The London Overground, a huge swathe of Orange on the tube map could be broken up into individually named lines, if Sadiq Khan is reelected as Mayor of London next month.

During the launch of his election manifesto, he said that “TfL’s London Overground network has grown considerably over recent years, and to reflect this I’ll launch a programme to name individual routes, giving each its own identity.”

The line is increasingly unwieldy as a single named monolith, and there have been occasional half-hearted calls for the line to be broken up into separate names.

This is no more evident than during rail disruptions, where a person is told could be warned that there are closures on the London Overground, only to find it’s on the other side of the city from the section of track they are planning to use.

This is going to be one of those common-sense decisions that will lead to an exceptional amount of heat and bad tempers as people squabble over the names to be chosen.

You only have to look at how people reacted when it was decided that the Crossrail project will open as the Elizabeth line, and people still argue about Marathon/Snickers, or as I recently found out, the merits of pre-decimal currency.

Are we likely to see the Gospel Oak to Barking line given the official seal of approval to be called the Goblin?

An Outer Circle for the loop around via Clapham Junction sounds obvious, while the East London Line could make a return for the length between Highbury & Islington to West Croydon.

The other lines, terminating at Watford Junction, Cheshunt, Enfield Town are less obvious to name and hence likely to provoke the most suggestions, and anger when “your personal choice” is overlooked. What on earth happens to the little shuttle between Romford and Upminster?

Shuttle McShuttleFace?

 

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61 comments
  1. Long Branch Mike Olivier says:

    East London, North London, West London, and South London Lines, as were originally known, and the GOBLIN of course!

  2. Charley Ashbury says:

    Watford to Euston was previously known as the ‘Harlequin Line’ during NSE and North London Railways days, before becoming Silverlink Metro, along with the others.

    Internally, we still refer to the Liverpool Street routes as the ‘West Anglia Inners’.

  3. Brian Butterworth says:

    Well that’ll be Euwat, Gobark, Livhunt/Livford, Clapford and Richford then.

  4. Jon Jones says:

    This is going to make the status screens fun to read.

  5. MilesT says:

    It would be cute to have mythical creature names for all the lines to match the Goblin (e.g. dwarves, elves etc or less human shaped.), but that can’t be easily aligned to end point names or other key waypoints and would be too artificial or forced.

    I wonder if the names of traditional administrative areas for endpoints/waypoints would go anywhere, singly or as portmanteau words–e.g. county hundreds, London city areas/gates, etc. Needs some research.

    Birds maybe, especially birds of prey?

  6. DavidC says:

    The orange line, the tangerine line, the satsuma line, the mandarin line, etc. That would give each line a unique identity while avoiding the need for any repainting … although it could lead to ambiguity at interchanges: “I told you to get the tangerine, not the satsuma, you lemon”. Apologies for taking the pith…

    • Rupe says:

      Actually, the Lemon Line circles round through Liverpool Street 😉
      And the Docklands Lime Railway goes through Limehouse 🙂

  7. John Drain says:

    Romford-Upminster. Easy – the Windmill line.

    • Pdj says:

      As mentioned below, maybe it could come under the Elizabeth Line branding? Next thing you know, the Watford line becomes lumped with the Bakerloo, heh.

  8. Tom says:

    Can we just do something logical for once and use numbers and letters!

    • ianVisits says:

      How would, for example, LO3 be easier to recognise than, for example, East London Line?

    • Tom says:

      I think it would be far less confusing and easier to navigate than using names. The overground is a distinct system from the Underground with different operational characteristics. Using numbers would keep that distinction.

      Using numbers and letters also helps make sense of the various branches. E.g. Line 1-A could be ELL to New Cross, 1-B to Crystal Palace, etc.. That makes it a lot quicker to check that you’re getting on the right train.

    • tony mansell says:

      People remember names more than they’d remember that! Terrible idea.

    • Tom says:

      Citizens of other cities seem to manage quite well! Also, buses?

