diamond geezer

 Monday, March 05, 2012

London's least used stations
No 3:
Angel Road

What an appalling station Angel Road is. No heavenly cherubim flap their wings over this godawful halt, and no passenger would be drawn to use its platforms unless they absolutely had to. It's not rundown or rusting or anything, nor is it located far from anywhere useful. But there is an underlying pervasive feeling of abandonment, as if the local railway company gave up on the place several years ago. Fancy a visit? Thought so...

Let's start with its location. Angel Road is on the West Anglia mainline, plied by frequent trains on the busy route to Stansted. It's two stops north of Tottenham Hale, in Zone 4, not anywhere out in the sticks or anything. It lies alongside Angel Road, which is the name for the North Circular Road in these parts of Edmonton. It's near housing, and industry, and it's the closest station to IKEA's Tottenham megawarehouse (which is a quarter of a mile down the road). For all these reasons you might expect services here at Angel Road to be good. But no, absolutely definitely not.

to Liverpool Street: 0557to Hertford East: 0619 1732 1832
to Stratford: 0614 0724 0824 0924 0952
1552 1652 1752 1852 1952
to Bishops Stortford: 0751 0852 0948
1617 1702 1802 1902 1947
(no trains Saturday or Sunday)

The North Circular hereabouts is a horrid road, unless you're driving rapidly through. A multi-lane multi-viaduct monster, with carpet warehouses and supermarkets on one side, and a belching waste incineration chimney on the other. Angel Road station used to open out onto its namesake road, but that was elevated in the 1990s, leaving the platforms visibly close, but frustratingly inaccessible. Instead access is via a loop road to the north, which requires walking three flights down a long staircase, along another road parallel to the fenced-off platforms and back up again. That building down there with the pipes and tubes is Coca Cola's North London Headquarters, in case you ever wondered where the brown gassy liquid is manufactured. Look beyond the scrapyards and there are some houses and a couple of tower blocks in the distance at the end of the slip road. And, finally, a lone peeling sign marks the way into the station. Abandon hope and enter here. [photo] [aerial view]

It's not so much a station entrance as a gap in the wall leading to some stairs. A map, a poster or two and a welcome to Greater Anglia cover the wall, but there's absolutely no sign of a timetable. This, when there's sometimes a 58-hour gap in the service, is an unforgivable omission. The "You are here" marker on the map is especially misleading, because "here" is the far end of the station platforms and you're not there at all. Thirty-odd steps twist down to a gloomy passageway beneath the flyover, if you dare proceed further [photo]. Another flight of perpendicular steps awaits beyond, then a minute-long walk along the edge of a breakers yard, where your trek will likely be accompanied by the sound of bits of cars being bodily wrenched from other bits of cars.

The smiling face of Marie Petrou, Greater Anglia's Area Manager, welcomes you to the station proper. Her poster is full of useful information ("there is no ticket office at this station"), and also incorrect information ("the nearest station with a ticket office is Ponders End" - except that's two miles away, and Tottenham Hale is rather closer). Alongside is the fairly pathetic timetable, which may be the first inkling passengers get that they've wasted their time trooping down here. At weekends there are no trains at all, while on weekdays only eleven (with a big gap in the middle of the day). The last train, indeed the only train, to Liverpool Street leaves before 6am (although good luck deducing that from the complex coloured key on the poster). Still want to buy a ticket? If the machine's working, now's your chance. [photo]

And here, at last, are the platforms [photo]. You'll likely get these to yourself, especially if you turn up out of season. Both feel rather longer than they need to be, and only a commuting masochist would walk to the very far end. If you need the southbound platform that's another 32 steps up to the footbridge and then 32 down, as if whoever designed the station had enforced Keep Fit in mind [photo]. Metal benches provide seating for forty passengers in total, which seems entirely excessive, but at least offers a choice. Good news, there's a shelter on each platform, but bad news, it's only of use if the rain's falling straight down or from directly behind. And every so often the Stansted Express approaches, and rushes through, and speeds off into the distance, as if mocking anyone stupid enough to be standing here.

Angel Road station's a surprisingly remote place to be, surrounded by factories, scrapyards and a ring of elevated traffic, but all of it seemingly out of reach [photo]. So I was particularly surprised to see absolutely no security cameras whatsoever watching activity anywhere within the station. You could mug someone, stab someone or assault someone here and absolutely nobody would notice, not unless a train driver happened to be speeding through. I'd not feel especially safe here after dark, which must be one of the reasons why passengers numbers are so very low. That, and the fact that it's an eight minute walk from the tip of Angel Road station to Angel Road itself. It wouldn't be beyond impossible to open up an entrance onto Meridian Road, allowing decent access to Tesco and IKEA, but that would require investment and indeed trains, and there's no sign of either. Until then Angel Road is very much the Devil's station, unloved and outcast, in its very own Edmonton circle of hell.

London's least used stations (2009/10)
No 1:
Sudbury & Harrow Road (12,932)
No 2: South Greenford (16,480)
No 3: Angel Road (26,960)
No 4: Birkbeck (35,368)
No 5: Sudbury Hill Harrow (35,398)

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