Friday 26 January 2018

Map! - Now In Colour!

I'm sick.

I have a rotten cold.  It's abating slightly now, but I'm still not out of the woods.  I still have a cough and a bunged up nose.  I could literally die at any moment.  Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.

Anyway, I have dragged - DRAGGED - myself out of my sick bed to write this post, because there's something important happening on the Metrolink.  A new map!  I was alerted to this by a tweet by Mark Ovenden, who wrote the excellent Metrolink: The First 25 Years book Robert got me for my birthday.

Oh yes - colour is back!  After a year or two of peddling that tedious grey effort, Metrolink have caved into public pressure and reinstated different coloured lines for different routes.  It's about time.  I am, as you may have noticed, something of a metro map fan, but even I had problems navigating the old monocoloured map.  When I was getting the tram from Trafford Bar into the city last week, it was only by carefully concentrating on the map and squinting at the tiny letters that I realised my tram wasn't going to Piccadilly; I had to jump off at Cornbrook and change.

The old map.
The new map.
The new diagram immediately looks fresher and friendlier.  The soft pastels Metrolink uses are an interesting choice compared with, say, the bold primaries of the Tube, but they really work.  It looks modern.  Interestingly, the colours chosen are, in the main, not the same colours the old map used to differentiate between lines.  I assume this is something to do with differentiating for colour blindness - ensuring that two colours that can't be confused don't run alongside one another.  To summarise:

  • Altrincham to Bury (service A) was orange, but is now dark green (and called service 1);
  • Altrincham to Etihad Campus* (service B) was reddy-orange, but is now purple (and called service 2);
  • Bury to Piccadilly (service C) was dark green, but is now yellow (and called service 4);
  • MediaCityUK to Piccadilly* (service D) was light blue, but is now orange (and called service 7)
  • Ashton-Under-Lyne to Eccles (service E) was pink, but is now pale blue (paler than the old service D blue, and called service 3)
  • Manchester Airport to Deansgate-Castlefield* (service F) is the only one that keeps its old colour, dark blue, but is now service 6
  • East Didsbury - Rochdale Town Centre (service G) was purple, but is now lime green (and called service 5).
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed asterisks in the list.  This is because of the real reason for the new map: service changes.  The Altrincham to Etihad Campus route is now cut back to Piccadilly, with the MediaCityUK service being extended to replace it.  More importantly, the Airport route is finally being extended across the city centre, so travellers are no longer dumped on the edge of town at Deansgate-Castlefield.  Now they're carried right across town to Victoria.

Here's the weird thing, though; the Airport line is going via Market Street, rather than using the new second city crossing via Exchange Square.  It means the Rochdale line (service 5) gets the new tram link to itself, which seems... odd.  It means that only a quarter of the trams leaving Victoria for St Peter's Square will go via Exchange Square.  That doesn't seem right to me; it seems like a waste of capacity.  

Another weird point about those service numbers is that they remain entirely diagram-based.  None of the trams will feature them - they'll just have the destination on the front.  This is disappointing.  Wouldn't it be better to have a nice orange 7 next to "Etihad Campus" on the front of the tram?  Really underline the colour and service so they register in the minds of passengers?

You might have also noticed that the old diagram featured an eighth route, service H, which was lime green and went from East Didsbury to Shaw and Crompton.  

That one's vanished entirely from the new map.  There's also no mention of it in the accompanying press release, which mentions all the other service changes.  Service H meant there was a tram every six minutes between Shaw and Crompton and East Didsbury; trams leave Rochdale every twelve minutes.  It seems unlikely that they would halve the number of trams on a section of line without mentioning it, but it's also unlikely they'd double the number of trams to Rochdale without a show-off press release as well.  And this is the route that goes via Exchange Square, too, so there's plenty of space in the City Zone for another colour.  Perhaps they just forgot about it?

My principal complaint about the new diagram is that it looks ever so slightly unbalanced.  The yellow, pale green and pale blue lines are all on the same side, meaning they slightly recede into the background; they can't compete with the bold purple/green stripe down the centre of the left hand side (with the dark blue Airport line in support).  It looks a bit like it's fading from view as your eye moves across it.  As I say though, the colours have doubtlessly been chosen and checked with experts to ensure they're legible - this was apparently what did for the old colour map:

That one featured a pink and a brown route, instead of the lime green and orange we've got now.  (It also deals with the change of direction on the East Didsbury line at St Werburgh's Road far more elegantly, though I prefer the new white blobs for interchanges).

One final point, similar to my sigh over the new Merseyrail map: as an enthusiast, I'd also like to register my disappointment that the under construction Trafford Park route doesn't make an appearance.  A nice little dotted line branching off from Pomona would've been great, showing that things are still moving on with the Metrolink.  But that's it really.  It's a good diagram, restored to greatness with a bit of colour.

Now I'm going to return to my sick bed and await death.  


diamond geezer said...

I love the level of detail in your report.

And blimey, yes, that map's an improvement.

Scott Willison said...

I see what you did there DG. I SEE IT.

Anonymous said...

Should the title not be 'Map! - Again In Colour!' as, of course, it was previously in colour before the previous terrible grey version? :P

Hope you feel better soon!