Untangling the tracks: Communicating change

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Transport for London and its predecessor companies have a long history of producing posters to keep passengers informed about upgrades to the network. Communicating alterations and disruption to passengers, as well as celebrating successful projects, is an important job for train operating companies. Whilst social media is often used today to keep customers informed, the traditional practice of using eye-catching posters is still an effective method.

Upgrading a working railway usually requires weekend closures, which can catch people out. TfL commissioned this popular series of poster designs which use the iconography of the Tube lines to grab the attention of passengers.

‘Going to the match this weekend?’ Artist unknown, 2010 (L)
‘Going shopping this weekend?’ Rachel Thomas of The Milton Agency, 2010 (R)

Recently,  Thameslink has also actively used posters to engage with customers. Some of these posters are explored in our Untangling the Tracks exhibition, which examines the Thameslink Programme, a major project to increase capacity, improve connections and provide greater reliability on the Thameslink route. During the programme, two major line closures over August bank holiday and Christmas 2017 affected hundreds of thousands of passengers. The iconography of the railway – specifically the ‘railway no entry’ icon – was used to add a festive touch to the poster campaign informing passengers.

Christmas line closures, 23 Red agency, 2017

For railway companies celebrating success at the end of a big project is also useful to remind passengers that the disruption was worthwhile.

What today is part of the Bank branch of the Northern line, started out as the City and South London Railway. It was the world’s first deep-level electric railway, opening in 1890. Being the pioneer, its tunnels were built on a smaller scale than subsequent Tube lines. When the time came to merge the line with the Hampstead Tube, the tunnels had to be closed to allow widening work to take place. This poster celebrates the reopening of the line in 1924, emphasising the new modern trains.

From Euston to Clapham Common the transformation is complete, Richard T Cooper, 1924

The redevelopment work at London Bridge station was a major element of the Thameslink Programme. Starting in 2013 the station was completely rebuilt, unifying what had essentially been two separate stations, yet remained open throughout. The architects, Grimshaw, also had to work carefully around its listed features, and many historical elements were kept and incorporated into the new building. The redeveloped station was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in 2018. This poster was commissioned to thank the 50 million passengers who use the station every year for their patience during the disruption.

Welcome to your new station concourse, Magnet Harlequin/WMH Agency, 2018

Visit Untangling the Tracks to explore how historic London Transport posters and their modern Thameslink equivalents help to communicate important updates to passengers.

The exhibition is open until Spring 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s