Saturday, May 25, 2013
PICCADILLY: anagram quiz
Here are anagrams of 40 Piccadilly line stations.
How many can you identify?
1) Acidic Crispy Cull
2) Ah Enormous
3) Alien Throng
4) As Governor
5) Bird Eggs Think
6) Carbon Tours
7) Castle Equerries
8) Corrugated Sole
9) Craven Tonged
10) Dark Creepy Horn
11) Dully Hubris
12) Eel Story
13) Ego Wonder
14) Fondle Shirt
15) Forces Stock
16) Gasoline Hut
17) German Hunter
18) Hack Mine
19) Hallo Doorway
20) Hog Statue
21) Ibex Drug
22) Internal Puke
23) Math Shimmer
24) Mini Parlours
25) Monsoon Brat
26) Nearly Snare
27) Nil Holding
28) Nocturnal Wholes
29) Noel's Washout
30) Nonstick Grass Scraps
31) North Coasts
32) Oncoming Male
33) Port Lane
34) Rare Locust
35) Red Anaconda Oil
36) Squealers Slur
37) Two Cannot
38) Two Tenders
39) Unborn Edges
40) Unhooks Nettings
(Answers in the comments box)
(And, please, no more than TWO guesses each)
posted 08:00 :
Friday, May 24, 2013PICCADILLY: the tiles
Doug loves them. He's got a website about the tiles down the Piccadilly line (and down the other lines designed in the Edwardian era). Doug's even written a book, of the lavishly-illustrated £50 type, which could probably be described as definitive. We have three more north London stations to visit.
Skip King's Cross St Pancras, it's been entirely modernised. And you won't spot York Road, that's long closed.
Caledonian Road is a below-ground tiling extravaganza. The ox-blood façade at street level is mighty fine too, but there are plenty of these around London, and downstairs ticks different boxes. The chosen colour here is mauve, in two closely coordinated shades, rippling in zigzags down the wall. Compared to some of the other stations we've visited the effect is quite muted, definitely less polished. There's been no recent wholesale restoration here - indeed close-up investigation reveals a few long-term imperfections. Let's call it character.
If you're looking for the way out, Cally Road offers a choice of signage. The usual modern enamel panels are here, all terribly pristine and normal, but also much more ornate WAY OUT panels tiled beside the exits. The words appear inside a design that could be a ticket window, but is more correctly a free-standing picture frame - the correct term is 'aedicular'. Other exits are marked NO EXIT, similarly framed and glazed. You'll find these aedicular signs at all the other stations I've highlighted, but some of those here are unreconstituted Leslie Green originals.
Head to the far end of the northbound platform to see an original all-red roundel, almost hidden, beyond a staff telephone near the signals. There's another at Covent Garden if you don't want to trek this far out, but again beyond the passenger barrier so best seen from a passing train.
Holloway Road is best seen just after a train has left, with the cylindrical platform empty and brown hoops overhead. That's assuming you like brown. Leslie Green chose two shades of brown as his Holloway Road colours, one richer and darker, the other verging on orange. The lighter hue is used on the platforms to create a bold diagonal design, broken by a broad vertical dark strip. This polychromatic branding continues along the exit passages, even up the steps to the spiral staircase... but not all the way to the top.
A most well preserved station, this, both above and below, and the second in a row with a Grade II listing. It's the attention to detail, the small things, that make the difference. Take the interconnecting passage, for example. Today it's only useful to anyone changing between northbound and southbound trains, which should be nobody, but in its day this was an entrance at the foot of the stairs. Which way to go? The tiling tells you, left To The Trains Hammersmith, right To The Trains Finsbury Park. And all in brown, of course, lovely brown.
Tottenham fans should look away now.
It made perfect sense in 1906 to call Arsenal station Gillespie Road. A fairly minor road, admittedly, but entirely descriptive of the ticket hall's location. It's nowhere near the platforms, though. A long gentle ramp slopes down from the entrance, and down, and down, before reaching a cavity dug out beneath the East Coast mainline. Arsenal football team didn't move in nearby until 1913, and the station name didn't change until 1932. Today the ramp down to the platforms is part barriered-off to provide a protected contraflow system on matchdays, but look behind the metal bars and Leslie Green's striped tiles remain.
Strange colours, though. Purple and green don't really go together, especially when the purple's a wishywashy mauve and the green's dark emerald. You'd expect red and white because those are Arsenal's colours but, like I said, the tiles predated the team's arrival. And the old station name survives on the platforms, with GILLESPIE ROAD written in large flowing capitals at each end. Who cares if that's not what it's called any more, rejoice that it's still here. A century on, the Piccadilly's tiling vision endures.
Finsbury Park rounds off the original line, but has no original tiling. The station's platforms were radically reworked in the 1960s to allow cross-platform interchange between the new Victoria line and the Piccadilly. Instead you can enjoy the sight of six hot air balloons, created in mosaic by artist Annabel Grey, bobbing curvaceously along the length of the platform.
I've now downloaded 28 Piccadilly tiling photos to Flickr. According to Flickr's cavalier new interface almost none of you have looked at them, but the stats lie because you clearly have.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, May 23, 2013PICCADILLY: the tiles
Dylan loves them. He's the Piccadilly line driver you might have seen on The Tube documentary on BBC2 last week, and he loves the tiles down the Piccadilly line. That's the original tiles on the original platforms, added to give each station a visual identity for the benefit of the illiterate. As Dylan says, here, "what more simpler method could you use?"
To find these tiling patterns you need to travel on the original section of the Piccadilly line, designed by Leslie Green, that's between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. There's no point looking on the overground section of the line, obviously, so the first point of call at the western end should be Earl's Court. Except no. The underground station's been part-modernised over the years, so there's not so much of the original decoration left. Bands of mauve tiles still loop overhead, and there's a row of toothpaste green along the top of the platform wall. But the signature patterns along the full length are long gone, replaced by white, so best not to start your architectural safari here.
Gloucester Road, on the other hand, oh yes. Here the tiles are a deep rich green, be that in rings overhead or in parallel stripes along the platform. The station name appears in big bold lettering, another key part of the waymarking strategy from 1906, because the London Underground roundel hadn't yet been invented. By modern standards it uses the wrong font, but hurrah for that - there's no forcible requirement to upgrade our heritage.
Gloucester Road doesn't boast the most exciting of the patterns down the line, but the design is bold. Only one colour has been used - there's no additional accent hue as elsewhere. And the design does have a pleasing symmetry, created as you can see by inserting fractional tiles in each row. This wasn't just thrown together, you know.
We're not stopping at South Kensington, because that's had a Natural History Museum makeover. And we're not stopping at Knightsbridge because that's gone 21st century silver.
But we are stopping at Hyde Park Corner. This is a lovely station, entirely below ground, with escalators leading passengers down to a circulation lobby between the two platforms. The connecting passages contain tiled signs directing passengers 'To the trains', either 'To Finsbury Park' or 'To Hammersmith'. Most endearing. The key colour on the platforms is brown, the sort of brown that DIY paint manufacturers might brand as chocolate or mahogany. Notice the colons which appear between each word of Hyde:Park:Corner - either a grammatical aberration or a fine decorative touch.
