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Old Father Thames Restored

Mark Easton | 13:02 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

It was a tragic case of river blindness - but I can report the patient is cured!

Transport for London (TfL) has held crisis talks following fury at its decision to remove the Thames from tube maps. The river is to be reinstated in all TfL publications, with TfL saying that "it has listened to Londoners and would be reinstating the River Thames on the world famous Tube map".

Tube map before and after

The speed of the U-turn (perhaps it should be an ox-bow lake in this context?) reflects the depth of the miscalculation.

routemaster and taxiThe British public profoundly dislikes meddling with traditional symbols and nowhere more so than in the capital. Whether it be the design of London taxis, the old Routemaster buses or Harry Beck's world-famous schematic map of the tube, people will only put up with so much change. Over the years, attempts to re-design all of the above have been met with anger.

It is not simply conservatism; it is a belief that "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" The decision by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to get rid of single-decker bendy buses may ostensibly be about safety and operational effectiveness. But I think he knows that he's appealing to the nostalgic in all of us when he looks to bring back the old-style double-decker.

Heritage and history matter more in our fast changing world. We need things to cling to, constants that put our busy lives in some sort of context.

In both a psychological and graphical sense, the River Thames does just that on the tube map.


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