Picture credit: Grant Faint/Getty
Artillery Row

TransForming London

You deserve to be inclusioned in London’s progressive future

It is most strange in this year of 2042 to look back upon the past and think about how far we have come. As with any period of history, the most obvious way to do this is to look at the fixed infrastructure, to see just how unrecognisable the wonderful world of the future is from the miserable days of the past. Doing this in 2042, however, is difficult because there hasn’t been any new infrastructure in London since what was once known as the Elizabeth Line opened in 2023. 

Just because transport provision hasn’t improved in recent decades, doesn’t mean society hasn’t progressed — certainly not. The exciting changes of our new age have been on the decorative interior of our transport network, on things like naming train lines, and by proudly emblazoning everything with the celebration of progress. We no longer even notice that there’ll be no investment in service improvements for the foreseeable future. 

As with most aspects of life in 2042, the big changes in this direction happened during the Age of Realisation which ran from May 1997 to June 2016.  The epoch-changing moment was an incredible insight that led to the authority responsible for managing the transport system of our capital city to be renamed. What was once the static and patriarchal-seeming “London Transport” was called something that better reflected this body’s strategic direction, working to ensure the optimum transport-engineering solutions for the people of this fantastically diverse place: Transport for London. 

From here it was one short step forward when this strategic focus was turned to attitude-engineering solutions, rather than the binary and exclusionary focus on things like “getting from A to B”. Hence, TfL now stands for “TransForming London”. 

Such is the remarkable impact of the new TfL that it is indeed very strange to think back on the experience of travelling around London before infrastructure was focused on attitude optimization, ensuring each community feels valued. The best way to relate these many achievements is to describe getting around London in 2042 compared to the bad old days when the network existed to facilitate mere travel. 

On entering a station in 2042, the first thing you’ll notice is a change to what were once called “Oyster Readers”, on account of the slightly shellfish-like shape they had when first introduced. This name was rightly questioned as it might cause discomfort to those afflicted with food allergies, or those from cultures where shellfish are not available, or considered unclean. 

Indeed, everything about the turnstiles has now changed. There is no longer the divisive split between a green arrow/red cross for those who do/don’t legally gain entry. No-one is illegal, so now beeping-in has a green arrow called being “inclusioned” and if someone has insufficient funds to gain access they have a green arrow, but with a different sound which means the funds in their bank account are “currently underrepresented”. The barriers then stay shut while showing the words “bridges not walls”. 

It is odd to think that those beeping-in devices were once all yellow. Now each passenger’s TfL account is linked to their emoji colour of racial self-identification, so the circle changes colour when used, according to your desired identity. 

Before entering the station you may have noticed the large crowds of people begging or looming menacingly in doorways around the station. The ongoing housing crisis, and the now-explicit government policy of “infinity migrants”, has meant that many people are now unfortunately in a cycle of what we call “financial underrepresentation”. Thankfully this problem is completely solved by the fact the exterior of the station is covered in multicoloured billboards assuring all people in this wonderful city that they matter and they are seen, as travelers scurry past them trying not to attract their attention. 

We now walk forward to what were once called “escalators” before people were fully-aware that this word reeks of privilege through assuming a binary opposition between above and below. The really big changes here are of course the rainbow coloured steps, which change hue to represent the relevant colours and insignia of specific communities in line with their history month or sacred day of remembrance. So the steps will be pastel blue and pink for days representing the trans community, or green, grey and black for Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, and so on. 

Unfortunately I don’t have space to record all the ways that every single inch of transport infrastructure now contributes to TransForming London for the betterment of all. Mention must be made, however, of the “Be Kind contract” that all passengers on the network have as their terms and conditions of custom. 

In order to enter (“be inclusioned”), on the network, it is necessary that certain basics of civilized progress are adhered to

In order to enter (“be inclusioned”), on the network, it is necessary that certain basics of civilized progress are adhered to. These include not making eye-contact with anyone who has not signaled their consent to be looked at with the appropriate colour-coded lanyard, and certainly never allowing there to be any physical contact, even on busy trains. This is a challenge given the continued population explosion combined with the fact the number of trains hasn’t increased in over twenty years. 

Nonetheless, the challenge has been solved by renaming the incredibly long waits for trains which are safe from the threat of brushing against someone without consent. What were once “waiting times” are now called “self-care stoppages”, and what were once called “severe delays” are now “extended self-soothing interventions”. During these times, breathing exercises and positive affirmations are encouraged, so passengers realise that any emotional disregulation with the non-arrival of a train is “not their stuff”.

All this is made possible by a bluetooth audio system which makes announcements over people’s own listening devices, and can thus lead anyone who is prejudicially-minded enough to want effective transport engineering over against attitude engineering to be transformed by a representatively accented voice repeating statements like “You deserve to be you”, “Celebrate yourself”, “It’s safe to be me”, and so on. 

Perhaps the most technologically advanced achievement of TransForming London is the way this audio system can drown out even the loudest of noises with the soothing sounds of inclusion. This feature was initially designed to drown-out those unfortunate moments where, inexplicably, passengers break down, crying and screaming with rage before being taken away for a guided meditation video featuring Sadiq Khan himself.  

The audio system has also proved immensely memorable for drowning out the terrible screeching sound of an incoming train when it finally arrives. That is, just in case anyone is entertaining unwelcome thoughts about the likelihood of boarding the train given the vast crowds amassing on the platform — this sound is now overlaid by the deafening clarion call: “Maaaaaaaaaate”.

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