At this station the additional colour is yellow, a little wishy-washy perhaps, but in complete contrast to the dark green at Gloucester Road. The tiles cluster in groups of four, there's no need for fractions here. But not all of the pattern is visible. Advertising posters cover much of the platform wall, including most of the yellow pattern, but also (sad face) one of the station names.
Best ride past Green Park and Leicester Square, there are no Edwardian tiles down here. Inbetween is Piccadilly Circus, again new, but which has the best modern take on bright tiling simplicity.
Covent Garden is the heritage-tiled station that most visitors to London will have seen. As they pour off to visit the market above, they'll see stripes and hoops coloured caramel and custard. Delightful. But look closer and it's clear this isn't the original tiling, it's not even old. This is a 2008 makeover, completed to strict like-for-like guidelines, but almost too perfect. The lettering's the thing, it's got a computer-generatedness that the originals don't have, so the font is too sharp and a touch too thin. And where did the colon go?
At least the custardy yellow is brighter than at Hyde Park Corner. I like the pattern here too, it's a little more intricate than elsewhere, and with a greater expanse of blank space inbetween. Again the adverts get in the way a bit, so Dylan's view as he speeds through the platform isn't what it could be, but needs must.
Holborn's not tiled any more. But it does have two chipolata penises on the northbound platform, if you look carefully.
To Russell Square, with the most in-your-face of the surviving designs. This utilises a relatively complex chain-like pattern, laid out in a dark shade that might even be black. Surrounding this is a turquoise border, and then an intermediate stripe underlining below. These aren't the pastel shades we see at Leslie Green's other Piccadilly line stations, so is Russell Square the odd one out, or have all the other bold designs been replaced over the last century?
The turquoise stripes also continue up the stairs and round the passageway to the foot of the lift shaft. It's detail like this that helps make the London Underground the design triumph we know and love today. Even the sign pointing the way "To The Lifts & Stairs" is glazed inside a blue surround, with a comet-like arrow beneath and the flourish of an ampersand within. Next time you're waiting at a slightly lesser station, wish you were here.
If you can cope with the ill-advised presentational update that Flickr has inflicted on its users this week, you'll find 14 Piccadilly tile photos here. We'll continue north tomorrow.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, May 22, 2013The Museum in Docklands is ten years old this week. The actual anniversary is on Friday, this being one decade since the opening party "with live bands, treasure hunts, costumed actors and a prize for the best-dressed pirate!" I missed that, but I've been back several times since, and it's one of my favourite London museums. There's so much of interest on show that, even though I've seen it all before, I never mind seeing it all again. The history of London's river is well told, from early Roman days to the dawn of Docklands, via whale tusks and Tommy the Tortoise. I still can't physically work out how all the floors and galleries fit together, so twisty is the path from one end to the other, but that never matters. I love that partway round you end up walking through smelly mocked-up dockside streets. I'm amazed that there's an entire Sainsbury archive hidden in the middle. I appreciate being reminded by the Sugar & Slavery gallery that my city's riches are founded on misery and exploitation. But I usually give the ground floor a miss because it's rammed with small kids and their parents making the most of interactive hands-on malarkey.
There don't appear to be any special 10th birthday events this weekend, or at least there are none I can see listed on the museum's website. But there is a special anniversary exhibition which opened last weekend and runs until October. It's called Estuary, and presents visitors with a dozen contemporary artists' views of the outer reaches of the Thames. You might have seen Estuary advertised on the tube, with big yellow letters on a black and white photo depicting a string of Maunsell sea forts. I love the seaforts, having been out to see them on a boat trip once, so stick those on a poster and I'm absolutely going to turn up.
I turned up a few days ago. The bloke on the front desk stopped me to tell me where to begin, but I've been before so I already knew to ascend to the third floor. I was expecting to be greeted by Tony Robinson doing his introductory video, but no, here was a boat and a big yellow cyclorama labelled ESTUARY. Excellent, I thought. Let's start by watching the film.
Behind the yellow wall was a curve of comfy cushioned seats, all focused on a large screen. Entering mid-film I thought that looked like the gangway of the Tilbury Ferry, and indeed it was, which is about as estuarine as you can get. This flipped into an aerial shot of the Thames by the Dome, with a gorgeous dusky sky illuminating the City skyline, and a helicopter buzzing oh so slowly towards the camera. Lovely. Enter bargemaster Tom Cook lolling lugubriously in an armchair, scratching his thick beard, telling the story of his ridiculously jam-packed maritime life. And he's only 27. I could have listened to his recollections all day, which was fortunate because they did go on a bit, twice. Those aerial river shots came round again too, sometimes from the top of the Shard, sometimes tracking shots from lower down. A rope was spliced (ah, so that's how you do it). A boat was launched. The series of short films went on and on.
Being a completist I wanted to stay to the end, so I stayed watching. Nobody else did. It was intriguing to see how long most people lasted - generally no more than five minutes, in some cases barely one. A few couples made it to ten minutes, but only I made it to fifteen. There's quite a lot of Gravesend in these films, isn't there? Twenty-five. Ooh, the Tilbury Ferry, that must mean we're coming back to the start... ah no, false alarm. Thirty-five. Hi, it's beardy Tom again. Forty-five. Seriously, how long is this going to go on? Fifty-five. Oh thank goodness, there goes the ferry's gangplank again, so I can leave. The film's fascinating, but it's more likely a dipping in-and-out thing rather than an endurance test.
But where was the rest of the exhibition? Not here. I'd seen a list of artworks listed in a leaflet, so I was expecting a blown-up photo of Southend, and a performance by the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, and of course those seaforts. Nothing. I wandered round the main exhibition space, wondering whether bits might pop up throughout, but no. I eventually reached the final room where many a temporary exhibition has been held, but no, that contained an East End version of Monopoly and a splendid concentric circle E-postcode map. So where in the building was the rest of the exhibition? I checked the leaflet - no clues - and wandered back to the main entrance. I could have asked someone on the desk I guess, but that's not me, so instead I left empty-headed.
I had the same sort of problem again later in the day. I went to Waterstones in Piccadilly specifically to see the London-based Lego they've got on show there. I found the book that the display is promoting, stacked up on the ground floor in an awkward spot blocking the aisles. And then I wandered the building, from the ground to the fourth, popping into all the crannies where hardbacks and paperbacks are shelved. Not a dimpled plastic brick in sight. I ended up buying two completely different books, but I never found the colourful scale model of St Pancras. Again I could have asked, but instead I assumed the display had moved on, and then left.
I'd made two pointless journeys, at least in terms of the main reasons I'd visited. I thought I knew each building well, but instead I completely missed what I came to see because the location wasn't clear enough. I think I've now worked out where the Estuary exhibition is, but only because I've ploughed through all 30+ minutes of last week's Londonist podcast (they're official media partners, don't you know). The exhibition's somewhere on the ground floor near the cafe, probably, perhaps. There might be more clues in these two YouTube films released by the Museum to promote the exhibition. Whatever, I'm going to have to go back again, and hopefully the location of the Estuary will be blatantly obvious this time.
