In a way I think it has plus the delays in construction has brought about a sort of muddled approach to the whole thing – as the following pictures will show.
Before we start, yes the first roundels to be installed were actually Crossrail ones! Crossrail as to be the name for the new railway. Here’s a totem for Tottenham Court Road station in hybrid Crossrail colours (eg blue/grey.) This was seen in 2014. Source: Twitter
Quite a few of the early station designs showed the blue/grey Crossrail roundel, as well as the purple ‘Crossrail’ one which were indeed produced long before it became the Elizabeth Line. Source: Grimshaw Global
Tottenham Court Road station was the test bed for many of the Crossrail/Elizabeth Line signs, which explains why it features so much in the line’s early days of construction.
One can agree the early designs were a bit drab. The grey perhaps looked a bit too much like the Jubilee Line! Clearly a new identity was desired, but the entire spectrum of colours appeared to have been used up. The purple roundel was in fact used for London Taxis. I have examples of Taxi Private Hire using the purple roundel. As Crossrail as a new and bigger concept it needed a better identity and a greater colour than this grey. Thus it acquired that purple roundel and Taxi Private Hire instead went over to a different hue of blue.
‘Crossrail’ above the escalators at Tottenham Court Road.
Tottenham Court Road still has some Crossrail signs which shows this station was intended to be known by that name, the reason being it was the first central core station to be completed. The Queen hadn’t come in to the equation at that time!
‘Crossrail’ in the ticket hall at Tottenham Court Road.
Its said thoughts of changing the name of Crossrail to something else had been entertained quite early on and one of the choices was for it to be the Churchill Line. Bizarely Churchill would have made things a bit simpler because the middle seven letters of Crossrail could be replaced with decals saying ‘hurchil.’ Job done (!!)
Bo-Jo didnt like that idea, so he came up with Elizabeth Line in 2016 and that meant bigger changes because many new Crossrail roundels (in purple of course) had to be replaced. So it seems from these early auspices, the line has since suffered a sort of identity crisis because 1) people didn’t like it and 2) its actually been difficult to keep a consistency in the light of so many changes.
Crossrail roundels galore
To start off this article proper, let’s begin with those Crossrail billboards at the various opening days. These announced ‘See you in December 2018’…. that was a MASSIVE inconsistency, and probably the biggest to date!
Seen at a Farringdon open day in June 2018. Two months later the secret was out. No Crossrail for another year or two, maybe even more! Source: Twitter (Note: Account was suspended, thus an archived image has been used.)
What about the current stations signs – are there any consistences??? Let’s start with Moorgate and then Farringdon after.
You tell me why Liverpool Street/Moorgate Crossrail has Underground roundels especially when the original designs depicted Elizabeth Line roundels. Maybe they didnt want to confuse people? I tried to find out the reasoning behind this but there doesnt seem any.
At first hand it seems an interchange would be more preferred with tube roundels rather than Elizabeth Line roundels. Hence the change at Moorgate – and besides it was agreed Moorgate was a complex case so it was probably thought easier to have tube roundels anyway. But then one needs to ask – why do both Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon have purple roundels if they are interchanges too?
Drat! Is that a Crossrail sign? Not! Its one of two Underground roundels at Moorgate’s Crossrail entrance. Okay its an interchange – but as I said earlier Farringdon has purple roundels and that’s an interchange too!
At first glance it seems probable its because TCR and Farringdon’s entrances are completely separate – unlike Moorgate’s. Is that so?
One of the original designs for Moorgate showing the purple roundel and Elizabeth Line. Source: Twitter
Let’s take a closer look at Farringdon….
Farringdon’s purple roundel – along with lower case station lettering. The problem with this set-up? The eastern ticket hall is also an interchange with Barbican station!
One goes through the hall at Farringdon’s eastern ticket office and down the first escalator to gain access to the Circle, Hammersmith and Metropolitan Line at Barbican. Thus following on from Moorgate’s example, Farringdon too should have a red roundel rather than a purple one.
But what does the Elizabeth Line standards book tell us? These roundels should all be Elizabeth Line purple as the picture below shows…. no reds!
TfL’s Elizabeth Line standards specify a purple roundel, not an Underground one! Source: Twitter
After all that hassle to get the railway named the Elizabeth Line – unbelievably ‘Underground’ (NOT ‘Elizabeth Line’) signs are appearing at other stations besides Moorgate. Take Woolwich for example, a 100% true Elizabeth Line station – and it has an Underground sign!! Yes, red and blue roundel with ‘Underground’ emblazoned in white lettering across the centre!
The problem is the tube doesn’t even come here! Clearly someone threw their Elizabeth Line standards book out of the window…
Its things like this that caused me to take a closer look at a number of things and try to work out just what is going on. I mean, the fact Woolwich Crossrail/Elizabeth Line really has an Underground roundel is like, what on earth are they doing?
Woolwich Crossrail – ‘An official London Underground sign, with roundel, has appeared!’ Oh shit! Woolwich’s not even on the tube is it? Source: Twitter
This sign was almost immediately black bagged! Many improvements on the railways (including the Four Lines modernisation) seem to entail some sort of homage for Black Bag – the faithful border bin liner. Its an obvious reason why all these workmen wear Hi-Viz jackets and its why black plastic bin liner is the preferred wrap method!
