diamond geezer

 Monday, October 23, 2017

A brand new Crossrail station opened yesterday at Abbey Wood.

From December 2018 Abbey Wood will be the southeastern terminus for Crossrail trains. The existing station has had to be remodelled from two platforms to four, with overbridges added for passengers changing trains and fresh connections made to the surrounding community. The comparison between drab generic 1980s infrastructure and the new swooshing manta ray design could hardly be greater. [animated flythrough]

It's taken several years to tweak the station into its futuristic format, but the new two-storey ticket hall has arrived relatively swiftly. The most prominent internal feature is the framework of timber beams curving overhead, brightly illuminated by rows of spotlights, while outside it's the overhanging zinc roof which dominates.

The key architectural challenge was to link the station both to the existing community at ground level and to the bus stops on the busy Harrow Manorway, hence the two levels, and the need for at least half a dozen big lifts. The lifts aren't yet in operation. They soon will be.

The upper concourse is the size of six tennis courts, and divided in two by a broad gateline capable of coping with Crossrail flows. Toilets will be provided near the top of the Crossrail stairs, although they're currently smothered with workforce and not yet open. One particularly retro feature appears - an actual ticket office! - but as yet there's no sign of anywhere selling coffees, Double Deckers or the Daily Mail.

A pair of automatic doors lead out through the glass wall to an extensive piazza. Local commuters will be pleased to hear that a pair of Metro bins are already positioned outside. National Rail's double arrow logo appears centrally above the entrance, along with a somewhat understated station nameplate, and will presumably be joined by a similarly large purple roundel at the end of next year.

The external forecourt is flat with occasional raised barriers, hence the need for a "No rollerblading, skateboarding or cycling" sign to snuff out any wilful fun. Meanwhile work is (still) not quite complete to repurpose the roadway, hence a lot of temporary barriers remain and connections to local buses remain poor. But this should soon be a seamless interchange for passengers hoping to reach Thamesmead or Bexleyheath, and a gamechanger for local connectivity.

So far only one of the giant staircases down to ground level is open, and even that clearly requires a few finishing touches. I wonder how many passengers will prefer to take the lifts - these prominently displayed in two glass-clad towers - but still closed off while installation continues. Indeed there's still a heck of a lot of last-minute hi-vis work going on outside, particularly on the flank towards Sainsbury's, only after which will the full scale of the transformation become clear.

It's also not yet apparent how this improved transport hub with its ground floor retail opportunities will reshape the local economy. Abbey Wood's lowly shopping parade looks like a spaceship's landed next to it, and suddenly has a direct pedestrian connection to the future. Will the regulars at the Abbey Arms at the foot of the staircase be joined by fresh drinking partners, or might a tower of flats be thought a better use of land?

Another key change which took place yesterday is that TfL took over management of the station from Southeastern, despite the fact that only Southeastern trains will stop here for the next thirteen months, and all the station staff were transferred across too. Amazingly this is TfL's first ever station in the London Borough of Bexley (even if the majority of the platforms are actually in Greenwich). It also means that TfL just opened a station with a ticket office, which isn't something they'd necessarily like to crow about.

As yet only the two Southeastern platforms are open, while work continues on the Crossrail island platform alongside. Two streamlined footbridges are in place, which along with the ticket hall stairs will allow transfer at either end of the platforms or in the middle. Around half of all the passengers alighting at Abbey Wood are expected to be changing trains, but if you do ever arrive by Crossrail be sure to sit up the front, otherwise it's going to be a long trek out.

Unless you live nearby, or like walking round woods and medieval ruins, there's probably not much need to visit Abbey Wood any time soon. I've been and taken several photographs so you don't have to go. But in just over a year's time there'll be several trains an hour heading out from the West End to this long-overlooked location, so it's good to know the station's already ready.

My Abbey Wood gallery
There are 20 photos altogether [slideshow]

» For a beyond-comprehensive look at how Abbey Wood station has been transformed, with innumerable in-progress photos, check out the Bexley is Bonkers blog. Here, for example, are 76 photos from three years ago when the work began, and here are 50 photos from Southeastern's final day on Saturday.
» Meanwhile Geoff's been along today, and here's his video.

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