6pm update: So it turns out the main body of the exhibition is on the ground floor near the cafe. There's also a huge yellow sign with an arrow on it hanging from the ceiling behind the reception desk, but I must have missed that, or else I thought it was pointing towards the lifts. Lo and behold, there's an entire room through there I've never noticed before, inside which are the remaining eleven artworks (on a fairly grand scale). Some are paintings, others are series of atmospheric photographs, but many are films so expect to spend some time here. I spent an hour, all told. 'Thames Film' is a marvellous collection of riverside scenes compiled from archive material, including shots of dockside workers and holidays on Canvey Island. Strangely it was the seaforts piece I couldn't cope with because the text moved by too slowly and I got bored. But in the final area I was delighted to rediscover an 18 minute delight I'd last seen in Margate. Horizon, by John Smith, is a looping sequence of shots from the shoreline, with the top half of the screen always sky and the bottom half always sea. I found it rhythmic and hypnotic, but you might find it boring as hell (in which case we'd probably never get on). So, yes, Estuary is a substantial collection of work, and you have until October to catch up.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, May 21, 2013Are you a schoolteacher in the London area? Are you looking for an exciting venue for a class trip? Well, the Transport for London Safety & Citizenship team may have the answer.
The Emirates Air Line schools scheme is a brand new initiative aimed at London schools. The scheme allows you to admire the breathtaking views of the capital while bringing most subjects to life.Riding the cablecar is going to be the school trip of choice, and no mistake.
Pupils will only be charged £1 for a return flight on the Emirates Air Line and accompanying adults will travel for free (adult to child ratio 1:9 at KS2 and above and 1:5 at KS1).What an innovative idea to boost passenger numbers during the less busy midweek period.
The fare for children is £1 each for a single journey, a return journey or a ‘360 Tour’. Accompanying teachers/guardians will travel free up to the mandatory minimum ratios of adults to children. Additional adults will be charged the appropriate Oyster fare for their journey.A bargain, I hope you'll agree.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said: 'What better way to learn about our city's fascinating history than by travelling at 90 metres above the Thames on the Emirates Air Line, marvelling at its sleek design, whilst our fine Capital unfolds underneath?What better way indeed. Apart from maybe going to South Kensington and looking round some proper museums.
'I am delighted that with the introduction of this special rate even more children can now enjoy one of London's transporting triumphs!'If you're not yet convinced that this is the school trip for you, TfL have a webpage packed with useful background information to persuade you. There's even a detailed FAQ.
How long does a journey on the Emirates Air Line last? A single crossing takes approximately 10 minutes out of peak hours, and a 360 journey takes approximately 20 minutes at that time.£1 for a 20 minute trip? That's not bad going... apart from the additional cost of actually getting to the cablecar in the first place.
Are bags allowed on the Air Line? You may bring personal luggage that you are able to carry yourself provided it is not dangerous or likely to injure or obstruct anyone and is not more than 2 metres in length.Sorry, you may have to disappoint any students hoping to bring a sword or a flagpole with them.
Are there toilets? Neither terminal has toilet facilities. Toilet facilities are available at North Greenwich Underground station.No toilets? Suddenly this is sounding like a less good venue for a school trip.
Can pregnant women travel on the Emirates Air Line? Pregnant women can travel on the Emirates Air Line. The Emirates Air Line reaches heights of 90 metres. Travelling is at our customers’ own discretion.What a relief that pregnant members of the party, be they teachers or pupils, will still be able to take part.
How many people need to be in a group? There is no set minimum group size but there is a maximum group size of 400.Hell yeah, why not bring the entire school?
Is there a “fast track” lane for booked school groups? Pre-booked school parties will be met upon arrival and escorted through to the platform level. They will be treated as a private party.Take that as a friendly warning to other users of the cablecar. Come at the wrong time (that's between 9.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday) and you might get stuck behind a school party.
How long before my boarding time shall I arrive? Bookings are taken to fall within one hour timeslots. You should arrive within the timeslot booked.You could get a class of 30 on board in under two minutes. A party of 400 is going to take rather longer.
Where do we collect our group tickets? It is simpler to collect Group tickets on arrival at the planned terminal, where a record of your booking is held.Sorry? Simpler than what?
What happens if I lose or forget my tickets? The Emirates Air Line operator maintains a record of any Groups which have pre-booked flights. Upon presentation at the agreed terminal, the group leader, with appropriate personal identification will be met and the booking will be respected.That is, seriously, truly excellent.
What if there are adverse weather conditions? The Emirates Air Line cable car system is designed to operate throughout the year and in most weather conditions. However, cable cars are not designed to operate in extreme weather conditions and, for comfort and safety reasons, the service may close due to:Be warned, you're booking a school trip that might be cancelled in the event of adverse weather conditions. There is the option for a refund, or to rebook, but essentially that's your day out ruined.
o Threat of lightning and thunder - this may impact the service for a short time. The cable car system may close for less than 20 minutes, before the storm passes and service resumes.
o Very strong winds - this is likely to lead to a longer period of 'No Service' as wind speed tends to reduce at a gradual rate.
Is there a commentary on the Emirates Air Line? There are welcome messages on the Emirates Air Line, but no commentary. Many passengers enjoy the quietness of the journey at 90 metres above ground level. If you have any questions on any particular landmark you have seen, please ask our staff at either terminal – who will be happy to assist.Passengers are unlikely to be enjoying the quietness of the journey when there's a school party aloft.
What will I see from the Emirates Air Line? Rising to a height of 90 metres the Emirates Air Line is a unique travel experience, giving spectacular views across the city and its river, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In the foreground you will see The O2, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and the Crystal Building.You could offer a very special prize, say ten house merit points, to any child who can actually spot St Paul's Cathedral from that distance.
Are pets allowed on the Emirates Air Line? With the exception of assistance dogs, animals must be carried at all times. Some animals may not be permitted. Please check with a member of staff before you purchase your boarding pass.Don't even think of bringing the class guinea pig, because it won't be allowed on board.
As a bonus to teachers, TfL have carried out your Risk Assessment for you. Rest assured that a trip on the cablecar meets all the requirements of UK/European Standards BS EN 12929-1 Cableway General Requirements Guidance on Safe Practices HSG65.
Slips/ Trips/ Falls - The following hazards should be noted: steps and stairs, slowly moving cabin when boarding, wet flooring.There is of course no risk of "falling from the cabin into the Thames", so long as you don't allow little Tyrone to fiddle with the doors.
Whilst there are no high level areas per se, those who suffer from vertigo may find the experience uncomfortable.There are high level areas, obviously. Just not per se.
Guests are enclosed in the cabin for between four and ten minutes and whilst the cabin is airy and able to accommodate the number of people who have been boarded by our Air Line teams, some individuals may feel confined. However the cabin cannot be defined as a confined space.According to the legal definition a small cabin dangling 90m above the Thames is not a confined space. Tell that to your eight year-old having a panic attack mid-crossing.
If all this has inspired you, you might want to print out this colourful poster and stick it on your staffroom wall.
