diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 09, 2018

Today should have been the launch date for Crossrail, with trains running for the first time along its central core route. Nah, not happening.

But just how far behind schedule is it? I've been out to visit all ten stations from Paddington to Abbey Wood to see what clues can be discerned from ground level. Obviously with the deadline shifted until late next year, there's no longer any immediate pressure to get things finished, so we shouldn't expect perfection. But from what I've seen, December 2018 was a ridiculously unmanageable deadline.
[20 photos, 2 per station]

PADDINGTON: not finished

Initially all Crossrail trains will turn round at Paddington, terminating at unseen underground platforms along the western side of the mainline station. They've been dug alongside Eastbourne Terrace, where the taxis used to pull up, one side of which remains an enormous elongated building site. The two warehouse-like buildings at each end look almost ready, beneath their smart glass canopies, although by no means all of the wood panelling is yet in place and the overall effect is somewhat underdressed.

The main surface building is in the centre and much longer, as well as more open. Wires hang from the roof where the grid of spotlights isn't yet complete. A break in the hoardings reveals a big digger, copious amounts of sheeting and red tape, and numerous men in hi-vis. Occasionally these workers need to exit by crossing the road, so a colleague with a lollipop goes first to stop the traffic. At the far northern end is a busier compound complete with lorries and small cranes, and a marshallers cabin, and a crawler with caterpillar tracks nobody's using at the moment. It's going to look amazing, and open up a whole side of Paddington people aren't used to seeing, but for now it's evidently not finished.

BOND STREET: far from being finished

All the rumours have suggested that Bond Street is the station farthest behind schedule, and the view from surface level backs this up. At the western end, closest to the existing Bond Street station, an entire city block remains fenced off as what looks like a giant concrete bunker arises. Where there are windows, the frames are empty. The lofty grey tower lacks any kind of cladding. What little can be seen of the gaping ticket hall mouth looks mostly blank. There is no resemblance between the six floors of office space depicted on the hoardings and what appears behind.

One advantage of a double-ended station is that only one end needs to be ready when the line opens, but up the road at Hanover Square things look even further delayed. Counting the number of Crossrail workers off-duty around the square is a good clue to how many must still be employed inside the worksite or down below. The office building above the new entrance is currently a skeleton of white beams without walls, floors or ceilings, and while I was watching a crane lowered a fresh girder into place. Obviously not everything above ground level needs to be ready before passengers can enter below, but heavy metal dangling above your head is a no-no. Even if other construction and signalling issues had been sorted, I suspect Crossrail trains might've have skipped Bond Street for the first few months.

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD: nearly finished

Aligned with Dean Street, a drab black box intrudes into the facade of Oxford Street. Crossrail's buildings can be seriously ugly before they're dressed, no matter how swish they are inside. We know that inside is on track because there's been an Open Day down there, unlike those at the first two stations down the line which never materialised. They even let some of us down here for Open House two years ago, and the platform edge doors were in place even back then. Imagine wandering in and gliding down the escalators with your Christmas shopping next year... you almost can.

Meanwhile the entrance at the far end of Oxford Street, amid Tottenham Court Road tube station, is ready to go. Work started here really early, creating a new ticket hall and reshaped connections beneath the surface, and passengers have been using these since December 2015. Crossrail's escalators remain boarded up beside the top of the Northern line flight, behind overhead signs that still say Crossrail rather than the correct brand name, covered by a vinyl strip. The whole shenanigans is even set up for Crossrail 2, should that ever get off the ground, because so much forward-planning has taken place. If the whole of Crossrail was as far advanced as Tottenham Court Road, we'd be riding it today.

FARRINGDON: not finished

Farringdon's had a new Thameslink entrance for years, an oversized cavern with a line of ticket gates inside and not much else. To one side is a huge screen shielding the top of the Crossrail escalators, awaiting removal on the day passengers first start to pour through. Some of us got down there at the Open Day in June, even if we had to slog our way down the fire escape rather than gliding serenely via an escalator. The main entrance from the street was a building site back then, but looks a lot clearer today, although the external building is still an ugly box awaiting whatever they need to do to make it presentable.

A few hundred metres away, facing Smithfield Market, the eastern entrance is a less ostentatious affair. It's been slotted in beneath a new office development, as yet windowless, but the swirling art traced onto the glass around the ticket concourse already looks rather smart. From here there'll be access to the westbound platform at Barbican station, but not to the eastbound, as the lack of building work on the latter confirms. I was very impressed by the state of the Crossrail platforms in the summer, although they didn't allow us down the Barbican end because works were far less complete, and I wonder if it's caught up yet.

