diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bang on schedule, very early yesterday morning, the new Pudding Mill Lane station opened to the public. Either you've been down already, in which case you know what it looks like, or you'd like to see some photos, in which case here are 30.
(Another alternative is that the subject of new stations bores you to tears, but you're here aren't you, so I think we can discount that one)

My New Pudding Mill Lane DLR gallery

So what can I tell you?

It's huge
The old station was little more than a raised platform with a shelter on, as was the style of former DLR stations back in the day. But the replacement is enormous, the largest station on the DLR network, because one day that may be important.

It's too big
There is absolutely no justification for a station of this size in the middle of mostly nowhere. But one day Pudding Mill Lane will be at the heart of a new post-Olympic residential neighbourhood... and anyway, Crossrail are paying for the upgrade, so the bigger the better.

It's footballproof
The stairs are really wide, three aisles abreast, so that future stadium crowds can be herded politely in and out (reducing the pressure on Stratford station). The platforms are also on the broad side - all the better for waiting four deep (but not for a couple of years yet).

It's weatherproof
At the old station there wasn't much you could do if a horizontal rainstorm hit, whereas here the tracks might get wet but you can shelter in the dry. The windows are extensive (and currently very clean), should you fancy a look at the Crossrail building site outside.

It's loud
The volume on the "The next train at platform 1 is for Stratford" announcements was rather high yesterday morning, almost joltingly so. I think they turned it down a notch during the day, but I wouldn't buy a new flat too close to the station if I were you.

It's functional
The station won't be winning any awards for its architecture, unless they're awards for Making The Most Of Austerity Funding By Doing Precisely What It Needs To, in which case it has every chance of sweeping the board.

It's a bit teal
The platforms have a bold blue stripe, in the official DLR hue, along the top of the glass wall. Elsewhere the blue is more muted, indeed the handrails on the staircase are more Overground orange, and the exterior of the lift shafts is a rather violent lime green.

It has space to sit
Some stations have very few seats, other than in cafes. At Pudding Mill Lane there are (probably sufficient) seats on the platforms, plus a pair of rather nice elliptical benches downstairs looped around two of the concrete supports.

It's realigned
Trains now head along a new alignment, further from the mainline, and closer to the new 2012 legacy allotments. This broad viaduct route seems quite strange today, but in a decade or so it'll be hard to remember that the line ever went anywhere else.

It's double-tracked
The old station was a mere passing loop in a run of single track railway from Bow Church to Stratford, but the whole of the new viaduct is double tracked, which allows much greater flexibility in timetabling trains and should lead to a more frequent service.

It's no longer all or nothing
At the old station, because of single tracking, either two trains were in the station or none at all. At the new station it tends to be one at a time, hence this suddenly feels much more like a real station and not part of a scheduling ballet.

It's vastly overstaffed
I think I counted ten DLR staff in pink and orange tabards hanging around in the entrance hall and on the platforms. Only one said something to me, this after several minutes, the rest just stood around staring and chatting. They'll be gone within a week.

It's not yet step-free
The lifts were out of service on the first day - both of them - which is damned careless. A fortnight ago there was a perfectly accessible step-free station, and oops, they've replaced it with one that temporarily isn't.

It's very open underneath
Downstairs you simply wander in under the viaduct, so it doesn't look like the station can be sealed off. But there are metal gates if you look carefully, concealed to run beneath the platform signs above the foot of each staircase, along the red line.

It's got space for retail
Nobody in their right mind would open a coffee shop here today. But there's a big empty glass-fronted space for hire beneath the viaduct, and (I'm told) plenty of other units further along for when a convenience store, dry cleaners and estate agents are eventually needed.

It comes with free mints
I was a bit surprised at Stratford station yesterday to be handed a tin of celebratory DLR mints. Nothing PML-related, nothing informative or specific, just a 12g tin of spearmint candies with a roundel imprint. A cool friendly opening day gesture, or a baffling waste of funds?

It's not been officially opened
Normally Boris pops down and gives some bubbly speech on day one, especially when station openings are rare as hens' teeth. But presumably TfL deemed negotiating an end to today's tube strike more important than celebrating the dawn of a ticket-office-less station.

It's the future
The station has no ticket office and is generally unstaffed, but passengers still manage to travel. Meanwhile the trains have no expensive drivers, just attendants on cheaper salaries. The DLR is run the way TfL would like to run the tube one day... but that day remains a long way off.

It's the last new station for years
Now that this last piece of Olympic fallout is complete, there are no immediate plans for any fresh station openings elsewhere. Croxley's three years off, Crossrail five, Battersea heaven knows when, and anything intermediate was scrapped on Boris's bonfire of budget cuts some time back.

It's closed this weekend
Just in case you were thinking of coming down this weekend for a look, don't. The station's closed over the entire bank holiday weekend because of Crossrail work. Indeed the entire surrounding area is still very much a building site, and likely to remain so for some time.

It's huge
It's too big, far too big for now. On a Tuesday afternoon or late at night you could very easily be the only person here, rattling around inside this vast transport cathedral. But one day Pudding Mill Lane station will come of age, and then you might even come and take a look.


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