Inspiring journeys at the Emirates Air LineAnd it's not only these three subjects which can benefit.
Feed your imagination with a breathtaking flight over London. Watch geography, science and creative writing come to life!
The Emirates Air Line schools scheme offers many educational benefits. The design and construction phases of Emirates Air Line involved many departments. As a consequence, a journey on the Emirates Air Line should be a cross-curricular experience.I have to say, the last time I was on the cablecar that's exactly what I was thinking.
There's especially good news if you're a KS4 Geography teacher, because the kind folk at TfL have put together a lesson plan on the theme of "Urban Regeneration: The Docklands". It includes the following observational suggestions.
Students need to be split into different groups and collect evidence on the day:Group C would be ideal for all your special needs students, by the sound of it.
Group A: London Docklands pre-1960s and the River Thames - Students to look around and to collect evidence of the pre-1960 era (derelict buildings, Tate & Lyle factory, Beckton Gas Works holder structure – all visible from the Emirates Air Line)
Group B: Regeneration in East London - Students to look around and to collect evidence of private-sector investment (Canary Wharf, O2 Arena, The Crystal – all visible from the Emirate Air Line).
Group C: Transport Infrastructure - Students to look around and to collect evidence of different modes of transport in the Docklands area.
Flights must be booked in advance through Emirates Air Line Schools Groups booking line or email address. (School Group Fare does not apply where no advance booking has been made).You do actually have to be a proper school. Don't think you can just turn up in North Greenwich with a group of nine children and expect to take them across for a pound each.
hurry, then, before all the best timeslots go.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, May 20, 2013If you love Battersea Power Station, there's currently a rare opportunity to visit. Not visit properly, there's no getting inside the boiler house or turbine hall. But you can wander up close to the northern façade, to the area between the power station and the Thames, somewhere there's been no free public access for years. It's all part of the Chelsea Fringe festival, a three week artistic intrusion taking place capital-wide. And it's also part of the developers' masterplan to soften up the populace so that they welcome the impending luxury transformation. Later on expect high-end stores, restaurants and health spas. But for now there's a pop-up park with freshly-laid turf, artistic huts and a van selling crumpets. Do come.
You approach from the southern end of Chelsea Bridge, near the entrance to Battersea Park. The apartments alongside are part of Chelsea Bridge Wharf, a glass carbuncle which hints at the development to come on the adjacent site. Normally the path below the railway bridge is sealed off, but now at weekends a security guard will open up and beckon you through. All the trains out of Victoria rumble overhead, indeed there's a wonderful view of the power station immediately after you cross the river. It won't last. The first phase of the new development involves the construction of an arc of apartments called Circus West, rising up to seventeen storeys in height, and they'll block off the direct line of sight. You won't be moving in.
The main Circus West building snakes along the western edge of the Power Station, wrapping its art deco industrial splendour in a refective glass skin. All of the apartments have enclosed winter gardens that provide outside space that is useable all year round. The penthouses have rooftop terraces and private gardens that will have spectacular views of Chelsea, the river and the Power Station – truly remarkable spaces. The residents of Circus West will also have access to a private garden and a 5,000 sq ft private residents’ club. Entered through a triple height lobby area, it is home to a private bar and private dining space, as well as a library, business centre, private cinema and a host of additional amenities for the benefit of residents.At present Circus West is an expanse of rubble awaiting transformation, so it's fortunate most future buyers live overseas where they can't see it. The riverside park beyond looks considerably greener, probably because all the grass has recently been brought in from elsewhere. A dry garden has been planted, with tufty stems and wispy stalks emerging from gravel - quick, easy and effective. Elsewhere are some extremely attractive planters, and an audio hammock, plus a trio of stone petal seats you can buy for a few grand. On the ground you'll find a mass of pink building blocks, entitled Bloom, which last saw the light of day in Victoria Park during the Olympics. Elsewhere some hollowed-out wooden blocks have been installed, permitting visitors to step inside and stare out through coloured filters at a confined view of the power station. Because oh yes, it's the power station you've come to see.
A sheer brick edifice rises across the lawn beyond a protective fence. Two ribbed chimneys scrape the sky, far higher than they've looked from further away these past few decades. The developers tell us they'll have to come down and be rebuilt, and we probably believe them, don't we? Iron struts run between the towers, the intermediate windows long blown out allowing sight of the empty boiler house interior beyond. Within a few years you'll be able to buy haute couture and tapas in there, in a kind of Westfield Plus that the new local residents will adore. For now the place echoes with silence, except for every couple of minutes when a plane flies over, which isn't something you'll see mentioned in the penthouse brochures.
An element of considerable character is provided by a couple of cranes on the waterside. They stand at the end of a jetty, cranes aloft, with the name Stothert & Pitt still imprinted on their side. I hope they'll stay, and then presumably the proposed waterbus will tie up at some shinier building downstream. According to the festival blurb there was supposed to be "a bicycle and trailer decorated with planted beer cans distributing seed packets and information", but I never saw that. Instead there was a nice lady at a plant stall, and some very bored looking litter pickers with nothing to do, and rather more street food vendors than an event with minimal audience actually requires.
Saturday's main Chelsea Fringe event was entitled Planting Ideas, and was about as far away from opulent capitalism as it's possible to get. A few dozen people gathered with the express intent of standing in growbags in wooden planters, allowing themselves to be topped up with soil and then spouting forth. The idea was to create a "living orchard" with participants discussing multifarious ideas about sustainability with any members of the public willing to listen. Some wanted to talk about access to water, others about crowdsourcing an eco-curriculum, another to start the 9 Billion Conversation. Lofty ideals, but I think they were disappointed by how small an audience turned up, and the world isn't going to change as a result of this somewhat inward gathering.
Battersea's pop-up park remains open for the next three weekends, with various other fringe activities underway, should you fancy wandering down. There's no tube station nearby because nobody's built the mercenary Northern line extension out here yet, but I'm sure you'll cope. By the time that arrives, bringing office workers to their new jobs and customers to the Gucci shop, the park will have been extended to a permanent six acres. In the meantime this is your last chance to see the exterior of the historic Power Station, as it was, before restoration begins in the autumn. Don't expect thrills when you get here, but anticipate awe.
» 12 photos from Saturday (by me)
» 9 photos from Sunday (by McTumshie)
» several photos from 2008
And watch out for the Chelsea Fringe elsewhere around town too. I spotted some colourful tubs blooming at the end of the platforms at Bromley-by-Bow yesterday, and thought "ooh they're pretty", and it turns out they're a Chelsea Fringe intervention too. Good luck using the website, which makes the usual mistake of expecting you to plough through a mass of listings to find the interesting and relevant stuff. But if you can't make it to the actual Chelsea Flower Show this week, perhaps the alternative will come to you.
posted 01:00 :
Sunday, May 19, 2013Nunhead Cemetery is one of London's Magnificent Seven, a ring of private burial grounds established around the edge of the capital in the 1830s. Highgate's the best known, Kensal Green's the largest, and Nunhead's possibly the quietest. Located between Peckham and Brockley, its 50 acres are deeply wooded, and rather lovely. It wasn't meant to be this way. The cemetery went bankrupt in 1969 and a deep decline ensued, with gravestones toppling and the undergrowth bearing up. Along came The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery, not a moment too soon, and in 2001 the place was restored enough to be reopened. The gates are opened daily, and on the last Sunday of the month the Friends run a guided walking tour. But once a year they really push the boat out and host an Open Day, with stalls and tours and the opportunity to delve inside parts not usually accessible. And that was yesterday.