The sign was almost immediately black bagged! Source: Twitter
That didnt work well – perhaps someone ripped it off who knows?
The new totem sign was then encased in wood instead! Source: Twitter
And that didnt work either! When I visited Woolwich they had changed it back to bin liner stuff with bubble wrap over the top of it.
The totem clearly has had its block knocked off! All this in the space of a few days!
Now the question is, was the choice of a red/blue Underground roundel the right choice for Woolwich? Clearly this (and the other situations) shows there seems to be some muddled thinking behind what should properly entail an Elizabeth Line identity.
Lower case versus upper case?
Lower case/upper case is another area of contention. The lower case on station names is the agreed style. However some stations employ the upper case instead like Tottenham Court Road and several others. Why? You tell me!
Apparently its to do with emulating the other aspects of the station. If a station already has upper case the Elizabeth Line identity follow that, if its lower case, do it the same way as that.
It’s not always the way it works however… take Farringdon (again)…
Farringdon – in lower case? No probs that’s the agreed style. Source: Twitter
However the other Farringdon station (the western ticket office for both Crossrail/Thameslink and the tube) has its letters in UPPER CASE!
The other Farringdon Crossrail entrance. Okay, a blue background means uppercase! But surely it means both should be upper case?
Clearly the eastern entrance is meant to be denoted as a specific Elizabeth Line station. There’s another problem however… its an interchange too with Barbican as we saw earlier. The question of Barbican we look at next:
Why oh why, after all that hassle of withdrawing the disability access to Barbican station to save a few pennies, do the Crossrail signs at Farringdon still continue to denote Barbican as being a fully accessible point? Is it a proper interchange or not? Well the coporate identity outside the ticket hall seemingly says its not an interchange but inside the ticket hall its obvious its an interchange!
Farringdon station – look at the Barbican sign on the lift! It gives the impression both Barbican platforms are accessible when in fact its only the westbound. Source: Twitter
The problem here is Crossrail originally envisaged access to both platforms at Barbican. It was going to be expensive and quite difficult to build. The plug was pulled on that concept, keeping just the access to the westbound platform as that was an easier construction – and no doubt it too saved on the total Crossrail bill.
What the signs should now be doing is saying Barbican (westbound) only or something to that effect. Instead its giving the notion Barbican is fully accessible (not only that there’s a danger one assumes they could exit via Barbican station in their wheelchair… when in fact one needs to exit out of Farringdon itself and progress down Long Lane to Barbican.
What’s said on the platform signs also isn’t very clear re the lift access to Barbican station! Source: Twitter
This sign is saying Way Out in both directions so one would assume there was an exit via both for disabled people via lifts. But the Barbican choice only goes to the westbound platform and there isn’t a lift out of Barbican station itself.
If one looks closely at this picture, Barbican is denoted plainly, but not in terms of disability access – because its not a fully accessible station. Yet this sign, like the platform ones, can be confusing too, because it looks like the Barbican station is fully accessible! Source: Twitter
One of the points to bear in this is the Elizabeth Line platforms are considerably long. In this case instead of heading for the better western exit at Farringdon, one could get all the way to Barbican and find they have to go all the way back, especially if they want to go east, so that is an issue.
Its possible of course to go westbound on a train and then get off at Farringdon (Circle/Hammermsith/Met) and change to the other platform to go east, but its not very effective if it has entailed people undertaking a long roundabout journey just to do this.
The lower level inclined lift doesn’t say Barbican – which is right! However it misses off the fact saying that Farringdon would be a better alternative to using Barbican if one wanted to go eastbound on the Circle, Hammersmith, Metropolitan lines. I think it seems the whole scenario here hasn’t been thought through properly. Source: Twitter
Other upper case/lower case inconsistencies
Many have said Tottenham Court Road (the Dean Street entrance) is totally wrong. It should be in lower case. Indeed. Its upper case simply because the other main entrance is upper case too.
PURPLE background with uppercase at Tottenham Court Road but its opposed to the Elizabeth Line standards.
But its not following the example of Farringdon is it? Tottenham Court Road (Dean Street) too has purple roundels yet its an interchange as the signs inside indicate. Okay so it means someone has slipped up!
What about Canary Wharf? Here it is…
By the look of things the new Crossrail station should have upper case. Yes the Jubilee’s station is in upper case but the other is in lower case!
The low-down at Canary Wharf station! Lower case lettering on a purple background which is the Crossrail standard and that is how it should be – unlike that example at Tottenham Court Road.
One would think Woolwich would perhaps have have an uppercase station name, seeing it has a real Underground roundel too. But no fear, its station name is in lower case letters no doubt matching the DLR and main line stations nearby! Excellent!
There’s one slight problem however. Its so small it cant be seen from far off! The name ‘Woolwich’ itself must be about two foot six inches (76mm) in length! Even the ‘Crossrail’ on the hoarding outside the station entrance’s so much bigger! Another silly inconsistency no doubt…
Try finding the ‘Woolwich’ station name sign – all two feet of it! Can you see it? Nope!
