Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Line That Isn't

I am now working again in London, and facing the daily nightmare that is a rush-hour commute. I have noticed that announcements being made about the fate of the East London Line, and they struck me as a bit puzzling. The announcements go something like this:
The East London Line is closed until 2010, when it will re-open as part of the London Overground network.
The East London Line is currently part of the London Underground network, and when the line re-opens, I venture to suggest that it won't be called the East London Line, since that would invite confusion with the lines on the underground network. This leads me to conclude that in fact, the East London Line isn't closed, rather it no longer exists. Sure, the track is still there, and doubtless the rolling stock is stashed away somewhere. But that entity which we called the East London Line has ceased to exist.

The situation is similar, I think, to that which now exists at the Edinburgh Festival when it comes to comedy awards. For years we knew that if you did really well, you could win a Perrier Award. The awards are still given, except now they are not sponsored by Perrier, so they are called the IF Comedy AWards. A lot of people still think of them as the Perrier Awards, because they recognise it's a same shit, different brand thing, but technically, they are the IF Awards.

I think this is the flip side of the classic problem of the Philosopher's Axe (not to be confused with the Philosopher's Axe Wound, which I won't be going into). The classic problem presents the problem of identity very elegantly. I have an axe. Over time, I replace the handle (or haft, if you'd rather). Later, I need to replace the head. At this point, it's still my axe, even though it no longer contains any of its original constituent parts. Is it really still the axe I started with? At what point is it not my axe, or not the same axe? In the case of the East London Line, and the Perrier/IF Awards, the opposite is happening - the label changes even though the thing itself remains the same.

Actually, the East London Line is a bit different, because the label is likely to change, the context is going to change (from the LU network to the LO network), and the thing itself is going to change. Really, the line has ceased to exist.

So, to conclude, I would be much happier if the announcements on the tube went like this:
Please be aware that the East London Line has ceased to exist. Passengers are advised to seek alternative routes.

3 comments:

Inexplicable DeVice said...

But where did the ELL go? Something that large is a bit of a bugger to put away somewhere. Unless it got caught in the fluff drawer of a washing machine? All sorts of weird things get stuck in fluff drawers...

I'm glad to hear you didn't go into the axe wound. Chilling.

Da Nator said...

So, what, there's going to be an elevated line? What do they do with the old tunnel? Can it be shops, like in Montreal? May I suggest an underground string of clubs, with dungeon and mass-transit themes?

Qenny said...

IDV: I think they tried to make it vanish into the recesses of a washing machine, but they couldn't find one big enough. Either that or there was a clash between the team trying to deploy the washing machine, and the other team of folks currently building something in Stratford. Something to do with sport, so I'm not exactly motivated to care. Someone pointed out to them, though, that the original ELL was built along the length of the transverulian ley line (the one connecting The Ridgeway to the Hastings Nexus), so they might have performed a Kataphasic Shift on it by now and chucked it into a parallel dimension.

da nator: I think most of the old railways arches and disused tunnels in London are already deployed as dungeons, niteclubs, gay saunae or musea. What will probably happen is that they'll use the old line, and the tunnels, but most of the line will be overground. Thing is, several of the lines on the London Underground are actually above ground for most of their length: The Central Line, The Picadilly Line, The District Line, The Hammersmith & City Line. There may be others.