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Commuter anxiety: This TfL map makes tube travel so much easier for people with anxiety

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Kayleigh Dray
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London underground map

People with claustrophobia or other anxiety conditions, look this way…

Commuting is rarely fun at the best of times – but, on the 2 October, all Thameslink services were cancelled or severely delayed due to damage to overhead electrics between London St Pancras International and Blackfriars.

At the time, a Thameslink spokesman said: “Due to multiple incidents at City Thameslink and Blackfriars, the power has been switched off to the line between St Pancras and Blackfriars in both directions.

“Trains are unable to run in either direction.”

He added: “Thameslink advise you not to travel at this time as they cannot guarantee a train service through the following stations: London St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars.”

Of course, these disruptions significantly impacted other people’s journeys. Overcrowding at Victoria saw people queuing underground for the Victoria Line – and many buses were unable to stop for passengers as they were full.

However, while there’s no doubt that all of this was irritating for commuters – and that it ruined many of their mornings – spare a thought for those who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia.

Anxiety affects more than eight million people in the UK, and it can affect anyone, at any time, and at any age.

More important to remember, though, is the fact that it can come in many different forms, too.

Claustrophobia, for example, is a form of anxiety disorder that plagues many of us on a daily basis – and this irrational fear of confined spaces can often prove to be completely disruptive to our everyday lives. Just setting foot into a lift, tunnel, revolving door, changing room, plane or public toilet can be enough to trigger a panic attack, so many claustrophobics try to avoid using the tube wherever possible, due to a fear of being underground.

Thankfully, Transport for London (TfL) has addressed this problem with an alternative map of the London Underground, specially designed to help those living with claustrophobia or anxiety.

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Tube map showing tunnels for people with anxiety (TfL)
Tube map showing tunnels for people with anxiety (TfL)

“Our #TunnelMap can help you plan a more comfortable journey if tunnels make you anxious,” said a spokesperson for Tfl, via its Twitter page.

The map specifies which sections and stations of the tube are underground – even going so far as to highlight the routes that customers can use to avoid them.

And, all in all, it’s incredibly reassuring: the free downloadable map has confirmed that over 50% of the tube’s 270 stations are above ground, with only the Victoria Line and Waterloo and City line wholly underground.

Up until now, there was no definitive way to tell which stations were completely enclosed unless you were familiar with the network.

TfL has pledged to improve the tube’s accessibility for people with hidden health conditions
Commuter anxiety: TfL has pledged to improve the tube’s accessibility for people with hidden health conditions

Speaking to The Telegraph about the innovative scheme, TfL’s director of customer strategy Mark Evers said: “Making the Tube network accessible for everyone is one of our top priorities.

“This new map is just one of the tools we have created in response to feedback from our customers on how we can make the transport network more accessible, making travelling easier and more comfortable for all our customers.”

Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of charity Anxiety UK, added: “This new map is an excellent resource for those wishing to avoid journeys where there are tunnels, serving as a great pre-journey planning aid and increasing access to public transport.

“I sincerely hope that the map will encourage those with claustrophobia and/or panic attacks who have previously avoided this form of public transport out of fear to reconsider their use of the Tube.”

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Anxiety symptoms are often hard for sufferers to put into words; there is usually a sense of danger or threat, of not being able to cope with what might happen – a “nameless dread” that provokes such physically real symptoms that it can be debilitating for sufferers.

The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person, and can include:

  • Restlessness
  • A sense of dread
  • Feeling constantly “on edge”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart palpitations

The condition is treatable, so those who experience these symptoms are encouraged to speak with their GP.

Of course, the main issue with anxiety is that there are so many misconceptions about it – and that it can be difficult to tell, at a glance, who is suffering from the condition.

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It is for this reason that we’re pleased to see that TfL is continuing to improve the tube’s accessibility for people with hidden health conditions.

The company previously released a series of new “Please offer me a seat” badges, which commuters can request in order to make it easier to let other passengers know that they need a seat. And, of course, there was a famous attempt to combat loneliness by introducing “Tube chat?’ badges.

Please note that this article was originally published in 2017, but has been updated and refreshed throughout.

Images: Getty/iStock

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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