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So, some train lines got new names - why should we care?

21 February 2024

The changes reflect this city’s commitment to representing and celebrating its long and diverse history.

So, some train lines got new names - why should we care?
The new names recognise the contribution of different communities to areas of London. Image credit: Shutterstock

When you walk through a city, do you feel like you belong?

How much do you think these spaces represent you?

Cities, especially global megacities like London, are made up of a rich fabric of people from all kinds of backgrounds and lived experiences.

But do the spaces, buildings and transport networks that we plan, design, build and operate reflect this diversity?

We’re quite used to the statues and blue plaques that commemorate history (and often the celebration of these histories can be contested).

But what else can we do to highlight or feature communities that often don’t get representation in the public realm?

Renaming London’s transport

Last week’s announcement that Transport for London (TfL) is renaming the London Overground lines was quite touching.

The new names recognise the contribution of different communities to the areas of London along each line, including women, LGBTQ+ people and Caribbean communities.

Often, these initiatives can be viewed as performative and temporary, such as rainbow crossings for Pride month.

But I think the strong identity that transport lines have, especially in a city like London, make this initiative more meaningful than many I’ve seen before!

Find out more about what the new line names mean below:

The Liberty line

A set of grey parallel lines will represent the route from Romford to Upminster.

TfL explains that its new name is set to celebrate “the freedom that is a defining feature of London.”

“It also references the motto of the London Borough of Havering, and its historical status as a royal liberty.”

In the Middle Ages, a royal liberty was an area or individual that was exempted from royal jurisdiction. These would be enforceable forever and go beyond other laws and customs.

The manor of Havering was granted this status by charter in 1465 by King Edward IV.

The Lioness line

The Euston to Watford Junction line runs straight through Wembley, where England’s women’s football team lifted the UEFA Women’s EURO trophy in 2022.

Affectionately known as the Lionesses, the line, represented by yellow parallel lines, seeks to celebrate the achievements of girls and women in sport.

TfL remarks: “Following the EURO success, 2.3 million more women and girls were inspired to play the season after the tournament.”

Where football and STEM meet

When he switched football for engineering, Emmanuel Afolabi didn’t have much support. To help others, he founded The Fest Hub.

Find out more

The Mildmay line

The Mildmay line, represented by blue parallel lines, goes from Richmond and Clapham Junction to Stratford.

It celebrates Mildmay, Europe’s first hospital for people with HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. To this day, it’s internationally known for rehabilitating and caring for patients with complex HIV.

Describing it as “small but crucial”, TfL explains that this hospital has a long history of helping “Londoners in need”.

It first opened in Islington in the 1860s as an informal help centre where the sick could get care and where young women could be trained to become nurses – some who volunteered to treat patients during the cholera outbreak of 1866.

The hospital in Shoreditch opened formally in 1892.

It holds an important space in the hearts of many, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community, for the crucial role it played during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The Suffragette line

Threatened to be nicknamed the ‘Suffy G line’ by many on social media, this is the Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside route.

Represented by green parallel lines, it celebrates the successful campaign for women’s votes.

TfL explains: “The line’s name pays especial homage to East London Federation of Suffragettes, which was a largely working-class suffragette movement in the East End.

“They campaigned for the rights of working-class women, and held public marches and meetings, produced a weekly newspaper and formed a small People’s Army to defend themselves from police violence.”

The suffragettes paved the way for women’s rights, yet still today, women continue to campaign for equal rights or to close the gender pay gap.

As of 2022, women made up 15% of the ICE’s overall membership. And, only 5.5% of the ICE’s cohort of fellows was female. But the dial is shifting – Dr Michèle Dix explains why.

Read more: How can we help encourage women into civil engineering?

Engineering diversity

The ICE values diversity and works to create a fairer environment free from harassment and discrimination - one in which everybody feels included and valued.

Learn more

The Weaver line

Represented by maroon parallel lines, the Weaver line covers the route from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford.

With stops around Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and Hackney, the line celebrates this part of London’s rich history in the textile, or ‘rag’, trade.

This industry was shaped by many migrant communities – it started with the Huguenots, or French Protestants, who were fleeing prosecution.

They brought with them expert craftmanship in silk weaving and established a flourishing trade.

In the 18th century, Irish weavers searched for work in the area after the Irish linen trade collapsed.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Jewish communities arrived in Hackney.

Jewish-owned businesses thrived in Hackney throughout the 20th century and grew into some large-scale manufacturers. They also maintained the famous market at Petticoat Lane.

In the 1960s, Bangladeshi immigration to the area increased. Their arrival helped turn Brick Lane into a hotspot for fashion and food.

The Windrush line

Running from Highbury and Islington to New Cross, Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace and West Croydon, the Windrush line will be represented by red parallel lines.

The line honours the arrival of many Caribbean communities on the HMT Empire Windrush in June 1948 – many who came to help rebuild the UK after World War II in industries such as construction and transport.

TfL explains: “The new line celebrates the Windrush generation and the wider importance of migration that has created a lasting legacy that continues to shape and enrich London’s cultural and social identity today.”

It highlights their influence in music through genres such as ska, reggae, jazz, blues, and more recently hip hop, rap and grime.

The Windrush line runs through areas with strong ties to these Caribbean communities: Dalston Junction, Peckham Rye and West Croydon.

Learn more

The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm was established by the mayor of London to review public tributes in the city, including statues and other landmarks.

Find out more about its work
  • Ana Bottle, digital content editor at ICE
  • Julian Phatarfod, senior transportation planner at Arup