    • Damian says:

      It would just be so soulless. It’s depressing enough to grab the Northern Line at 7 in the morning. Grabbing N01 , then J would depress to the point of being a prisoner. I am, after all, a free man not a number……

  9. ChrisC says:

    Croydon won’t like being lumped in with East London!

    This does make sense though and lines should have titles that are meaningful to most people – so names rather than numbers for example.

    And going off topic are there any plans to extend operations between Crystal Palace via Balham to Clapham Junction to create a full circle?

  10. Samantha says:

    It used to be called the North London Link I think, from Richmond to Islington. How about the North, East, South and West London Links?

  11. Tarkaman says:

    So it’s back to the South London Line, The North London Line, The Harlequin Line, the West London Line, The Goblin Line, The Herts Line, the Essex Lines and the Palace Lines – most of which we’ve had before Quod ambulat lectitantur around!

  12. bthrussell says:

    Wouldn’t it save a lot of headaches if the Overground lines were just given numbers? Although I suppose having both numbered and named lines would make the TfL map even more of a mess…

    • Gllombfek says:

      Maybe make the Tube map just London Underground and have a separate London Overground map.

  13. Melvyn says:

    As the Overground grew its diagrams on trains have become more like a plate of spaghetti with those who don’t know London finding it more and more difficult to work out where lines go.

    I reckon the term Overground should only be used for the original network based on the North, South , East and West London lines and maybe the Watford DC route .

    While once the Elizabeth Line opens TFL Rail will become spare and perhaps it’s more sensible for longer distance radial routes like West Anglia lines and maybe soon Great Northern services from Moorgate which extend beyond London to become known as TFL Rail especially as its likely TFL will take over more London services.

    And maybe if London gets another Mayor with vision ( like Ken Livingstone) then schemes similar to Thameslink to join up lines might be created and provide better VFM than Crossrail 2 or extension of small bore tube lines !

  14. 100andthirty says:

    It’s good to have a sensible commitment from a candidate that they can surely deliver (for a change!)

  15. RAMON PRASAD says:

    Giving names to bits of the Overground is not a good idea and somewhat self-defeating. The Overground is supposed to be an orbital as opposed to a radial service.

    The Overground has (almost but not quite) grown into what it should be. The Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside is an almost complete a North London orbital (outer).

    The Willesden Junction to Highbury and Islington to Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction is a completed North and South orbital (inner). Congratulations are due to TfL for completing this circle and making it operational.

    Rotherhithe to Sydenham to West Croydon is an almost complete South Lomdon orbital (outer).You can see where I am coming form. The two outer orbital lines have to be joined up into a single North and South London orbital (outer). The physical infrastructure is all in place,( Gospel Oak to Clapham Junction to West Croydon.

    You would then only need two self explanatory names. London orbital railway inner and outer. A plethora of Christian Royal names is not going to do anybody any favours on the memory or explanation fronts.

    • Melvyn says:

      However , TFL has already taken control of some west Anglia routes from Liverpool Street and could soon gain control of Great Northern services from Moorgate thus expanding the Overground to beyond London with other possible services in the future. While even the present network is difficult to understand when looking at maps of network on trains .

  16. Alice says:

    Aren’t they already timetabled as separate lines?

  17. Julian says:

    Leaside Lines, Brunel Lines, North London Lines, Watford Line – and let the Goblin embrace its nickname!

  18. James says:

    I love London’s fairly unique line names, and some of the suggestions above are great (citrus fruits get my vote).

    I’ve always felt it would be beneficial to have lines that all begin with a different letter. It has the potential to improve the experience for people with impaired vision, for tourists, and those who want a quick way of remembering/abbreviating their route. To get from Richmond to Walthamstow I always go DPV.

    The Elizabeth Line doesn’t clash with anything, so that’s a good start. For the Overground rebrand, let’s get behind names beginning with A, F, G (Goblin!), I, K…

    In future, there will be arguments about what to call the different sides of the Northern line once that splits, and we should really think of better words for the DLR, Trams, and Thameslink, but resolving the C issue with the Central/Circle lines could be pretty straighforward… it’s not really a circle. The Lasoo line? The Noose?

