South London rail map ends up going round in circles

Rail map redesigned by Max Robert Credit:

Both London commuters and tourists can struggle at times with the layout of the London transport network.

But a new map of train lines in south London could help end their woes. Max Roberts - a psychologist turned mapping expert - has put his unique spin on the unofficial map, by trying out his own circular design.

Below, Max Roberts explains how and why he redesigned part of the the London rail map.

I've been experimenting with circles maps this year, and have 15 different designed so far. They evoke surprisingly strong reactions in people, and my theory (which needs to be tested) is that although circles maps score poorly for simplicity (lots of lines have lots of bends) in the right situation they make up for this in coherence: they force the network into an unprecedented level of organisation.

Max Roberts is a a psychologist who has researched human intelligence Credit:

The Underground map is famous, but as a South Londoner by birth, there is another rail network that you have to learn to use. From a mapping point of view, it is really difficult because the services are so complex and disorganised, and the current TfL All-London Railways map is a formidable challenge south of the river, not much simplicity or coherence or geographical accuracy.

I decided to focus just on the Southern Electric network because it is so neglected, and I particularly wanted to see the effect of concentric circles here.

Max has designed maps for transport cities across the world Credit:

The way you design these maps is to identify a central point, and then radiate outwards. Waterloo is the obvious start. Then you have to decide with trunk routes are radial, and which will be circular, and minimise changes of direction.

Trying to keep the map compact constrains you a lot, especially with long station names just where you don't want them (Queenstown Road, Loughborough Junction and Wandsworth Road).

Max now designs maps and carries out usability studies to test them

Maps that follow unusual design rules tend to be criticised more harshly than maps that conform to expectations. I can see where this map succeeds, and where its weaknesses are (all maps have successes and failures).

There are some distortions, but as a proof of concept, it seems basically sound. My all-London map will wait until Crossrail is open and the Thameslink upgrade is finalised, perhaps by then South London rail services will be less chaotic and disorganised, then I can show the routes that the trains take more effectively.