There! Its a closer look. Can you see the station name yet? Only just barely!
Oh dear! We are really going to have to zoom in on this one…
See it now? Yesss! But why the heck did they want it so damn small? And why does there have to be a bloody lamp post right in front of it?
The tiny station name as seen from the other side of Dial Arch Square – fortunately a bit of sun shone on it then! Notice how the ‘Crossrail’ is bigger.
A couple of locals informed me they thought the station name rather too small, and one person kindly agreed to show what she thought of it.
Many thanks to this local resident who gave Woolwich station a thumbs down for having a very small station name!
Is that all? Nope! There’s more… The Woolwich totem itself (thats the one with the Underground roundel remember) has examples of shoddy workmanship. Look at the ‘Woolwich’ on the totem and the ‘l’s and the ‘h’s are so out of line. They’re at an angle too! The ‘h’ leans forward and the ‘l’ leans backwards. These are not the only examples on this totem. The sign indicating Plumstead looked as if someone has chewed parts of the fonts! Clearly the person making this particular totem was drunk or something – and that’s why it got a London Underground red/blue sign plus a bunch of crooked lettering!
Wonky lines and letters dangling at angles! The worst legible street sign work I’ve seen!
Woolwich Arsenal with a real wonky ‘h’ and an ‘r.’ (A slanty arse perhaps?)
Woolwich close-up with its wonky ‘l’ and ‘h.’
At the end of the line – Abbey Wood. Was designed to have upper case but following the decisions to conform to certain standards it got lower case too – like most Crossrail stations.
Abbey Wood station – at least its the standard lower case. A little small though but nothing like that at Woolwich! I’m not sure it should be Abbey * * Wood – because that is what it looks like. Source: Twitter
The original designs for Abbey Wood shows a much larger station name displayed. Compare the totem (with purple roundel and double rail arrows) with those at Woolwich and at Paddington. Source: Twitter
At least Paddington’s going to have upper case! It makes sense because the other entrances too have upper case. Source: Weston Williamson
Is Paddington going to have tube roundels too? I hope so! The designs for the new Bakerloo station shows underground roundels in use – which should be right as its an interchange. However it leaves the question of the main ticket hall area on the west side of Paddington station – because its technically an interchange with direct access also to the Bakerloo. The picture above shows it with a purple roundel – but if its an interchange should it in fact have a red/blue roundel like Moorgate?
Below is a picture showing an original idea for a Crossrail sign at Paddington – I found this on the hoarding in Eastbourne Terrace. What it shows is a tube roundel and also a twin arrow railway sign however beneath this it clearly depicts ‘underground’ and ‘crossrail’ (as well as the station name) thus clearly this design is much better placed to convey information about the kind of station it is and whether it offers more than one service and so on. Its a surprise TfL havent adopted this style (with purple roundel) for the Elizabeth Line’s stations.
An early design of Crossrail sign for Paddington (possibly 2013-ish.) This example is a far more evolved version of that one by the Hammersmith & City line entrance. This and the Abbey Wood sign – the best elements of those two should be used.
This is the problem – there doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach. If a Elizabeth Line station enables access to other lines/stations it should really have both roundels displayed (like for example Custom House – even though that isn’t exactly what I had in mind) or be like this other style of totem sign as depicted above – and if it doesn’t offer an interchange then it should have the purple roundel only.
Finally – that Gidea Park route map!
This went up in about the first week of October. Its most outstanding feature was it showed the Abbey Wood branch. Almost immediately that was covered up (as well as Whitechapel.) Clearly someone pulled it the labels off because it got even more covered up. After my article had appeared someone at TfL went to serious lengths to get it covered up completely!
Probably the earliest these new signs were up – 10th October – with Whitechapel & Abbey Wood on the map. Source: Twitter
What I cant understand is why TfL had this map manufactured! What was their reasoning for it? If it was a proper Elizabeth Line route diagram surely it would show the points westwards to Paddington and Reading? Why stop at Liverpool Street – and what on earth is Whitechapel doing there?
The sign seen on about 11th October. Source: Twitter
After the 10th its obvious someone out of curiosity had tried pulling the paper off this map, because TfL reacted with an even thicker paper to try and hide the Abbey Wood stations.
And that very state is the one I found the route map in when I visited Gidea Park a few days later. Soon after I wrote my article about this Gidea Park signage which apparently denoted a Crossrail Shenfield to Abbey Wood service.
My post received around two thousand visits by the middle of the 17th. By around that time the powers-that-be had decided the routemap should be curtailed completely – and a replacement was stuck over the original.
17th October – the Abbey Wood branch has gone! Source: Twitter
Not very consistent was it? If this map was a mistake at all it clearly shows some very muddled planning for the Elizabeth Line. It cant have been Network rail who put it up because they are not in charge of Gidea Park!
It concerns me that the new line’s identity doesn’t really seem that consistent across the board as I have illustrated. Maybe TfL/Crossrail/Elizabeth Line should be looking at these examples and thinking of a better approach than those which have been procured?