    • James says:

      When the change came in people called the new shape of the Circle the tea cup

  19. Lionel Ward says:

    Wonder if they’ll get different colours too

    Also, when the extension with Lionel Road Station opens, that should definitely be called the Lionel Line. Though I would say that I suppose.

  20. Pdj says:

    I always thought the Overground branding was especially pointless for the Romford-Upminster line and that it should be rebranded as part of the Elizabeth.

  21. James Miller says:

    Sounds a bit like Khan fiddles while Transport for London’s finances burn!

    What bribe like the budget-busting Fare Freeze is he going to offer this time?

    I would have thought that getting the West London Orbital on track would be the best thing to promise.

    But the trouble is that he’s a South Londoner and that sensible project is in the North West.

    • Sykobee says:

      Odd how taking hundreds of millions of annual central government funding away from TfL without providing additional means to fund raise (e.g., local road tax/fuel duty to fund TfL’s road maintenance) has caused their finances to tighten!

    • ChrisC says:

      Boris left TFL with billions in debts (he tells lies about that but the accounts don’t lie) that Sadiq has – pre covid – reduced massivly at the same time as the government has virtually emliminated any sort of revenue grant to TFL for day to day operations.

      So who is the the one that let TFLs finances ‘burn’ ??

      And the fares freeze didn’t bust the budget. Yes it has a cost in terms of lost revenue but that was taken into account in TFLs budget.

  22. Jake says:

    1) Can we finally abolish the distinction between Underground and Overground and just call it all the ‘Metro’ like a grown up city please? Or the ‘Tube’. Whatever. Just one single name please. Trying to explain the difference to my parents/foreign friends when they visit is ludicrous. Especially when you consider that the sub-surface tube lines are for the most part above-ground-running large-trains.

    2) Can we get rid of all the orange too? Trying to read the tube map in NE London and work out which Orange line goes where is a headache even for me, a seasoned rail-nerd.

    • DS says:

      There’s no problem with calling it the Underground, it’s an internationally-known name. The issue is with the ‘Overground’ name, which makes it seem like it’s another metro service like the Underground. In reality, it’s a commuter/regional rail network that only operates at metro frequencies on some routes, and so should be branded as such, rather than as some sort of companion to the Underground. This is generally a major problem with TfL’s branding. For example, the current Tube map has half-hourly Thameslink services on it, with nothing to distinguish them from the turn-up-and-go Underground services. Creating a clear distinction between the Underground (with its turn-up-and-go frequency and all-stations timetabling) and London’s complex regional rail (Overground, Thameslink, SWR etc.) would help hugely with the problems you describe.

  23. David Winter says:

    Essex Explorer.
    ELL
    WLL
    NLL
    Silverlink
    Riverside
    …. are some thoughts

  24. Brian Wharf says:

    I wasn’t sure who to vote for, who would be the best candidate to deal with the debts or crime but now I know that part of his manifesto is to rename a network of railway lines…job done.

  25. Marvelitto says:

    Yay new lines !!! Why not these names ? Nora (Stratford to Richmond & Clapham), Ellie (Higbury-Islington to New Cross, Crystal Palace, Croydon & Clapham), Wallie (Liv Str lines – because West Anglia haha), Goblin and Europe (Emerson Upminster & Romford)

  26. tony mansell says:

    They could keep the ‘over’ part of the name to differentiate from the tube

    It’d be kind of helpful to have the end points included so Richmond to Stratford could be ‘The Stratrich Over line’ not the prettiest name, granted! Maybe Stritchmond, no thats worse. Quite tricky isnt it!!

  27. John Scott says:

    The Enfield and Chingford branches were previously known as The Jazz Lines before nationalisation, named for its bustling, efficient service and the colour coded stripes on the carriages, which denoted the route and destination to passengers. So I suggest Jazz East and Jazz West

  28. tony mansell says:

    Got it ! Name them after WOMBLES ! They are overground some of the time. Be great fun and some touristy stuff could be added. WHo wouldn’t want to catch the Great Uncle Bulgaria Line or get into Madame Cholet !! sorry..

  29. James Langridge says:

    As the East London Line uses Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, perhaps it could be the Brunel Line?

