Lost in London

London, like many cities mostly presents its underground railway maps in a topological format.

And when I say underground I mean the metro, but it is rarely called that in the uk. The normal colloquilism for London underground being ‘the tube’ . Topological maps show the stations and lines in an ordered and geometric way, which gives great clarity but totally distorts distance and indeed direction.

Native Londoners when outside their immediate geographic comfort zones of suburban home or city street will have a hazy and simplified comprehension of the geography of their city fuelled by these maps.

Tourists are even worse off with few if any reference points to assist in computing real distance and direction rather than just ‘living the tube map’.

I read recently that despite Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations being only 400 metres or so apart,

and a mere 40 second tube journey, some 800 people per week buy tickets for this journey between the two of them…blissfully unaware that a 4 minute stroll along the street will take them from one station to another in much more comfort and lots to see along the way…..

These are London’s two tube stations that are closest to each other but these are not unique with others equally near their neighbours.

Meantime back at the world of what to call the underground……

The metropolitan tube line in London was the world’s first such railway and the name, ‘ metro’ has been used worlwide for city underground trains. Except in London where the name tube has just stuck and is what everybody refers to it by.

In Paris, the abbreviation as well as the full name Metropolitan is in widespread use .

but in numerous other cities in Europe and beyond, the underground trains are called metros. Ok in New York it’s the subway,

and funnily enough in Glasgow, that same name too,

although colloquilly referred to there by some as the ‘Clockwork Orange ‘.

Why, well the trains are bright orange and it’s just one continuous circle. A unique experience with it’s own smell that cannot be quite defined! The continuous circle is now used in its logo branding for the stations too.

If you ever get the chance to visit Glasgow, give it a whirl.15 stations and a lot of people watching!

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