The Elizabeth Line line and Battersea Power Station station

Transport for London finally opened the Elizabeth Line today. It is only 3½ years late and £4 billion over budget. And this after TfL and the project managers announced proudly 6 months before the originally planned opening date that this project was a unique example of how large-scale public works really could be delivered on time and within budget. If only …

Many people have noticed:

  • something unusual about how TfL is applying its naming conventions to this new line;  and
  • another oddity about the name of another recent addition to the capital’s transport network.

The Elizabeth Line line

The official name of the Elizabeth Line is … the Elizabeth Line. The fact that this name includes the word Line distinguishes this line from all other lines on TfL’s network. One place to see this is on the roundels for the lines.

When people talk about any of those other lines, they call them, for example:

  • the Bakerloo or the Northern (short version); or
  • the Bakerloo line or the Northern line (long version).

But because the new line’s official name includes the word Line, people are supposed to call it:

  • the Elizabeth Line (short version); or
  • the Elizabeth Line line (long version).

Apparently, TfL views the Elizabeth Line not as yet another line within the Underground system, but as a separate mode of transport. Like some other aspects of the design, the naming convention, is intended to emphasise this distinction.

This intended distinction is perhaps apparent from a look at the legend on the latest version of the official map of the TfL system. The row for the Elizabeth Line is shown below the rows for all the underground lines. Also, including the word ‘Line’ marks it as different—or perhaps just makes it look odd.

Extract from legend on TfL map

Unhelpful name

This odd treatment of the word line is not the worst feature of the new name. It was a mistake to bestow on this line a ceremonial name giving people no clue where it goes, unlike most other lines on the London Underground.

It would have been far better to keep the name Crossrail, in use for this project ever since people first started talking about it in the 1940s. ‘Crossrail’ tells you that the line goes across London—and helpfully implies (at least mildly) that the crossing is east-west.

Though if Crossrail 2 is ever built, crossing the capital southwest to northeast, using a name (Crossrail) implying (at least mildly) that the crossing is east-west may be slightly less helpful.  

Battersea Power Station station

Last year, TfL opened the Northern line extension to Battersea. TfL named the station Battersea Power Station after a well known local building. That building was once a massive power station but is now being redeveloped as part of a residential and shopping district.

If you talk about a station on the London Underground, you often put the word station after the official name: for example, Piccadilly Circus station. So, if you refer to the new station in that way, you will have to call it Battersea Power Station station.

Battersea Power Station on the map

Next stop Lewisham?

Another possible new line talked about for many decades is an extension of the Bakerloo line from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham and perhaps on to Hayes.  TfL carried out a public consultation on this in 2019 and then issued a Consultation Report Bakerloo Line Extension in 2020. The Consultation Report stated that TfL and the Mayor of London remained committed to delivering the Bakerloo line extension if a viable funding package could be put together. https://content.tfl.gov.uk/ble-consultation-report.pdf

Unlike the name Elizabeth Line, the name Bakerloo gives some indication of where the line goes: through Baker Street & Waterloo. According to the London Transport Museum, a journalist coined the nickname Bakerloo in a newspaper column as a contraction of the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway, shortly after it opened in 1906. Early maps feature the full name, but by summer 1908 the company adopted ‘Bakerloo’. https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/stories/transport/bakerloo-line

Building on to Lewisham would permit a perfect new name including the Lewisham extension: BakerLew, as pointed out at https://www.londonreconnections.com/2022/reconnections-miscellany-infrastructure-translator-march-2022 That link includes some other interesting portmanteau words and entertaining acronyms.

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