This Saturday, London gets its first real orbital railway. This new line will ease pressure elsewhere and allow travelers to circumnavigate the city without passing through its congested core. Colored rust on the cityís transit map, the new line looks like a huge clockwork orange, closely connecting neighborhoods that were once strangers to each other and further helping the ongoing march eastwards of Londonís city center. Itís all part of an ongoing radical overhaul of Londonís public transport system, the scale and ambition of which the city (or any western European capital, for that matter) hasnít seen since at least the 1980s. And itís all arrived so quietly.
A graphic depicting where the new line will stop, courtesy of Britianist/Wikimedia Commons*
Itís not surprising that this revolution has gone largely unnoticed internationally. When a sparkling new metro line is unveiled, transit geeks across the world drool, myself included. By contrast, Londonís new links (part of a growing network under the umbrella name London Overground) have arrived through creating new, tunnelled connections that bolt together old, underexploited tracks, a sort of make-do-and-mend network. This doesnít make it any less effective, and the Overground is already helping to redraw the London map and, as one of the UKís most reliable railways, itís making the city that bit more liveable.
Until recently, substantial parts of London (notably the South and East) had limited subway access, relying instead on poorly integrated, less reliable commuter rail lines run by national train companies. Some of these worked okay and some were terrible Ė the notoriously unreliable one near where I grew up used to be called the Cinderella Line, presumably because while you were waiting eternally for some grand carriage to arrive, all you saw on the line were mice. ........................(more)