At Nunhead, all paths lead to the Anglican Chapel. It stands at the top of the main avenue leading up from Linden Grove, thin and tall with a pair of narrow spires rising to the sky. The chapel roof fell in a while back, so normally the front gates are locked, but yesterday they were flung open and a wheelchair ramp installed. It was busy inside too, especially when the musicians were performing. I missed the Dulwich Ukulele Club, but enjoyed the dulcet tones of the Nunhead Community Choir. Most carried their song words in book form or on clipboards, but I noticed a couple reading from iPads, or equivalent, and swishing through to the next page of the manuscript as the song progressed. Lucky it wasn't raining.
One Open Day special was the offer to don a hard hat and climb the "very narrow, steep and dark" spiral staircase to the roof of the tower, but I passed on that. Instead I joined the hourly tour to the crypt, which is very rarely open, with access down a slope round the back. We weren't quite sure what we'd be entering as the volunteer guided pushed open the doors and warned us about the big step down. It was very dark inside, but we spotted the trapdoor in the ceiling through which coffins were lowered, and then we spotted the coffins. There are 76 shelves down here, stacked like the sorting boxes in a post office, and most contain the remains of a dead Victorian. Not all the boxes have survived in this dank vault, some have rotted or collapsed, while others were vandalised in the 1970s and the bones had to be put back in mixed-body plastic sacks.
The 40 stalls were busy, or at least some of them were. Anyone offering face painting did well, as did the local history societies and gardening guilds. Other tables garnered less interest, but that's obscure well-meaning volunteers for you. Beekeepers and woodcarvers were present, and a lady chiselling letters in stone, and a group with a petition trying to save a nearby pub from developers. A small child thrust an out-of-date copy of The War Cry into my hand, while the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society didn't have to try that hard to unload some free leaflets. I fancied a jam scone from the temporary cafe, indeed the entire table of cakes and sponges looked proper homemade gorgeous, but the queue was extreme so I decided to pass.
Obviously the best things to do when visiting one of the Magnificent Seven is to walk around the cemetery. Paths curve round the perimeter and through the centre, some narrow, some broader, but all shadowed by verdant tree cover. Gravestones emerge from the wilderness at peculiar angles, with a few bluebells inbetween at this time of year. On one bank a small boy called Bertie posed with a dandelion clock for his Dad's smartphone, close to a headstone in loving memory of his namesake who died a century ago. Up at the mausoleum, if you found it, was a curated art exhibition based on the Seven Heavenly Virtues. They did the Sins last year, in case you're wondering. You've probably also unconsciously misjudged the mausoleum's size, it's more like a garden shed, but beautifully decorated on the outside. Pop back any weekend this month to see inside for yourself, or visit any time to enjoy the peace of this urban retreat.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, May 18, 2013Pavilions are ten a penny these days. You can't move in London without stumbling across a pop-up structure, designed by architects, occupying some public space somewhere. These temporary creations give students and consultancies the opportunity to show off their artistic tendencies, and also to spout meaningful words about the inherent meaning of their abstract concept. Plastic poles, wooden struts, steel bars and polymer panels, all interlinked in dynamic ways to create a cognitive space intersecting reality. Or something.
Next month a pavilion will be popping up at the Serpentine Gallery, as is the tradition each June. Sou Fujimoto's signature building will "inhabit a space between nature and artificiality". We're promised that "a new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two." Not only that, but "it will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape." Your typical average pop-up pavilion, then.
And now there's one in Bethnal Green.
This is the Summer Showcase Pavilion, the end result of a competition organised by ArchTriumph. They invited international teams "to design a freestanding transportable temporary contemporary showcase Pavilion that reflects peace and its unique location." That location is the Museum Gardens in Bethnal Green, a peaceful square round the back of the Museum of Childhood, and a lovely place to rest on a sunny day. Designs had to "encourage hope and highlight the need for ecological and sustainable architecture and design principles", as you do. In addition the pavilion "should provide an inspirational space" where visitors can "admire, embrace diversity and engage with each other to share discussions about design, importance and benefits of peace and co-existence or other stories in a peaceful setting." And, to add to the challenge, this year's pavilion would be "dedicated to the newly created South and North nations of Sudan as we encourage a peaceful future through architecture". Looking at the final design, I'm sure you can agreed they succeeded in meeting this challenging brief.
The winning team were an interdisciplinary trio from France, that's Gregoire, Irina and Adrià. They created this "visually and aesthetically engaging" pavilion, capable of providing "an ideal contemporary space offering a sense of tranquility and beauty". Their self-supporting structure has been created from lightweight PVC membrane and embraces the geometric conception of double curved surfaces. It's not immediately obvious from ground level but the pavilion has perfect symmetry, a bit like a twisted cloverleaf. And we're told that "the geometry of the pavilion blurs our notions of inside and outside", which is almost exactly what Sou Fujimoto said. This must mean that Peripheral Blurring is this year's fundamental design message in the world of pavilions, so do bear that in mind if you're thinking of designing your own.
I stumbled upon the Peace Pavilion completely by accident. I didn't know the Mayor of Tower Hamlets had been down on Thursday to officially open it. I just wandered through from the station and there it was, an inflatable membrane plonked in the middle of the lawn. Various local teenagers were staring at it, and taking smartphone photos of each other in front of it, because it was new and strange. A few mums had gathered, it being the middle of the afternoon, and some led their toddlers into the middle for a stare. I don't think they discussed design, importance and the benefits of peace and co-existence, but you never can tell.
