diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 22, 2012

Station being knocked down: Shoreditch
Planning permission permitting, the bulldozers are going in. This is at the the old Shoreditch station, just off Brick Lane, which closed to the public in 2006. It wasn't needed for the new Overground railway, and it had a pitifully low number of passengers, so the end of the line was severed and the ticket office building has lain neglected ever since. Over the years it's been gradually, then repeatedly, covered in graffiti, the latest incarnation being an all-black design with silver lettering. Despite its proximity to one of London's trendiest streets, the alleyway is no glamorous location - the Sunday Times described it as an "urban-pissoir-crack-den". And now the station's to be turned into flats. Who wouldn't want to live here? The latest plans are for a six storey building, downgraded from seven in the previous failed application. The ground floor will be an art or retail space, glass-walled, open to peering in. The next four floors will be flats, clad in perforated brick, nine in total, some with balconies large enough for "celebration dining". Down in the basement, where the train tracks used to terminate, will be a shared open garden and office space. And the top floor is potentially a bit special, described by the architects as a "community crown". It'll be constructed using bricks from the old station, with arches echoing the original 1876 building. It's hoped a charity will move into the meeting rooms up here, perhaps something local and music-related. The complete stacked-up building should therefore be a mix of old and modern, part-resembling the old station lifted into the sky. The Victorian Society are unimpressed, claiming that "loss of this building would be detrimental to the character of the conservation area." But if you want to complain you're too late, because the brief three week consultation window closed last week. If you've always wanted to live in a disused tube station (or above it, or under it, depending), this might be your chance. [photo 2] [plans]

Station now upgraded: Crystal Palace
The low level station at Crystal Palace was built for grander times. When the great glass exhibition moved here in 1854, a rail link was dug through the clay to provide access for hordes of Victorian pleasure seekers. They arrived into a majestic brick vault, with sixty-something steps to ascend up to park level, then out through a spacious ticket hall. Over the years that ticket hall fell into disrepair, so exit then had to be via a tortuous down-and-then-back-up-again labyrinth of stairs. A separate ticket hall annexe was added, designed to mimic the Crystal Palace, although that wasn't green, and it wasn't quite lovely. The end result was possibly London's most step-unfree station, which is not how TfL like to run a railway, so they initiated a refurbishment. They've removed the 20th century entrance and restored the original ticket hall to its former glories, and blimey the contrast is enormous. The new space is lofty, almost church-like, with white-painted surfaces and ornate green ironwork. It'd look nicer if one corner wasn't fenced off with ticket barriers, but needs must, and there's loads of room elsewhere. A cafe has opened up in the farthest anteroom, for all of those who prefer to use stations more for coffee than for trains. It's a proper independent cafe too, courtesy of Brown and Green who also have the franchise at Gipsy Hill up the line. Enjoy a flat white or chai latte, with a nice slice of cake thrown in, and maybe catch the train to Victoria later if you can be bothered. You'll still have to negotiate those sixty-something awkward steps to reach your train, but at least the start of your journey was a huge improvement. [ticket hall photo]

Station almost tweaked: Clapham Junction
In just over two weeks time the London Overground becomes a proper orbital railway. One end of the new link is at Clapham Junction, currently served by trains from Willesden Junction, and soon to be served by trains from Peckham. This has required the opening up of a new platform, so that South London line trains have somewhere to terminate, and passengers have somewhere else to wait. Clapham Junction's loaded with platforms, seventeen in total, but it's still taken some effort to shoehorn more trains in. Concentrate now. The original platform one has been abandoned, now a short stumpy semi-overgrown side-channel. Alongside is the former platform two, which is where existing Overground services pull up, but which has been renamed platform one. And that's recently been extended to the southwest to create a new elongated space, the new platform two, where trains on the new southern link will terminate. New platform two is indented slightly by one trackswidth, allowing trains to arrive separately without crashing into each other (a bit Colchesteresque). What's been created here is an Overground island, long and thin, two trains long, where changing should be a doddle. It's not ready yet - there are still workmen bolting bits together and a wall dividing off new platform two beside the lift. But there are now additional stairs allowing for a swifter exit, both up and down, which'll be incredibly useful. It's already pretty damned busy here most of the time, because services on the West London Line don't run frequently enough to meet demand, so it'll be interesting to see if the new Overground link makes congestion better or worse. Starting 7:20am, Sunday 9th December. Be there, or be probably still asleep. [photo 2]

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