diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 01, 2010

Aldwych station reopened this week. You haven't been yet, have you? TfL go to all the effort of opening up a station that's not been accessible since 1994, and you stay away. I know it's not been open at a weekend yet, and that some of you live so far away that even a 7pm closing time is impractical. But really, call yourself a tubegeek? You could have taken time off work, you could have flown in from abroad, you could have made an effort. In fact I'm thinking of barring you from reading this blog until you at least try. I am so very disappointed.

Aldwych opens, temporarilyAldwych station reopened this week. Not the front entrance on the Strand where the photo machine used to be, but the main entrance round the corner in Surrey Street. The way in should be obvious - it's the doorway with "Entrance" written above the top in lovely big tiles. And you'll be coming out of the side marked "Exit", which is great, because it means you'll have to walk through the lifts partway round. Aldwych has the last remaining 1907 Otis lift on the tube network, and a threatened £3m bill for the lift's replacement finally saw the station closed to save money. Come on, you should know this stuff off by heart. Go away right now and catch up on the history of Aldwych tube station before you shame me more.

Aldwych station reopened this week. It's not so that you can catch a train, nor even so that you can go down to the disused platforms for a nerd orgasm. Instead it's so that TfL can show you an exhibition about how they're Transforming the Tube. Millions of pounds are being thrown at the crumbling network to try to boost capacity, access and reliability, and TfL are rather proud of how it's going. This isn't the most exciting subject for an exhibition, truth be told, so they've been cunning by hosting it somewhere you'll never be able to resist visiting. Then, once you're inside, you'll be so smitten by the fantasticness of the upgrade project that you'll never moan about taking a rail replacement bus again. I bet that's the plan.

inside the lift at AldwychPlease, don't loiter looking at the heritage green tiling round the ticket office window. Don't wander up the steps past the video screen because all you'll find is the secondary ticket office and a row full of empty telephone cubicles. The gentlemen's toilet has nothing to reveal about future upgrade plans, so don't waste your time in there. And as for the lift, its cables are severed, it's going nowhere, so why linger to admire its immaculate slatted woodwork. You're here to look at the 2010 information, not the 1907 station, just you remember that.

Somebody at TfL HQ has been very busy printing out lots of key information on big colourful boards for your education and delight. A mix of words and graphics is displayed, including illustrations showing how things ought to look once the tube's transformation is complete. Many projects are already complete, there's news on those, while several more have yet to be achieved. One map shows the ancientness of tube signalling across the network, which perfectly explains why upgrading the oldest stuff will take so long. Other boards detail improvements at major interchange stations and on each individual line. Victoria's getting a mega-refit, for example, and there's going to be a massive 65% increase in capacity on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines. That sort of thing. Have faith, the exhibition pleads, because getting around London's going to be a lot better eventually.

Should you get bored of reading all the words on the boards, there are some interactive electronic terminals where you can read all those words on a screen instead. And when you've read them all twice, there's a glossy 24-page brochure to take away which contains all the same words again in portable form. TfL really want you to know this stuff, not because there's a test at the end, but because it'll make you happier long term. Next time you're trying to cross London at the weekend, and three different Planned Closures scupper your journey, they hope you'll remember Aldwych. You got the rare chance to visit a station that nobody upgraded, a branch line that funding forgot. And that's how the entire network could end up without a decade of painful investment. You've got eight days to get down here and learn your lesson.

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