There are a few metal chairs scattered inside the pavilion to encourage contemplation. I've got almost exactly the same chairs at home, so I'm quite excited to discover that they're art, and not just cheap car boot knock-off dumped here by my landlord. There's also a lone security guard on patrol, in case anyone turns up and tries to vandalise the pavilion, or daub it with graffiti, or pierce the membrane, or even try to run away with it. Don't do that, because that's not in the spirit of international peace and sustainability. I'm not saying you should rush down to Bethnal Green to see the Peace Pavilion, because it's only a twisty geometric inflatable with added seating. But watch out for pavilions in your part of town too, because you never know where one will pop up next.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, May 17, 2013I nearly walked to work yesterday. It's Walk To Work Week this week, and I like to play my part. From home to the office is only five and a bit miles, which is perfectly doable, and it's a fascinating walk too. I should have set my alarm an hour earlier, but I didn't think. And then I woke up and the weather was glorious and I wished I had. I considered walking anyway and turning up in the office an hour later than usual, because I'm allowed to do that, which is nice. But instead I jammed myself into a train and arrived the quick way. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly had lunch yesterday. It's the done thing in the middle of the day, and I don't like to starve. Our canteen usually serves up fine food at very reasonable prices, and this saves me having to cook anything at the end of the day. But yesterday they conspired to offer a menu consisting entirely of things I don't like, bar a bowl of semi-acceptable soup, and that didn't seem worth the effort. I know lunch is only a short period out of the working day, and barely a few minutes if you "grab and go", but I gave it a miss. Save half an hour at lunchtime and get home earlier, I thought. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly lost it in the middle of the afternoon. It's not like me. Normally I can juggle several things simultaneously, moving each inexorably closer to completion, but I'm struggling at the moment. There's all the usual work to do, plus a chunk of extra work someone thought we could do as well, and then some. I was trying to keep up with the maelstrom when someone wandered over and interrupted by dumping even more on me, at which point a flurry of meeting requests for October arrived and I almost flipped. I'd liked to have stood up on my chair and yelled, but it's not the done thing in an office, plus it's a swivel chair and I'd have fallen off. Instead I cursed quietly and knuckled back down. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly went home at four o'clock. I do when I can, it's allowed, but ill-advised at times of plenty. It would have been tempting to down tools and leave anyway, but in my experience that only makes the future worse. Instead I continued with tasks one to seven, and the newly arrived task eight, before an email arrived suggesting task nine. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly went home at five o'clock. Staying any later than that is an admission of failure, especially when I'm always one of the first people into the office in the first place. Instead I went and made a cup of tea, in a defeatist manner, as if to confirm to myself that I had no intention of heading home any time soon. And then I returned to my desk to discover task ten, which might not have been urgent but was relatively simple to get out of the way. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly went home at six o'clock. Everybody else seemed to be leaving, or had put their coats on and skedaddled already. It gets easier to work as everyone else goes home - there are far fewer distractions - but that's rarely a good enough reason for staying on. I plugged myself into some music and jigged along to an unexpectedly fine tune, safe in the knowledge that nobody else was watching. I still had a document to check, and a spreadsheet to complete, and a meeting to organise, and some files to transfer, and an email I'd accidentally overlooked earlier. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly went home at seven o'clock. I'm sure I would have done if it had been winter. There's nothing like the onset of darkness outside to hint that it's time to go home. After three hours of night-time I'd have been longing to get out, but evening daylight surreptitiously tempts us to carry on. Seven is also when the cleaners turned up, sensibly avoiding my end of the office until the last few stragglers have left. There was only one other person left by now, and I only noticed him when the lights went out and he stood up and waved his arms around to turn the sensors back on. Lots to do, best not waste time.
I nearly went home at eight o'clock. I was almost done, but there was one last column on a spreadsheet to colour in. It wasn't crucial, but it added quality to a deliverable, and I'd never get it done tomorrow once a avalanche of further 'stuff' arrived. I did that thing where you send your boss an email after eight o'clock in the evening, as if to prove a point, in the hope they'll notice the timestamp. I said hello to the cleaners, because we have that word in common, and because there was nobody else to talk to. And then finally I started shutting down and packing up. Lots done, time not wasted.
I nearly stayed in town and went for a drink. The streets round about were full of people doing just that, indeed looking like they'd been doing that for some considerable time. I could have gone for food somewhere, because I was slightly ravenous by this time. But instead I walked to the nearest station, long after the last free Evening Standard had been dispensed, and headed home. I even got a seat, which is one of the few bonuses of departing work in the middle of the evening. I wandered down Bow Road in wasted daylight, along with E3's other late-at-work stragglers. And I decided no, sorry, I won't be walking to work today either. Lots to do, best not waste time.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, May 16, 2013Just for a change, let's delve into the diamond geezer readers' postbag. Or rather, let's take a look at your interesting comments from yesterday and share them with a wider audience.
If you remember, the big Crossrail 2 choice is whether to build a Metro service or a Regional service. You strongly preferred the latter.
Indeed, not one reader could see the attraction of the Metro service.
I support the regional option as it gives really great travel time reductions to lots of suburban stations. [Rational Plan]
I think this would be best suited as a regional line. Think Crossrail as being the Paris RER style and the tube being the metro. [James]
Ah, but don't forget that DLR carriages are double length.
The metro option having tiny short platforms!? What on earth are they "thinking"? When every other tube and railway line in London is rammed, and would benefit from longer trains... [Malcolm]
I confess I can't understand this metro option. Why limit it to four cars? Do it at least at tube length, or not at all. [Andrew Bowden]
Whatever, it seems that only one of the two options is viable.
The metro option would be an automated (hence DLR like) line with platform screen doors running at up to 40 trains an hour. The trains are not 4 carriages long, but 4 units long. As they are articulated units, this means they are as long as existing tube trains. [Rational Plan]
To me it feels like the metro option has simply been set up to fail - which is probably why TfL have suggested it. It feels very much like a "someone's going to ask us what we'll get if we do this cheaper, so let's shave a few million off the price and show what you'd get" Sell the benefits of spending a little more money. But still, is a 6 car metro service that much more expensive than a four car? [Andrew Bowden]
You weren't thrilled by how few stations Hackney is getting...
Set up to fail is right. No-one can possibly take the metro option seriously. This will be a proper full-scale Crossrail - the consultation is a publicity exercise, nothing more. [Arkady]
Obviously the Regional version wins hands down. The Metro version looks like a cheaper mistake that it will only cost an absolute fortune when the need for an upgrade becomes overwhelming apparent, as it almost certainly would within six months of opening. Like the 1983 tube stock on the Jubilee Line (with single doors, on predictions of decreased tube usage in the future) it would be an expensive mistake....and utterly inexplicable given predictions of *increased* population and public transport usage in the capital. [Dominic H]
It would be curious to build Crossrail 2 as a conventional metro style service, the clue is in the name! [Mikey C]
...whereas Haringey gets a string of four stations.
Astounded that the Metro version of the Chelsea-Hackney line doesn't even, really, go to Hackney. [Dominic H]
Stoke Newington surely needs a tube link as badly as Hackney, though. [Dominic H]
The central section of the route needed further clarification from some.
It seems strange to have Tottenham served by both branches of CR2 [Mikey C]
On the regional plan, why the odd duplication up the A10 corridor, meaning each station only gets half the service? Surely one tunnel calling at Dalston and/or Hackney, and at Seven Sisters and/or Tottenham Hale would be cheaper? [SW commuter]
Why does the Tottenham Hale branch need more services? The Seven Sisters to Cheshunt always seems more crowded to me. [John2]
Ironic that the proposed northern route runs from Seven Sisters to Alexandra Palace. There used to be an almost identical line from Seven Sisters to Palace Gates with stations at West Green and Noel Park (Wood Green High Road). It was closed to passengers in January 1963. I travelled on the last train, but I don't think I'll still be alive to travel on the new first train! A further extension from Ally Pally to Muswell Hill might be worth considering. [Anon]
Others queried the links made in the southern section.
