diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 11, 2015

Olympic Park update: QEOP South

It's a year now since the whole of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opened. More precisely it's a year and a week - the anniversary was Easter Sunday. Which seems as good a time as any to take a hike along the one bit of the park that hasn't yet connected properly... the southern edge. So yes, this may be a bit dull, sorry.

Capital Towers: The transformation of a carpet warehouse into prime residential highrise continues. Riverside apartments overlooking the Bow Roundabout went on sale in SE Asia at the end of 2013, but only now are its twin liftshafts rising above the flyover. The taller tower will eventually be 34 storeys high but is currently 14, the eventual height of tower two. We have only a few months before the Stratford/Bow border is dominated by unaffordable shoeboxes laughing down at our rental discomfort. Can't wait.

Barbers Road: The first road east of the Bow Roundabout has been closed for a very long time. A sign went up at the end of 2009 announcing "Crossrail Works, Barbers Road closed from 1st November to Spring 2015". That date seemed ridiculously far into the future at the time, but here we are in Spring 2015 and there's zero indication of the road reopening any time soon. Crossrail snaffled all the land by the railway for the purposes of tunnel portal construction, slapping up an exclusion zone and reducing Cooks Road to a cul-de-sac. Half the businesses hereabouts were demolished, and the remainder linger on, perhaps now only as broken husks from which employees have long fled. One unlikely survivor is City Oils Ltd at Vulcan Wharf, experts in treating and refine used cooking oils, fats and greases. Once a staple industry in these parts, City are the now only company left, and even have three current job vacancies. They also whiff a bit, as I can vouch by the wafting stench last night when one of the operatives hopped up onto a large peeling tank and opened the inspection hatch. This may mean that the future residents of neighbouring Capital Towers sometimes prefer to keep their windows closed, but that's fair payback, I'd say.

Pudding Mill Lane: It's also (almost) a year since the new mega-sized DLR station at Pudding Mill Lane opened. It's still of a ridiculous size for the small number of passengers using it, but that's forward planning for you, for when the surrounding area is housing estate and Premiership football club, not a railway building site. And the timing was important, because the old DLR station and adjacent track has since been entirely eradicated to make way for a Crossrail crossover. A new bridge is about to go in across Marshgate Lane, which has finally been restored as the main access route into the Park. Meanwhile access to the station remains a right pain, with the direct road sealed off (for construction traffic only) and a barriered diversion to Marshgate Lane in place instead. Not that anyone's updated the sign outside the station, which still says Stratford is straight on. But then there are still signs up inside saying "Welcome back to your brand new Pudding Mill Lane station", suggesting TfL went to a lot of effort to get the place ready a year ago but have since turned all their attention elsewhere.

The View Tube: It's still going, the cafe in the lime green containers on the now-quiet side of the stadium. Trade can't be too bad because the owners appear to have sold up their original outlet on Stratford High Street to concentrate on this, but passing trade on the Greenway isn't enormous, and most visitors to QEOP never get close. They'd be delighted to see you.

The Stadium: The spiky triangular floodlights are long gone, and a new semi-domed roof is going in so that West Ham fans don't get wet when it rains. They should have been playing there by now, on initial estimates, but match 1 remains two seasons away. In the meantime the Rugby World Cup is sneaking in later this year, and it sounds like a riot of entertainment is planned. According to the Premises Licence notice attached to nearby railings, the stadium's new owners are seeking permission to run various activities between 18 July and 22 November, including Plays, Films, Indoor Sporting Activities, Live and Recorded Music, Performance of Dance and "Anything of Similar Description". Hours of operation would be 0800-2300, with up to seven late night extensions until 2am. You have two weeks to object (or not bother).

The Greenway: Summer 2012 excepted, it's been years since it's been possible to walk down the short section of the Greenway to the north of Stratford High Street. And despite the fact this was also supposed to have reopened again by now, it still hasn't, again because Crossrail are still doing stuff. This means one of the last remaining exits from the park has yet to open, currently barriered off beneath the Loop Road. Another parallel exit beside the Waterworks River is also sealed off at present, exiting the park via pristine new allotments, and shows no sign of opening any time soon. Meanwhile the Greenway to the south of Stratford High Street is also barriered off at present, and will be throughout the spring and summer, this for the completion of watermain-related works on the Lee Tunnel at Abbey Mills. Cyclists are not at all chuffed by the signposted detour.

QEOP SE: Round the back of the Aquatics Centre still feels like the forgotten corner of the park. The link to Carpenters Road has helped a lot, but there's still hardly any traffic, and what exists is forced to queue for ages at lights programmed for a much busier time. A desolate sandy expanse awaits use as flats, while the new 9/11 memorial remains generally overlooked above the car park. And going up fast across the Overground tracks, two more rising liftshafts herald the arrival of foreign-landlord-friendly Glasshouse Gardens, which is somewhere else you won't be living soon. Like everything down the very bottom end of the park it's not finished yet, and don't hold your breath.

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