diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Watford Observer announced this week that the two new stations on the Croxley Rail Link have finally been named. There had been expectations, early on, that the station near the hospital would be called Watford Hospital because a major health campus is being created close by. But what a rubbish name that would have been, hardly something to attract Londoners to visit, and completely ignoring the area's star attraction. Watford Football Club play nearby at Vicarage Road, plus Vicarage Road is precisely the name of the road the station will be on, even if it's a bit of a backwater lane this far down. Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill fought a star campaign to get TfL to give the station a more appropriate name, and it appears she's been successful.
“We’ve all been so passionate about getting the name Vicarage Road because to call it anything else would just be bonkers. This is the right name for a station in this part of town, and I for one will be so proud to see the name Vicarage Road on the tube map, as will many many others.”
Even the BBC website reported the good news about Vicarage Road, under the headline New Watford tube station to be called Vicarage Road. Except, if you read the Observer article more carefully, that's not actually true. It seems TfL don't like naming stations after roads because they're a bit parochial and don't mean enough to those living elsewhere. Watford's football connection finally persuaded them otherwise on this occasion, but they're not going to allow it to be called plain Vicarage Road. Instead it'll be Watford Vicarage Road, a clunky amalgam of town and location, and a bit of an unlovely mouthful. To be fair, the next station up the line will be Watford High Street, which is a name already in precisely the same town/road format. But it's a shame that the Station Naming Committee (or whatever) didn't have the confidence to run with the shorter, snappier, less artificial title.

Imagine if this "town+road" rule had been in place in the past. Baker Street would have had to be Marylebone Baker Street, and Bond Street might have ended up Mayfair Bond Street. We could also have been lumbered with Walthamstow Blackhorse Road, Moorfields Old Street, Holloway Caledonian Road, Harringay Turnpike Lane, Shepherd's Bush Wood Lane, Park Royal Hanger Lane, West Hampstead Finchley Road, North Kensington Latimer Road and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Pudding Mill Lane. I don't think anyone would have gone quite so far as Bow Bow Road or Fulham Fulham Broadway, but where TfL bureaucracy is concerned you never know.

At 19 letters long, Watford Vicarage Road will be one of the longest names on the London Underground network. Not the longest, which remains a tie between Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 and Kensington High Street. But equally as long as King's Cross St Pancras, Great Portland Street, Shepherd's Bush Market and Totteridge & Whetstone. Head onto the DLR and Stratford International is even longer, while the Overground holds the TfL record with Caledonian Road & Barnsbury. I think that's the longest station name in London, unless you know better, although beaten by Southampton Airport Parkway across the wider rail network. Whatever, it seems as if the length of station names is slowly edging up as those in charge of nomenclature attempt to keep every local interest happy.

And then there's the other new station on the Croxley Rail Link, the halt near the boundary with Croxley Green. The intention had always been to call it Ascot Road, because that's the road it's on, and that's the name that's appeared on all official documents. But that won't now be the case. 'Ascot Road' really would mean nothing to those living further away, and could easily be confused with Ascot in Berkshire, so it's been dropped. Instead the confirmed name, without a space, is Cassiobridge. Again that's hardly familiar to any non Watfordians, but it is a name with an impeccable historic pedigree. In pre-Roman times a tribe called the “Cassii” or “Cashio” lived in the local area, and it's the manor of Cassio, not Watford, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The Earls of Essex lived at Cassiobury House for 250 years, their estate now an extensive park and housing estate, while the hamlet of Cassio lay along the Hempstead Road. But where the main road crossed the River Gade, and later the Grand Union Canal, that's always been Cassio Bridge. I used to cross it daily to get to school, and now it's to be immortalised on the tube map.

There are still three years to go before the Metropolitan line extension opens. Instead of a single station called Watford, awkwardly placed for the town centre, there'll be three Watford stations each declaring their specific location. Commuters near Cassiobury Park won't be happy, but at least everyone else will know where to get off.

The next station is Croxley
The next station is Cassiobridge
The next station is Watford Vicarage Road
The next station is Watford High Street
The next station is Watford Junction, where this train terminates

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