Going to north London? That’ll cost you double

A few days ago, an old colleague posted on Twitter that an old Tube map had been uncovered at White City station. All kinds of odd things popped up during upgrade works there, including fragments of decades-old ads, a promo for the 1983 Capital Radio Jazz Festival, and posters imploring Tube users to buy cheap day returns – which haven’t been available for about 25 years.

I peered at the attached picture and tapped back – “the saddest thing is that I can date that” – because a quick glance showed it to be a Travelcard zones map from the early 1990s, before rail privatisation and the sneaky introduction of zone 6. Yes, I am a geek, but at least it means I rarely get lost.

Why it's closingHow could I tell? Well, the lack of zone 6 was a clue, and while I couldn’t tell if Aldwych station was still there, a quick glance up at the North London Line showed it to be almost entirely in one zone, passing smoothly through zone 2. Just like the introduction of a sixth zone, rail privatisation brought about another sneaky, dishonest way of increasing fares when the fledgling Silverlink (then called North London Railways) plonked Hampstead Heath station in zone 3, as a quick and easy way of raising fares. When Transport for London-backed London Overground took over the line in 2007, the little kink in the fares map was taken out. Thank heavens those days are over, I thought.

Except they’re not. When the all-new East London Line opens next year, no longer part of the Tube but part of the grown-up mainline network, there’s going to be a chiselling little change to the map. And it’ll cost passengers a fortune. The old East London Tube line had Shoreditch station in zone 2. The new East London mainline route will have its replacement, Shoreditch High Street, in Zone 1. Effectively, it’ll be a toll charge on the extension that’ll hit passengers coming from, or to, south London – at current rates, this means a ticket from New Cross to Hoxton would cost up to £2.20, instead of £1.10 on the current arrangements. (Outside the rush hour, the fare would be £1.60.) Hampstead Heath to Hoxton, meanwhile, would remain at £1.10. It’s a particularly sneaky addition seeing as Zone 1 north of the river doesn’t extend beyond the Circle Line, and it’s not as if you can hop on another line from Shoreditch High Street.

The charge – not previously revealed to the public – is part of an agreement between the government and Transport for London to fund a further extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction, which has also seen the secretive scrappng of plans to keep trains running between Victoria and Clapham High Street when the new line opens. The plans were revealed by usually-supine watchdog London Travelwatch.

It just shows really that under this current government and this current mayor, public transport just isn’t safe – and while car drivers are pandered to, train users are going to be asked to take yet another hit. We really are back in the early 1990s, days of cutbacks and sneaky fare rises. These are depressing times.

(More from London Reconnections, Boris Watch and Brockley Central.)


  1. Bollocks, I thought an ‘orbital’ railway was one were all the drivers were issued with glasses that had little torches on the side.

    Or would that be an Orbital railway…?

  2. The plans to scrap the Victoria-Bellingham line were not ‘revealed’ by London TravelWatch. I as part of the Clapham Transport Users’ Group discovered the truth from a DfT official in March and then informed others.
    London TravelWatch has at various stages back diverting the South London Line from either Victoria or London Bridge. LTW strongly supported this diversion against the wishes of stakeholders, hospitals, councils and community groups. Now it has egg on its face as it turns out even the Victoria-Bellingham (diverted South London Line) won’t run. Having initially expressed how ‘appalled’ it was at this axeing, LTW has been rather mute of late, so returning to a more passive position. LTW lacks the campaiging spirit and it shows.

    Switching Shoreditch High Street to Zone 1 is a cynical move by both TfL and the DfT to address criticisms of the East London Line Extension not serving Central London and therefore not a replacement for the (more useful) South London Line. Now ELLX will serve Zone 1, the DfT and TfL will claims ELLX runs to Central London.

    Progressively we’re seeing that TfL London Overground is not what we thought it would be. It is cutting plans to man the stations of old suburban lines, cutting essential services to Central London, putting up fares. Meanwhile it spends our money on high wages for ‘communications executives’ and ‘stakeholder managers’ none of whom had the courtesy to respond or tell us what was happening with Victoria-Bellingham

  3. 10 years ago bus fares were zonal, too.
    According to the 1999 Central London Bus Map, not only Shoreditch High Street but even Hoxton would become a zone 1 sation.

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