  30. Wes Snipes says:

    I used to work for Arriva and it was always known as the GoB line. We still called it the East London line as per when it was owned by the Tube.

  31. Richard Goodwin says:

    Lawrence line for Stephen Lawrence?

  32. daveid76 says:

    Richmond/CJn-Stratford:NorthWest Circle
    Highbury-Croydon/NX/CP:SouthEast Circle
    Watford-Euston:Harlequin Line
    Gospel Oak-Barking: Barking Line
    Anglia:Lea Valley Line
    Romford-Upminster:Upford Line

  33. Brian Wood says:

    Some Brianstorming:
    Official Line, Party, Clothes, Washing, Outline, Inline, Offline, Gettin, Punch, Bottom, (not Underline!), Chorus, Whatsmie, Base, Tenor, Waist, Body,… so much fun; so much better than evaluating policies and performance 😉

    Of other offerings I like Jazz and Brunel

    Buses seem to work ok with route numbers!

  34. Ray says:

    Back in the 80s i use to get the East London Line from Rotherhithe to Whitechaple and it was affectionally know as the sheep dip !

  35. John Elliott says:

    I still recall the suggestion in Rail Magazine (it may even still have been called Rail Enthusiast) that Watford-Euston ought to be called the WhatUse line.

    • Heather Parry says:

      When there are problems on West Midlands Trains (as there frequently are) I bless the DC line for getting me home to Watford, albeit slowly.

  36. TF says:

    Liverpool St – Chingford could be the Forest Line given it goes through Waltham Forest and terminates at the foot of Epping Forest.

    • TB says:

      This is a good call!
      5/9 stations in LBWF and the last three all within a five minute walk of the Forest.

  37. Paul says:

    Lots of fun suggestions but many I think overthought. Good line names will be short, simple, unambiguous and reflect common public usage – not staff or transport nerd parlance.

    Personally I think this means 7 line networks thus –
    – The Stratford Line
    – The Watford Line
    – The Barking Line
    – The Chingford Line
    – The Cheshunt & Enfield line
    – The Romford Line
    – The East London Line

    Of these I think Watford, Barking and Chingford are no-brainers and I’d be tempted to put money on those being the ultimately chosen names.

    The others are more complicated, unambiguous means North London Line is IMO out because it’s too similar to Northern Line. Stratford line works because it’s the common end point for the two branches, Olympic line might be tempting but the IOC would probably veto that.

    The only compass point name I’d stick with is East London Line as that was previously on the tube map for ~25 years so it’s widely understood – I think that over-rides the understandable temptation to call it something like the Brunel Line or the Shoreditch Line.

  38. 🚇 says:

    O1 = Stratford Richmond/Clapham Junction

    O2 = Gospel Oak Barking

    O3 Euston Watford Junction

    O4 Highbury & Islington New Cross/Clapham Junction (Whitechapel)/Crystal Palace/West Croydon

    O5 = Liverpool Street Chingford/Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters)/Enfield Town

    O6 = Romford Upminster

  39. Tim says:

    Perhaps they could split the ‘outer circle’ line at Highbury and Clapham and call it the East Circular and West Circular lines ( to complement those road routes we know and love).

  40. Owen Lamb says:

    Perhaps some logic – or would that be too … er… logical?
    Highbury & Islington to Clapham Junc/Croydon/Crystal Pal/New Cross – SOUTH LONDON LINE
    Stratford to Richmond/Clapham Junc – NORTH LONDON LINE
    Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside – EAST LONDON LINE
    Euston to Watford Junc – WATFORD LINE
    Liverpool St to Enfield/Cheshunt – LEA VALLEY LINE
    Liverpool St to Chingford – FOREST LINE
    Romford to Upminster – ESSEX LINK (because that’s what it is)
    And what about extending the latter to Grays to make it a lot more useful, though I guess the need to somehow cross the lines at Upminster might make it a non-starter?

  41. Alex says:

    Camden Road-Dalston Junction-Shoreditch High Street-New Cross should be the Dodgy Haircut Line.

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