diamond geezer

 Friday, September 14, 2012

Bang on schedule, Pudding Mill Lane station reopened for the start of service yesterday morning. It closed for the Games despite being the closest station to the Olympic Park, indeed because of it, located as it is within the security perimeter. Access was revoked two months ago, with trains trundling through without opening their doors, although still providing a fine photo opportunity towards the Stadium nextdoor. The surrounding area remains sealed off, watched over by security as the remains of the Paralympics are swept away. But a narrow pedestrian lifeline has been restored, and the entire DLR network's open again. Not that you'd know.

The only clue on Stratford High Street is what's not there, not what is. The Games Lanes have been painted out, and the pink sign which used to say 'Pudding Mill Lane Station closed' has been removed. For those not playing 'spot the difference' on a daily basis, yesterday's reopening will have gone entirely unnoticed. Marshgate Lane winds north past the Porsche showroom, initially open access, then blocked off for cars and vehicles. This was originally one of the main entrances to the Olympic Park for construction traffic, but now there are only a few trucks and lorries carting things away. One lacklustre security tent remains, while a large tarmacked area until recently incredibly out-of-bounds can be wandered through without challenge.

A narrow walkway continues towards the railway viaduct, beneath the spot where a realigned railway viaduct will soon appear. Crossrail's construction crew are already back on site after their summer hiatus, adding to the fledgling structure of the new Pudding Mill station. It's long and blocky at present, with steel reinforcements open to the sky, but by next year it'll be open for passenger traffic on a scale appropriate for post-football-match crowds. And that unveiling will be the signal for the old PML to be knocked down, enabling Heathrow-bound trains to (eventually) sweep straight through towards a freshly-drilled portal. Just not yet. The 1996 halt remains, unglamorous, untweaked, in its twilight days.

The coffee kiosk outside the front of the station is closed, not surprisingly, given that only Park construction traffic made sales faintly viable. Nobody came to refresh the pile of Metros yesterday morning, so leftover papers from July were still dumped in the receptacles at the foot of the stairs. Very empty stairs, leading to very empty platforms, indeed I'd be the only person waiting for either of the next two trains to arrive. A fresh timetable had been posted up (you want direct trains past Canary Wharf? Barely any, sorry, they were a Games-time treat). But no fresh tube map has appeared, because there isn't one yet, so a dagger still warns that the station was closed until yesterday.

Pudding Mill Lane's island platform remains a very lonely place, even more so since the Games have gone away. But it provides a lofty observation point from which to scan a surrounding area that's now globally familiar. The stadium looms up beyond the power lines, so long as a passing Colchester-bound train doesn't get in the way. The Orbit rises higher, its top deck now empty and likely to remain so for a while. The Olympic warm-up track is clearly seen - an important backroom feature enjoyed by the athletes - temporarily green, but doomed. A little further up the line all the security tents at the Greenway Gate have been emptied out, and McDonalds is vacant, and the swimming pool's far from its municipal future.

In six weeks time LOCOG will hand over the Olympic Park to the London Legacy Development Corporation, now under Boris's custodianship, and they're the ones with the job of repurposing the area over the next decade and beyond. In three months the Greenway reopens, and the View Tube starts up again, so there'll be a closer vantage point by then. In the meantime, if you'd like to relive a vague frisson of the excitement of London 2012, the narrow stage of Pudding Mill Lane is the best you'll find. Don't rush. But it's good to have her back.


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