Naming of London Overground lines ‘wasted opportunity’

Tories at City Hall say new names could have been offered as corporate sponsorships to generate cash for TfL, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

London Overground and (inset) Keith Prince AM
London Overground and (inset) Keith Prince AM

Sadiq Khan has been criticised by City Hall Conservatives for spending more than £6m renaming the London Overground’s lines, as they argue he should instead have sold the naming rights to brands.

It came following Thursday’s announcement that London Overground’s six routes will be renamed the Liberty Line, the Lioness Line, the Mildmay Line, the Suffragette Line, the Weaver Line and the Windrush Line.

The Labour mayor had allocated £6.3m over two years to the renaming project, with the goal of making the network easier to navigate by giving the lines identities of their own.

But the Tories said this was a “wasted opportunity”, and that selling the naming rights to brands – as was done with London’s cycle hire scheme and cable car – would instead have raised “tens of millions of pounds” for cash-strapped Transport for London (TfL).

“This money could have been invested in much needed upgrades to Central Line trains and other infrastructure,” said Keith Prince, City Hall Conservatives’ transport spokesperson.

“Sadiq Khan’s priorities as chairman of TfL are all wrong. Londoners are more concerned about the daily chaos across the tube network, including long delays on the Central Line and disruption on the Elizabeth Line.

“This mayor prefers to make shiny announcements rather than do the hard yards. Londoners must vote Sadiq Khan out on 2nd May and elect Susan Hall as mayor.”

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Responding, Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the name-selling suggestion was “another example of the Conservatives not understanding how our city operates”.

He said: “Sponsorship may raise some money in the short term, but what we can’t do is have lines changing names every one year, every three years, every five years, every ten years, when a respective sponsorship deal ends.”

The cycle hire scheme was sponsored by Barclays for its first five years, but has been sponsored by Santander for the last nine. Similarly, East London’s cable car was sponsored by the airline Emirates for a decade, before the sponsorship was taken up by the technology firm IFS two years ago.

Khan continued: “We really have maximised revenues from other ways, [like] advertising. We sponsor stations. Bond Street famously during London Fashion Week was sponsored.

“What we’ve done with these six lines is to make sure Londoners can have a better way to wayfind across our city. Six lines, 113 stations.

“We’ve engaged with customers, with London communities, with historians, with industry experts, to get the six best possible names, but also the six best possible colours as well.

“I’m just sorry that, unlike most Londoners, the Conservatives don’t understand the importance of respecting and honouring our heritage, but also our cultural diversity.”

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said in a piece for LBC that the mayor’s renaming of the lines was “virtue signalling”, calling it “a poorly-timed election stunt, just the latest from our resident all-glitz and no-substance showman Sadiq Khan”.

Khan had pledged to give the lines individual names in his 2021 manifesto, on which he was re-elected.

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