diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 05, 2014

London's least used stations
No 6:
Morden South


Morden, at the southern tip of the Northern line, definitely isn't one of London's least used stations. Seven million passengers pass through annually, which is above average as busy-ness on the tube goes. But just down the main road, barely half a mile distant, is a station that manages only about 1% of that total. It's Morden South, on the Sutton Loop, and only five railway stations in the capital are used less.

The Sutton Loop is part of south London's swirl of rail lines, the tangled knot that makes the tube map look like child's play. It runs from Streatham round to Streatham, via Wimbledon and (not surprisingly) Sutton. It's where Thameslink trains from Bedford and St Albans have traditionally headed, if they weren't going to Brighton, not that this seems to help passenger numbers much. First Capital Connect admitted last year that "more than 16,000 journeys are made on the loop each weekday", which isn't an especially big total when there are ten stations along the way. The quieter half of the loop is the section from Wimbledon to Sutton, also known as the St Helier line, served only by trains going round and back again. And Morden South is the second station down.



It's a fairly standard suburban station, architecturally, if minimally outfitted. A large metal canopy covers one end of the island platform, while the rest is open to the sky. Underneath the canopy are a handful of vandalproof seats, probably more than enough to cope with the daily rush, half of which are semi-sheltered in case the rain comes in horizontally. A couple of plastic bags dangle from the pillars, collecting precisely as little litter as you might expect from a station like this. There's a help point button in case you get lonely, and a couple of enamelled colour maps which show that trains from both platforms go to Blackfriars. The only thing that changes is the next train indicator, so you can always watch that for up to 29 minutes if you've timed your arrival wrong.

But step beyond the overhang and you might see things a bit differently. The platforms are unusually far apart, and the gap between has been grassed over to create a broad swathe of lawn. This stretches some way into the distance, I make it seven lampposts worth, and is currently replete with daisies should you fancy a picnic. That's not recommended, by the way. And look across the hedge to see the largest mosque in Western Europe, that's Baitul Futuh, its highest minaret rearing up 36m into the sky. Technically it's the largest mosque complex in Western Europe, and was constructed a decade ago out of an Express dairy, but it's an impressive structure nonetheless. All those worshippers nextdoor, and yet so few ever seem to arrive via Morden South.

The station has no actual buildings, just a set of steps that descends between the tracks to exit at ground level. Someone's written MORDEN SOUTH halfway down the stairs in a font that doesn't look quite right, part of a station "renovation" sometime back which involved slapping a vinyl covering over whatever brickwork and plaster previously showed. A "Meeting Point" has been provided, not that I imagine it gets used much, while a helpful sign reveals that "all trains from Morden South towards London in the morning peak have seats available." No member of FCC staff wastes their time here, they've long been replaced by a ticket machine and a CCTV camera. It's all terribly underwhelming, to be honest, but then maybe it's meant to be.



The main road outside Morden South is the A24, and there are houses just to the left giving the illusion that this is a busy spot. But there aren't many houses in the neighbourhood, and you only have to go a short distance before St Helier station (one down the line) is nearer. Across the road is a large greenspace which looks like it might be popular, but no, Morden Sports Ground is fenced off and inaccessible via any direct route. And immediately beyond the mosque, blocking access from the east, a considerable amount of land is taken up by the one thing that sucked all the life out of this poor station - the Morden Northern line depot.

You can walk across it if you like. An alleyway leads off from London Road, which pretty soon becomes an elevated blue metal footbridge. Many who use this long tunnel are walking home with shopping from Lidl, but if you choose to stop it's easy to peer through the grille at a phenomenal number of tracks, and the sheds where several tube trains spend the night. Officially known as Alstom Transport Morden Metro, this is one of two major depots on the Northern line, with space to stable 25 trains undercover and at least a dozen more on parallel exterior tracks. During the day it's fairly quiet, but first thing in the morning imagine a dripfeed of trains heading out into the cutting below London Road to emerge alongside the platforms at Morden station.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When the southern end of the Northern line was being built in the 1920s, the intention was to continue beyond Morden to join a new railway being built between Wimbledon and Sutton. The link would have been at Morden South, which would have become a proper tube station and thereby much more popular than it is today. But those extension plans were thwarted in Parliament by the Southern Railway, who managed to keep the whole of the Wimbledon and Sutton Railway line for themselves... not that it did them much good in attracting passengers. The tube extension was duly forced to terminate at Morden, as it does today, with the proposed link used instead to create the Northern line depot. And that leaves poor old Morden South abandoned forever on the wrong side of the divide, a tube station that never was, serving less than 250 passengers a day. [8 photos]



London's least used stations (2012/13)
No 1:
Sudbury & Harrow Road (18,050)
No 2: South Greenford (38,360)
No 3: Sudbury Hill Harrow (51,376)
No 4: Angel Road (63,040)
No 5: Birkbeck (86,360)
No 6: Morden South (87,638)
No 7: Emerson Park (113,904)
No 8: Drayton Green (123,038)
No 9: South Ruislip (142,830)
No 10: Castle Bar Park (144,182)

Passenger numbers on the St Helier line
No 38: Wimbledon Chase (389,586)
No 12: South Merton (157,632)
No 6: Morden South (87,638)
No 16: St Helier (192,132)
No 26: Sutton Common (323,266)
No 24: West Sutton (301,178)


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream