Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Renaming the Tube - GLA Tory attention-seeking or symbolic stupidity

The unmemorable bunch of Tories who act as cheer-leaders for the Bouffant Adulterer on the Greater London Assembly have produced a truly wonderful document.  In a piece of immense sophistry, self-publicising political onanism they have concluded that by calling in favours from crony capitalists, and renaming London Underground lines and stations they might be able to restrain one year's worth of fare increases on the Tube.

This is one of the most cretinous emissions that the Tories have yet been guilty of.  Let's start from the position that they are genuinely concerned about the level of public transport fares, and are looking at means to generate income.  Anyone with basic economic theory will understand that the value of branding is where it is unique and where advertising and promotional expenditure produces an uplift in income for the funding company.  The more companies involved, the less the impact on consumer consciousness.  So this is a stupid kite flown even at the start - the assumption on income levels depends upon the uniqueness of the marketing opportunity.

There are already two emblems of such privatisation of the public realm already - the Cable Car across the Thames, which is a novelty tourist attraction outside the main transport system, made even more ludicrous by not being part of the general ticketing arrangements - a white elephant in most aspects - and the hire bikes; this are mostly ridden by bankers (I think that was the word I heard from a pedestrian nearly decapitated when a smug rider disregarded the Highway Code).   Yet both Emirates and Barclays must consider their name stands out amongst others for being associated with the transport system, and being unique there.

Renaming Tube stations and lines, or attaching sponsorship to them, is the response of neo-con intellectual toddlers.  The Underground forms the backbone of most non-Londoners' experience of the capital because it is perceived as simple and unchanging - reinforced by the stylised diagrammatic maps descended from Frank Pick - and because it provides constant points of reference.  Changing names, branding and the perception of reliability will not just confuse people it will also damage the branding of London as a global business centre and tourist destination.  All for a few headlines in the disgusting propaganda rag that is the Evening Standard...

The GLA Tories, despite being deprived of their former colleague, the convicted criminal from Barnet and Camden, are clearly of very little brain and what there is is stuck up their fundaments at an angle from which very little can be seen.

What would be more useful for them is to study Paris.  The Metro is even less branded than the Tube, nevertheless stations do get renamed, quite often in commemoration of individuals or events which to some eyes may seem odd.  There is still Stalingrad, to counter-act Bir-Hakeim.  Meanwhile Resistance figures such as Jacques Bonsergent are honoured - but all of these impact upon the consciousness of a nation less afraid of history and change.  There is no feeling that this is a corporate playground, merely a means of transport for the citizens - not the plebs and drones unable to afford a GLA taxi account.  Even the bikes are the city's, not a bankers' promotional tool.

The idea that public transport and public spaces are a realm which is owned by the people is so alien to the current crop of right-wing, thick self-seeking egotists who make up the bulk of public representatives that such an argument would not even impact upon their little bubble.  As a citizen, I expect to be able to orientate around landmarks, not marketing tropes.

One alternative might be to have popularly-nominated renamings: we could have a Tory scandal line crowned by the Mayor in all his hypocritical glory - running through Hamilton, Aitken, Mercer, Yeo, Profumo, Major, Currie - if there was a Milligan station then the line colour would have to be orange.  The potential for subversion is enormous, but even more great would be righteous vandalism, to reclaim the identity of London for its citizens and visitors rather than the LSD-fuelled inanities of a bunch of backbench has-beens and never-weres.

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