Piccadilly Circus has still not been confirmed as being in either option as it will be very difficult to build! Pbv easier in the Metro option as smaller footprint. [Anon]
Why cram even more people into TCR and Victoria? Most services into Victoria call at Clapham Junction anyway. Stops at Sloane Square and Bond Street would make a much better distribution of traffic. [Anon]
One of you submitted a fervent plea not to scrimp on the trains.
On the metro version, who is going to use the Wimbledon-Tooting stretch? Locals already have South Wimbledon station. There is an interchange between the SW suburban network and CR2 at Clapham Junction, and the SWT route between Wimbledon and CJ is much more direct and thus faster. I doubt that many people from the SW suburbs wanting the Northern Line will appreciate the double change at Wimbledon and Tooting - better to change at Waterloo (although this stretch makes a lot of sense in the regional version, as there would be no need to change at Wimbledon) [SW commuter]
Why can't the Wimbledon bit go to Sutton instead of following SWT? [John2]
But generally you don't care which option is built so long as one of them is.
'If Metro trains won't be staffed, please ensure plenty of station staff to support safety. This is vital for a busy urban line. Also, please design the trains to better cater for the elderly, sick and disabled, who make up at least a fifth of the population. New Victoria and Hammersmith & City/Met Line trains are actively painful to travel on if you have a physical disability. It was particularly pointless making the seats shorter as people's legs take up the same amount of room when sitting, and this causes untold discomfort to those of us needing good seating support.' [misspiggy]
Crossrail 2 won't be coming to a neighbourhood near you soon. But hopefully eventually.
Just start building it. This country spends far too long talking about infrastructure projects, instead of getting the job done. This adds to the cost, and we have to wait years before we see any results. [John]
I'd choose whichever option has a better chance of being built. There are far too many transport projects that go nowhere at all (pardon the pun), and we need anything we can get. [Chz]
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, May 15, 2013We've not yet got Crossrail, but how do you feel about Crossrail 2? TfL would very much like to know, so they've launched a consultation and it runs until the start of August. If built Crossrail 2 will connect southwest and northeast London, then perhaps connect further out into Surrey and Herts. A considerable amount of information has been published already, but if you don't have the time or inclination to dig through that, here's my Q&A.
This is new, isn't it?
Not at all. TfL have long had plans to build a NE/SW tube line, they've just never had the money. The idea of linking Chelsea with Hackney has been around since 1974, in recognition of these two places being two gaping holes in the tube network. The proposed line even had its own nickname, Chelney, but never (as yet) any trains.
How many options are there?
There are three options. The first is the Metro option (see map), which involves trains running between Alexandra Palace and Wimbledon. The second is the Regional option, which uses the previous option as a core, then extends onto National Rail lines at each end. And the third is not to build Crossrail 2 at all, which is the most likely outcome if the project fails to get sufficient funding.
How much will this cost?
The Metro option is due to cost £9bn, the same as the Olympics. The Regional option is more expensive, at £12bn, but for that you get a lot more miles. TfL have also taken into account "optimism bias", which is the tendency of all big public infrastructure projects to massively underestimate how much they're going to cost. In this case they reckon the actual total could easily be another 50% higher.
Tell me about the southern part of the core route
Crossrail 2 kicks off at Wimbledon, perhaps linking directly into the surrounding rail network to serve Twickenham, Surbiton and Epsom. The next stop would be Tooting Broadway, at last creating a south London link between the District and Northern lines. Then to Clapham Junction, which we're told is one of the most important links of all, offering SW London commuters a direct connection to the West End. Then continuing underground beneath the Thames to King's Road Chelsea, which would be a brand new station serving a brand new neighbourhood, and about time too.
Tell me about the central part of the core route
Victoria is one of the busiest stations on the Underground network, where Crossrail 2 would provide passengers with a vital alternative to the overstuffed Victoria line. The new line would cut diagonally through to Piccadilly Circus and then to Tottenham Court Road, journeys which aren't currently possible on one train. Tottenham Court Road would become the megahub where two Crossrails meet, an essential interchange which your grandchildren will use a lot. And then onward beneath Bloomsbury to Euston St Pancras.
Euston St Pancras?!?!?
Yes, don't look so surprised. I mean, technically King's Cross St Pancras doesn't exist either, but everyone's long got used to the tube station namechecking these two neighbouring rail termini. In this case Crossrail 2 needs to stop at Euston to serve High Speed 2 from Birmingham, while High Speed 1 is sort-of nextdoor at St Pancras so there'll be an exit there too. Might be a long walk, though.
Tell me about the northern part of the core route
From Euston St Pancras to Angel Crossrail 2 would be in parallel to the existing Northern line, but offering Islingtonites a direct link to the centre of town for the first time. Then to the Overground station at Dalston Junction, before the rest of Hackney is entirely bypassed by a really long gap on the way to Seven Sisters. Here Crossrail 2 funnels in traffic from the Victoria line, then on to Turnpike Lane to relieve the Piccadilly. And finally to Alexandra Palace, where hordes of passengers will be able to alight from National Rail commuter services and ride easily into central London.
How is the Regional route different to the Metro route?
The Regional route would extend at both ends to connect with the main rail network, with trains running through direct. At Wimbledon the link would be short and no new lines would be created. But to the north there'd be a fresh split beyond Angel, with an additional station in central Hackney before continuing on to Tottenham Hale. The run towards Cheshunt would be excellent news for those in the Lea Valley, and be the driver for considerable further growth. And expect one other key difference in the centre of town. In the Regional option there'd be no station at Piccadilly Circus, because apparently it'd be too close to Tottenham Court Road. It seems Crossrail 2 can have either Hackney Central or Piccadilly Circus but not both.
Any other differences between the Regional and Metro options?
Oh yes. And this one's really important. If TfL go with the Regional option, then the service would be run by 10-carriage Crossrail-style trains serving 250m-long platforms. But if they go with the Metro option, then the service would be run by 4-carriage DLR-style trains serving 120m-long platforms. In the latter case trains would be only half the size, but there could be as many as 40 trains an hour so the number of passengers per hour would still be high.
Hang on, "DLR-style" service?
That's right. You can forget TfL ever again building a tube line with train drivers. Instead expect cab-free trains with no member of staff up front staring out of the window. That's the union-free future.
Building Crossrail has been massively disruptive. Won't building Crossrail 2 be even worse?
Not necessarily. TfL have been long-term clever and protected the central portion of the route from development. Way back in 1991 they safeguarded the route that trains might take, ensuring that any new buildings along the way left sufficient room for Crossrail 2 to squeeze through. Plans were further strengthened in 2008, which should help to minimise any future disruption. Tottenham Court Road won't need to be dug up again, for example - the current major building works will ensure that the Crossrail station is also Crossrail-2-ready. Crossrail 2 is also the reason why Dalston Junction looks far too big for its current levels of traffic, someone's been planning ahead.
Has the entire route been safeguarded?
Er, no. The original safeguarded route anticipated Crossrail 2 taking over the southern end of the District line, but now that won't happen, it'll have its own tunnel. More importantly it anticipated Crossrail 2 taking over the northern end of the Central line from Leytonstone to Epping, but now that won't happen either. There aren't the development possibilities in Essex that there are in north London, so Crossrail 2 will be entirely fresh digging, not a landgrab from the existing network.
