diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Overground in northeast London is good at not interchanging with other lines. It misses the Central line, misses the Piccadilly line twice, misses the Northern line twice too. But the Victoria line it hits twice, because the Victoria line was built with interchange in mind. And now it hits again, with the long-awaited opening of a pedestrian link in Walthamstow, specifically between Walthamstow Queens Road and Walthamstow Central. The connection's been a very long time coming, and has been almost complete for a year or two but never quite opened up for public use. But this month the barriers have come down, some directional signs have gone up, and you can now exit Walthamstow Queens Road on the quick side.

This is a very rampy station, and the new connection adds yet more ramps to that number. Stairs are available to bypass most, but the newest exit requires a zigzag climb because there isn't any room to install steps. Rampiness is an issue at a number of Overground stations, in particular Hackney Wick where the ascent is so unavoidably convoluted that many passengers miss their train. Here at Walthamstow Queens Road the diversion's only brief, but step-free access is the priority and so stepped access is unavailable.

It has always been possible to walk from WQR to WC, but via an indirect route along a trio of Victorian terraced streets. That particular deviation took seven minutes for the walk between stations, whereas the new link cuts the time to only four minutes. The new eastern exit brings you up into Edison Close, formerly a quiet residential cul-de-sac, now a residential cul-de-sac with interchanging passengers walking through. Unlike the previous route there are as yet no official directional signs, so the Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group have stepped in and installed laminated signs on most of the lampposts to guide passengers to their destination. We thank them.

And it's not a lovely walk. The cul-de-sacs are a bit bland, unlike the Victorian terraces where each house had its own name chiselled into a plaque on the front. The new path takes you into a parking area and past a bin store, in an "are you sure this is the right route?" sort of way. In this short stretch it's been called Ray Dudley Way, named after a member of the BGO Rail User Group, which is a nice personal touch. And then it tracks up the edge of a large car park, fenced off with barriers for passenger safety, before passing a number of apartment blocks and commercial units currently under construction. It's not a lovely walk at all, but it is a short-cut that lops 40% off the time it takes to walk from one station to the other, so practicality wins.

You might not realise that a southern entrance to Walthamstow Central exists, but it does, on the side opposite to the busy shopping centre and bus station. Workmen are currently giving this south side a spruce-up, resurfacing the piazza outside and adding what looks like a sundial out front. There's even a poem etched into one of the flagstones near the station entrance, if you look down, a short verse by Graham Clifford. It's called Crushed, and it compares the TfL roundel to a clock "bisected with hope". The eight lines were a bit too nebulous for me, but the idea of etching stanzas into the pavement might just catch on.

So anyway, you're unlikely to want to change between Overground and Victoria lines here in Walthamstow because there's a much better interchange at the next station, Blackhorse Road. But you might well want to change between the Overground and the rail line to Chingford, because that serves Walthamstow Central too creating a much more useful connection. And next year the Chingford line will itself be absorbed into the Overground, which means the new link that's just opened will connect the Overground (old) to the Overground (new). Expect to see this connection highlighted as an interchange on 2015's tube map, and smile because this more direct connection just saved you three minutes off your walk.

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