Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tube pulls plug on Thames - paving the way for Tube fare increases

Thames+and+Zones+removed+from+Tube+mapFor decades, River Thames has always been part of the London Underground map. Though it serves no purpose other than demarcating Tube stations that are across the opposite banks of the Thames, it has become synonymous to the Tube map as St. Paul's Cathedral is to London's skyline.

Besides Thames, the Zones will be missing from the next edition of the Tube map. Now, this is a totally different matter altogether. As traveling within a single zone requires only a flat fare (currently £1.60 within Zone 1), the zonal demarcation on the Tube map literally show the fare stages of a trip.

The official reason for making the changes is to reduce cluttering of the handy sized map. I find it a bit patronizing really. Imagine looking on the world map with only locations of cities but without countries' boundaries, London without its fickle weather or having cream scones with a cup of tea - it just doesn't seem right.

Furthermore, I suspect the move will just cause more confusion among tourists. Should they be buying the day pass for Zone 1-2 or Zone 1-3?

Like the critics, I believe the real reason behind this is to do away with zonal demarcation gradually and introduce distance based fare to the London Underground. While that might be fairer to those who live near Tube stations within Zone 1, it does make future 'tweaking' of fares much easier and less transparent. That reminds me of the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) back home: increases of one or two cents per station often go unnoticed for distance based fare system.

You know what? It's time to collect the current edition of Tube maps for they will come in handy when the fare increases.

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