Why does the route wiggle about quite so much?
There are two ways to build a new railway. One is to serve a brand new area, and the other is to link together as many existing lines as possible. The Northern line extension to Battersea is an example of the former - it pushes afresh into Nine Elms and links to nothing. Crossrail 2 on the other hand will thread through umpteen existing services, creating numerous alternative routes for passengers and relieving overcrowding on parallel lines. Battersea nil, Crossrail 2.
Surely we don't need another railway already?
Oh yes we do. London's population is getting larger, faster, and people need to get around. The capital's population could be 20% higher by 2030, so either we build more railway capacity or our existing services will become wildly overcrowded.
Isn't it ironic?
50 years ago the Victoria line was built to relieve the Piccadilly line. Now a new service is urgently needed to relieve the Victoria line. While various parts of southeast London await their first tube line, it seems the NE-SW axis is about to get its third.
What's the timescale?
Medium-term: lots of planning.
Long-term: lengthy disruption as building work gets underway.
Very-very-long-term: a new railway through London. But don't expect it to be running until the early 2030s, that's 20 years hence. London transport doesn't move fast, so best get on and make a start.
So what's the big choice?
Does London get another rail line or another DLR line, that's basically the choice. Long Regional trains rushing across town, or shorter Metro trains shuttling fast through the middle. Take your pick. Join the consultation. Offer your thoughts. Or die waiting.
» Crossrail 2 consultation introduction
» Crossrail 2 animated fly-through
» Crossrail 2 Metro route option (map)
» Crossrail 2 Regional route option (map)
» Crossrail 2 consultation (before 2 August)
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, May 14, 2013PICCADILLY: Harringay (St Ann's Road)
There are several long gaps between stations on the Piccadilly line. Sometimes that's because the intermediate station was closed, as with Brompton Road (in Belgravia) and York Road (north of King's Cross). But head to Green Lanes in Haringey and there's a mile and a half's gap because the station in the middle was cancelled by order of the Chief Executive Officer and never built. Let's do the half hour walk.
We like Manor House station. The platforms are tall and deep, with cream tiles and blue-bordered Way Out enamel. Watch out for the jet black ventilation grilles, each with an identical representation of bucolic horticultural charm. A pillared gate leads to a verdant garden with a trio of doves a-cooing by their cote, which isn't what you expect to see high on a station wall. Up the escalator is a ticket hall with a bobbly ceiling, semi-resembling the Tardis circa 1975. And check out one of the pillars for an impromptu photographic museum featuring various black and white shots of the station and its environs circa 1935. They've been stuck up with yellowing sellotape, but where else are you going to see the original cylindrical Fares tables, and a tram pulling in above. If all tube stations had this personal touch, you might love your local a little more.
Manor House is the only Underground station in the borough of Hackney (and then only just, because the stairs to the northwest come up in Haringey). It's also one of London's entirely underground stations, built beneath a whopper where Green Lanes crosses the Seven Sisters Road. Never ever attempt to cross this monster diagonally. Beside the non-Hackney exit is a grand gated entrance to Finsbury Park, plus the less imposing Park View Cafe. I was unimpressed by their outside food kiosk, partly because their "Egg Benedict" sounds a trifle weedy, but mostly because they dare to sell "Panini's".
The long walk to the next station begins along the upper edge of Finsbury Park. This is the nice bit, so make the most of it. Ahead is the New River, now only a few months short of 400 years old, and a corner of the park designated for hockey and baseball only (because they're big round here). The Arena Shopping Centre looks like retail nirvana, judging by the busy-ness of the car park, but the shops coming up next along Green Lanes have hugely more character. We're entering Little Turkey, a dash of London with a flavour of extreme eastern Europe. It seems such a friendly place, or maybe that's because every other shop serves up food of some kind and teems with people. Maybe meze, perhaps baklava, and possibly some of whatever that floury thing is being bashed out by the lady in the shop window by the bus stop.
Disney's are celebrating their centenary this year - that's the two floor furniture showroom on Grand Parade, now looking surprisingly out of place. But it's easy to see where all those tables and sofas might end up if you turn off the main drag and head up one of the parallel streets. This is the so-called Harringay Ladder, a twenty-rung residential district whose smart terraces must have estate agents aflutter. Only two features link these hillside avenues - one the New River threading through, the other a narrow pedestrian alleyway that runs for almost a mile between sequential houses.
Harringay (St Ann's Road)
And now we reach the junction where the Piccadilly line could have had a station, but doesn't. St Ann's Road crosses four railways on its long curve down towards Stamford Hill, but merits no station on any of them. One was planned here at the western end but Frank Pick, Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board, turned it down. He thought this street corner already had a good enough bus and tram service, which may have been the case then, but is only half true today. Instead the majestic Salisbury Hotel, now a restored pub, remains unserved. Its French Renaissance façade dominates the exterior, while inside are Art Nouveau motifs and a cast-iron columned bar. Again it's slightly at odds with the distinctly non-English non-Victorian nature of most of the surrounding businesses, but that's the joy of this cosmopolitan neighbourhood.
The Piccadilly line may not be obvious on the surface, but this long run between stations necessitated the appearance of a ventilation shaft a little further along. Check the corner of Colina Road for a boxy brick building rising to a dark grille at rooftop level. On one side a verge of flowers is blooming an almost appropriate shade of blue, while on the other is the car park for the outlet store nextdoor. Why go to Jermyn Street for your posh Hawes and Curtis shirts when you can pick them up cheap or wholesale in cufflink-unfriendly N8? But for the tube connection to Piccadilly Circus walk on. The shops at last give way to flats and houses, and only the occasional Bulgarian Breakfast bar, before reaching the confined expanse of Duckett's Common. And at the far end of that...
We like Turnpike Lane even more than we like Manor House. That's mostly because it has exterior presence, and has it in spades, if a Modernist touch is what you like. The main ticket hall is a lofty cuboid lit by blue-rimmed windows, above which rises a tower with louvred ventilators and a flagpole on top. It has to be by Charles Holden, and it has to be Grade II listed, and rest assured it's both. A restaurant and a pawnbrokers have taken the original retail unit to one side, while the busy modern bus station has been carefully hidden round the back. The main pedestrian entrance is down globe-lit steps beneath a low curved slab. But there are feeder subways elsewhere, with each caged entrance labelled "TURNPIKE LANE STN." in white capitals on brown.
The interior of the ticket hall is dramatic, raised to double height with strong horizontal features. Above the ticket window is a blue clock in ITV Schools Programmes style, and in the centre a classical bowl-shaped uplighters. There are more of these down the escalator, and a subtly different version on the lower concourse with what looks like a white ceramic loudspeaker blooming on top. They're only a minor architectural tweak, but they add such panache to the circulation space. And finally the platforms, which are remarkably similar to those at Manor House, as you might expect for stations opened on the same day. Again there are jet black ventilation grilles, again depicting the station's name literally, so this time with horse-drawn traffic approaching a turnpike tollhouse. And if you've enjoyed this trip, just three minutes on the next train south and you can go round again.
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