diamond geezer

 Monday, September 28, 2009

Imperial Wharf roundelA new station opened in London yesterday. It's close to the Thames in Chelsea, on the West London Line branch of the London Overground. It's in Zone 2. It's called Imperial Wharf. [see 6 photos]

Imperial Wharf station opened yesterday. It's right next to the enormous Imperial Wharf luxury development, and a significant proportion of the station's funding was provided by the developers. It's also right next to the existing Chelsea Harbour luxury development. Geographically speaking, "Chelsea Harbour" would be a much more helpful name for describing the station's location, but they didn't fund it, so the station's not named after them. Before luxury developments came along, pre-sponsorship, this part of town was called Sands End. Not a hope of the station being called Sands End, obviously.

Imperial Wharf station opened yesterday. And about time too. It's been scheduled to open for years, but never quite has. Plans were first mooted in the mid 1990s, but it wasn't until 2001 that estate developers St George agreed to help pay for construction. By 2004 the station was being included on the London Connections rail map, in the expectation that it would be "opening summer 2005". But then it disappeared again, until Hammersmith and Fulham Council managed to wheedle some more cash out of the developers in 2007, and construction finally began last summer. Hey presto, after a protracted 15-year journey, one new station.

Imperial Wharf stationImperial Wharf station opened yesterday. The station plugs one of the gaping holes in inner London's rail network, in riverside Chelsea, by (cheaply) piggybacking a new station onto an existing railway line. Before yesterday the Sands End area was linked to the tube network only by bus, and residents of these shiny riverside towers aren't really the sort who take buses. Taxis are far more their style, and black cabs swarm around the area in large numbers. It's yet to be seen whether the provision of a shiny new station will ever prise the majority of locals away from their preferred four-wheeled alternatives.

Imperial Wharf station opened yesterday. Some might wonder why TfL bothered, because the station has a desperately infrequent level of service (by inner London standards, at least). During the rush hour London Overground are putting on three trains an hour (some of these now to/from Stratford), whereas off peak and at weekends it's only two. Southern Trains generally run one additional train an hour, specifically linking Milton Keynes to East Croydon, but that's your lot. Hardly a turn up and go service, more a turn up and wait.

Imperial Wharf station opened yesterday. I made the mistake of trying to arrive by rail from Clapham Junction, and suffered an even worse than usual weekend service. All that was scheduled was one northbound train at five past and another at ten to, with a gaping train-free desert inbetween. By quarter past there were already 30 bored-looking folk waiting on the platform, and by half past nearly a trainful. My wait, by the time the train finally departed, had been ten times longer than the four minute journey to Imperial Wharf. Remember folks - just because the Overground appears on the tube map doesn't mean that using it will be a speedy experience.

Imperial Wharf stationImperial Wharf station opened yesterday. Several of the passengers embarking and disembarking from the occasional trains looked genuinely local, and only a few looked like the sort of blokes who visit stations on their opening day to take lots of photos. The platforms were gleaming and new, obviously, with streamlined canopies and tangerine roundels. I noted that the cretinous TfL "next train indicator" installers had been busy and had ensured that a same-height security camera precisely blocked information about the next northbound train from the furthest half of the platform. Access to ground level is by lift, or for the more energetic via a bright white staircase winding around the central elevator shaft. This makes Imperial Wharf an official step-free station (from street to platform if not from platform to train), although it's not marked on the latest tube map with a big blue blob (which is nice).

Imperial Wharf station opened yesterday. It's going to act as a driver for a lot more housing in the area, notably on the former gasworks site to the northwest of the station at at the former Lots Road power station to the east. It's going to open up additional transport possibilities, and commuting possibilities, and shopping opportunities (Westfield in 9 minutes flat). It's a great example of how London's rail network continues to infill, increase and improve. And that's why Boris will be along tomorrow to open the station officially, ahead of a bumper crop of station openings next year on the DLR and East London Line. But don't expect to see anything new opening in the first half of the next decade, because the only funding now is for network maintenance, not network expansion. Chelsea's new station may be very late indeed, but it's slipped through just in time.

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