Sorry, your Majesty. Crossrail should be named the Johnson line

24914255840_44e7801443_z It’s been nearly three years since this blog last discussed the possibility, but today Crossrail has received its official name. It will be called the Elizabeth line.


The new railway will tie together Berkshire, Essex and Kent. It is a miracle of modern engineering. Yet in what is arguably the creative capital of the entire globe, apparently no one could think of anything more ambitious than the name of the current monarch. The decision is rotten on so many levels.

In announcing the decision, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘Given Her Majesty’s long association with UK transport, it is very fitting that this vital link will be named…in her honour.’ That’s right. For we must never forget that Elizabeth is the first reigning monarch to travel on the tube. And of course, she has been on boats and planes (and that helicopter at the beginning of the 2012 Olympics). But largely, her association has been having things named after her, like the second Dartford crossing, or that big cruise liner, or Heathrow Terminal 2, oh and the tube line ALREADY NAMED IN HER HONOUR (the Jubilee). In fact, the three lines named since the Queen’s coronation are the Victoria, the Jubilee and now the Elizabeth. A literally one-tracked set of decisions.

Looking ahead, I fear a greater problem. What happens when Crossrail 2 comes to be built? Will it be christened Elizabeth II? Or will a precedent have been set, giving us the Charles line, and tired jokes about lines of charlie?

Here at Cafethinking we have no problem with naming our infrastructure after inspirational people. (We were always rather attracted by the faded 1970s glamour of the Franklin D Roosevelt stop on the Paris metro.) But the idea that only royals cut the mustard is infantile, insulting and insupportable. Assuming that we can honour only those who have passed before us, as suggested last time, how about a shout out for London’s transport heroes: Holden, or Pick, or Beck? Or others who contributed to London’s story? Samuel Pepys? Christopher Wren? Eric Gill? William Blake? Turner? Thackeray? Even Shakespeare, who belongs to Stratford-on-Lea as much as to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Mindful of the horrific thought that people will assume we are referring to City Hall’s dismal incumbent, this blog proposes the Johnson line. The new tube links countryside, suburbia, West End, City, East London and the delights south of the Thames. As such, it offers, as far as one urban railway can, all that life can afford. Samuel Johnson’s dictum about our capital city has contributed to its swagger, its ambition and its reputation. We should put his name on some roundels.

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