The Northern Rail map's been tinkered with. Last year, there was a wholescale re-draw, but it a was a largely successful one so there's been no need to do anything too comprehensive this time.
The tinkering's got one purpose, really, to include the new station at James Cook University Hospital on Tees-side. The single platform halt opened along with the new timetables, on May 18th, and it's good to see that Northern have updated the map so quickly - poor old Buckshaw Parkway had to wait a whole year before it turned up.
It's a shame, then, that the new station is so badly represented.
That's the situation on the old map, with the circles equally spaced. The new station - with its rather long name - has to slip in between Middlesbrough and Marton, so some juggling is required.
Unfortunately James Cook University Hospital station has been awkwardly placed, not centred between Middlesbrough and Marton (even though the rest of the line has been nicely repositioned). Worse, they haven't used the whole name - this piece in the local newspaper clearly shows its full unwieldy title on the nameboards. The spacing between "James Cook" and Marton makes me think that "University Hospital" was due to go in there, but was removed. Perhaps they were afraid that if it spread over two lines people might think there were two separate stations. Even if this is the case, there's no excuse for that awkwardly positioned dot.
(And yes, I have added James Cook University Hospital to my "to do" list).
The only other change I can find is perhaps the most surprising.
Northern have actually taken their logo off the map! I can't understand why they'd want to do that; it must be a mistake. Someone at Northern House is not going to be happy.
Those are the only changes I could see between the 2013 and 2014 maps from the Northern website; if you see any other alterations, please let me know. I thought the Todmorden Curve might have appeared on the map; this is a small bit of track which has been restored in Yorkshire and will allow trains from Burnley to run direct into Manchester. The track's been laid but a lack of rolling stock meant that new services won't be introduced until the winter at the earliest, so as it is, the two branches remain unconnected.
I was also surprised that they didn't put Ilkeston station on the map as "under construction"; no harm in a little boasting, and there's plenty of room for it above Nottingham.
There must have been an interim map between last year's and this year's, though, because I spotted a quite glaring difference while I was at Church Fenton a couple of weeks ago. I'm guessing it was produced in house, rather than by a design company because... well, look at it.
Apologies for the poor quality.
Someone had listened to me when I complained about the missing Merseyrail Wirral Line on the map, meaning that there was no connection between Chester, Ellesmere Port and Liverpool. And they decided to correct it in the worst possible way. Suddenly we have a horribly angled line - changing from 60 to 45 degrees in the middle - that sort of crashes into Chester and Ellesmere Port at the bottom and turns into the Northern Line at the top. It goes the wrong way, avoiding the misshapen lump that's the Wirral, and not crossing the Mersey at any point (quite a trick if you can manage it). Plus the line from Ellesmere Port into North Wales has been left, a line which doesn't actually exist.
The new map restores the old, awkward layout.
It's still not great, and it still implies that the only way to get from Chester to Liverpool is via Warrington, and trains are still available into Wales from Ellesmere Port, but at least it doesn't offend my delicate sensibilities. A tiny victory, I suppose.
You can download the new map here.