diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 06, 2017

10 Camberwell
My next turned-over card revealed the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell, previously home to the Liberty of Peckham and the Hamlet of Dulwich, now the southern half of the borough of Southwark. Camberwell remains not as well connected as it could be, so I've been off to visit a) places where old stations used to be b) the bit of Camberwell that's over a mile from any station c) places where new stations might be built.

a) Camberwell station

In a notoriously stationless suburb, it must be galling that there's still a street called Camberwell Station Road. The ex-station (on the line south from Blackfriars) opened in 1862, but swiftly succumbed to competition from electric trams at the start of the 20th century, and closed to passenger traffic in 1916. Freight continued to use a small goods yard on the northern side, but this too was closed and the station's been completely out of action since 1964. No platforms survive, but the booking office is still in use as a garage... or at least I think it is, it's hard to tell on a Saturday when the front is shuttered.

Camberwell Station Road is very garage-y these days - mechanics do tend to flock to arches under railway viaducts, which is somewhat ironic here given how road transport killed off the station. The former tram works at the end of the road is now Walworth Depot, packed with red double deckers, and retains a banner out front proclaiming the Year of the Bus 2014. Meanwhile the former Post Office depot opposite the former station is now Camberwell Bus Garage, home to another dozen southeast London routes. There do seem to be a lot of bus depots round here, perhaps because there's no station, but this could ultimately change if an imminent business case supports Camberwell's reopening. It does seem utterly bonkers this one's been closed for over a century. [more history]

a) Walworth Road station

Here's proper carelessness, a second consecutive station closed in 1916 and never reopened. Walworth Road station lay just off the street of the same name, on a viaduct spanning four residential streets, and was a full four platform affair. Those surrounding terraces have since been comprehensively redeveloped, the Station Tavern replaced by flats and the street pattern radically changed, with Beresford Street (where the entrance was) now known as John Ruskin Street.

In what remains of the shopping parade, unisex Afro salons and spicy takeaways now butt up against Bob's Cycles, where men who properly like bikes stand around with mug of tea in hand admiring the silver steeds racked up outside. There'd be considerable latent demand for a reopened station hereabouts - the line sees plenty of Thameslink trains heading Herne-Hill-ward - but it's not clear the timetable could cope with the extra stops, and there isn't the money. There never is the money where existing residents are concerned, only where there might be the prospect of squeezing in more. [more history]

b) Burgess Park

Zone 2's railway black hole lies at the eastern end of Burgess Park - the only part of inner London to be over a mile away from a station. My blog explored this phenomenon in some detail a couple of years ago with the aid of a special map, you may remember. There were once houses here where the park now stands, either side of the Grand Surrey Canal, but bomb damage and demolition carved out a new greenspace for Southwark in the 1970s. Alongside grew the monolithic slab blocks of the Aylesbury Estate, about as far removed from their Metroland namesakes as it's possible to imagine, a couple of which also nudge into the 1-mile void.

The least accessible spot, station-wise, is to be found on the south side of The Lake beside the barbecue area. Here Southwark council display a strict list of rules and regulations - no gazebos, no generators, no music - but this doesn't stop the local populace turning up and firing their coals, even less than an hour before it's forecast to chuck it down. Almost on this precise spot (in fact the floodlit football pitch) is where the R Whites lemonade factory used to be, the ultimate postwar refreshment brand, but with its roots in late Victorian Camberwell. As for the lake, in 1982 it boasted the world's largest plastic sheet lining, and is today crossed by a low-key footbridge. I checked on Citymapper - Elephant & Castle 1.1 miles, South Bermondsey 1.1 miles, Peckham Rye 1.1 miles. You won't be coming by train any time soon. [more history]

c) Old Kent Road 1

But you might be coming eventually. Plans to extend the Bakerloo line to Lewisham are progressing slowly, and one of the two brand new stations is pencilled in for the northeast tip of Burgess Park. Not actually in the park itself, you'll be pleased to hear, but on the opposite side of the busy Old Kent Road, in one of two potential locations. A recent consultation offered up either the big Tesco and its car park, or a light industrial compound the other side of Dunton Road, for the station currently codenamed Old Kent Road 1. And last week the results of that consultation were published, with a fairly convincing (2:1) public preference for supermarket demolition.

Tesco aren't that keen, unsurprisingly. They have other plans for the possible redevelopment of their enormous traffic island... which if the other site is chosen could make them lots of money. But there is a strong case for building the new Bakerloo line station on the Old Kent Road rather than a couple of hundred metres further back, not least for easy interchange with other forms of transport, hence locals may end up requiring alternative grocery options during the construction phase. If eventually built here, however, the lake in Burgess Park would be only 250m away, closing off Southwark's station-free black hole forever. [factsheet]

c) Old Kent Road 2

The location of the second potential Old Kent Road station is more of a headscratcher. Again there are two possible locations but this time almost half a mile apart rather than nearly on top of each other. Option A would be on the corner of St James's Road, opposite B&Q, with the station replacing Currys, PC World and B&M. This site is well placed for interchange with local bus services, and also close to a trading estate developers have a mind to turn into flats. On the downside it'd be relatively close to Old Kent Road station 1 - I walked it in comfortably under 15 minutes - which might be the site's downfall. When you're planning to open two new stations in an area that hasn't got any, it's a bit silly to build them too close together.

Option B would be further down the Old Kent Road, at the top of Asylum Road, and swallow up Toys R Us and its extensive car park. There's plenty of space, and most of the people who'd mourn its loss don't yet have children. It'd also space out the stations better, the next down the line not being until New Cross Gate, although the site is a bit close to Queens Road Peckham and there isn't the same amount of potential housing close by. This time, the consultation report shows, four times as many respondents preferred Option B to Option A. That doesn't necessarily mean Asylum Road will ultimately get the nod, but we'll discover more when TfL respond in due course. It's still not even confirmed there'll be trains by 2030. Until then central Southwark remains annoyingly disconnected, but also safe from the whirlwind the Bakerloo extension could bring. [factsheet]

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