diamond geezer

 Monday, March 25, 2013

CENTRAL: skipping down the line

The Bakerloo line is well spaced, with stations pretty much everywhere a station should be. Not so the Central. There are several gaps and missed connections, including at least one entirely skipped community. That's no conspiracy, it's just how the line was built, and there hasn't been either the will or the money to make significant changes since. Here are ten places the Central line could stop but doesn't.

East Ickenham: We've discussed this one already. There'll never be a station where the Central crosses the Metropolitan, because the intersection is too close to West Ruislip. There might be a linking curve one day, but not until the signalling on both lines is compatible, and that's nowhere near. [map]

Park Royal: Here's the next missed interchange with the Piccadilly line. The Central line ducks beneath near Park Royal station, so close that if the platforms had run north rather than south they'd almost have joined up. But although a new connection would be ideally placed for Diageo HQ, it wouldn't be great for anyone who lives round here, and the more convenient station on the Hanger Lane roundabout would probably have to close. [map]

North Ealing: And yet another Piccadilly miss, this time on the Central's brief Ealing spur. Changing to the District line is easy, a brief wander to adjacent platforms at Ealing Broadway. But changing to the Piccadilly involves a three-line shuffle for anyone relying on a tube map, or a walk from West Acton for those with a better grounding in local reality. That makes three non-connections with the same line across West London, all doable on foot, but it seems remiss that 1930s planners failed to realise how useful a Piccadilly/Central liaison would be. [map]

Wood Lane: Here's a lost opportunity that could have been planned better, not that anyone would have known at the time. In 1908 the Central line was extended from Shepherd's Bush to Wood Lane to serve the Franco-British Exhibition and the Olympic Games. The new station was an awkward single-track affair on a sharp curve, improved with straighter platforms in 1920 when the line pushed on to Ealing. Wood Lane (Central line) closed in 1947 when neighbouring White City was opened instead, although the station buildings weren't demolished until 2003 when Westfield was at the planning stage. Then in 2008 a new Wood Lane station appeared on the Hammersmith & City line, on the opposite side of the road to where a previous Wood Lane station had closed in 1959. If you're not following this, sorry, there's a detailed history here, here and here. But the upshot is a mega Wood Lane interchange never happened, just a "walk along the street" link, which is easy but definitely sub-optimal. [map]

British Museum: How useful it would be to have a Central line station very close to London's most popular tourist attraction. And when the line opened in 1900 there was one, a station called British Museum on the corner of High Holborn and Bloomsbury Court. Again the Piccadilly line caused the problem here, because six years later they opened a different non-interchange station on Kingsway. That was much better placed for road and tram connections, so in 1933 the Central line admitted defeat and opened new platforms at Holborn station instead. Up until 1989 the surface buildings at 'British Museum' remained, and you could buy photographic equipment and horseriding gear from the former ticket hall. No longer. Everything above ground has been demolished, and a Nationwide Building Society office (next to My Old Dutch) now covers the site. Below ground the platforms have been bricked up and provide little more than a useful space to store sleepers, but they're sort-of glimpsable if you know when to look. [map]

City Thameslink: A slightly longer than usual gap exists between Chancery Lane and St Paul's where the Central line ducks beneath the valley of the Fleet. Partway along is City Thameslink, the only station inside the Circle line not to get a mention on the tube map. It's almost a ghost station outside peak hours, but is about to get much more important from 2018 when Thameslink is upgraded. Blackfriars is already an important interchange, and Farringdon will become a mega-hub once Crossrail opens, whereas City Thameslink looks doomed to become an annoying halt in the middle because the Central line doesn't stop. [map]

Shoreditch High Street: This is possibly the biggest missed opportunity of all. The Central line runs directly underneath the Overground station which opened three years ago, and yet nobody's made any attempt at all to join the two. No convenient connection exists between Overground above and Central below, none at all... and that's deliberate. The Central line is plenty busy enough at peak times without linking it to other lines and making the overcrowding worse. Crossrail should make a big difference in 2019, relieving the Central of its worst cattle-truck conditions, after which a Shoreditch interchange could safely be built. But don't count on it, London's skint, so network perfection will have to wait. [map]

Roman Road: This one hurts. If the Central line ran straight from Bethnal Green to Stratford it'd pass under Roman Road, through the heart of Bow. But it doesn't, it diverts significantly south to meet the District line at Mile End. Strategically that's the right decision, providing an invaluable connection that improves millions of journeys each year. But for those living in the northern half of E3 the Central line's non-appearance makes the area that bit less accessible, that bit less desirable, that bit less prosperous. In a parallel universe Roman Road Market is popular and Victoria Park is a convenient day out, but instead the Central line runs parallel and Bow misses out. [map]

Pudding Mill Lane: When the Central line punched east from Liverpool Street the planners decided it should be an express railway, so it skips through Tower Hamlets pausing only twice. The longest gap of almost two miles is between Mile End and Stratford - great for those who live in Essex but less good for those of us (raises hand) who live inbetween. In particular the Central line scores a direct hit on Pudding Mill Lane station but doesn't stop, because PML came second, and because nobody could have predicted the Olympics would take place alongside. Instead Stratford has become the megahub, and if you want to visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park or go to West Ham's first home match in 2016 then you'll need to divert via there. [map]

Leytonstone High Road: The final railway that could interchange with the Central line but doesn't is the Overground. That's the Gospel Oak to Barking line, the poor relation of the orange network, which somehow manages to miss almost every single possible connection from end to end. Here in Leytonstone a half mile walk is required, which isn't endearing to the casual traveller, but that's what happens when a rail network evolves rather than being planned. Central maybe, but not always convenient. [map]


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