LIVERPOOL STREET: not finished

Here's another double-ended station, this time with its western entrance attached to Moorgate station. Once again all that appears on the surface is a blank portal surrounded by a building site, in a part of town that's been looking bleakly vacant ever since these Crossrail works began. On the plus side, passengers are already slipping inside towards the Circle line platforms, tapping a temporary reader on the way through. However they're not yet seeing the entirety of the ticket hall around them, which is still being clad, and a line of slanting blue glass panels above the entrance is the sole external flourish.

The eastern entrance has been sunk beneath Liverpool Street, the street, round the back of Liverpool Street, the mainline station. A huge hole was originally hollowed out, narrowing the pavement to a squeezed minimum, but a couple of plastic windows behind the blue panelling allowed passers-by to observe operations. Looking through now, a glass-wedged portal has appeared instead poking up above the concrete. Externally it's complete but internally evidently not, because I could see orange-vested workers feeding through building supplies from a JCB. Their helmeted colleagues are often seen thronging into, and out of, the site office on the corner of Old Broad Street, confirming that there's still a lot of work being done.

WHITECHAPEL: not finished

The historic entrance to Whitechapel station was closed in January 2016 to allow construction work for Crossrail to progress, forcing passengers to divert to a temporary entrance a couple of minutes walk away up a previously obscure alleyway. It had been planned to switch back in October, because access to the District line isn't dependent on deeper burrowing beyond, but that never happened (and still hasn't happened two months later). Instead the front doors remains workers only, and the pristine pavement out front is barriered off (and bollard-enabled).

The Overground lost most of its daylight last year when a new concourse was slung above the tracks, which will eventually form the direct passenger route from the main road to the top of the Crossrail escalators. For a tantalising glimpse, climb the seemingly pointless footbridge at the far end to pass between two sets of closed doors, beyond which stretches the unseen concourse with its tapered glass walls. Meanwhile building work continues between the District line platforms, where the island's boxed-off heart remains inaccessible behind scrappy blue walls. Until that's connected up everyone's stuck with the inconvenient hubbub of the temporary entrance (and if you're the two gentlemen I disturbed outside, my apologies).

CANARY WHARF: utterly finished

For a textbook example of how to get a Crossrail station finished, turn to the private sector. It helped that Canary Wharf had a huge dock available, which simply needed draining rather than excavating, and also that management were motivated not by the need to run a railway but by the retail opportunities plonked on top. Open House visitors were allowed down to platform level without hard hats and hi-vis in September 2014, five years ahead of the first trains, and even Crossrail Place has been open since May 2015. The bankers barrelling into Big Easy for a slap-up lobster lunch are already satisfied.

Explore Crossrail Place more closely and the gateways into the lowest levels are hidden in plain sight. A sheer black wall covers the top of the main set of canary-yellow escalators. The lifts opposite are labelled 'to ticket hall', along with an apologetic notice that they are the property of Crossrail and won't be opening until the station does. A tiny fragment of level Minus Three is accessible so that punters can use the toilets, if not yet the shopping arcade through the locked doors. And although you can press the button for Minus Four, it's not lit up so the lift won't take you there yet. Canary Wharf Group must be livid that nobody else has got their act together like they have.

CUSTOM HOUSE: pretty much finished

Welcome to what must have been the central core's easiest-to-construct station. It's in the open air, for one, so no awkward digging required. It follows the alignment of the former North Woolwich branch line, so no existing properties needed knocking down. And it only has to interchange with a DLR station and an exhibition centre, so even the connecting infrastructure was simple. Indeed the new station was substantially complete by the end of 2015 - a long island platform with a raised concourse at one end and a sleek glass canopy above that. Even the purple roundels were in place, and visible, at the start of this year.

What's intriguing is the unresolved state of the adjacent DLR station. This was closed for the majority of last year for adjustments to make it Crossrail-ready, then failed to open by the end of December as planned. DLR passengers were allowed back inside in January, but only by passing through a temporary gateway into a station covered with blue hoardings, which unbelievably are still up today. Instead it's the Crossrail station where all the action is - unwrapping fixtures, tweaking signage, connecting electricals and liaising by the gateline. The pace of change at Custom House appears relaxed.

WOOLWICH: not finished

Woolwich's Crossrail station was a late bolt-on funded by a property developer, so perhaps we shouldn't expect it to be up to speed. Indeed no Open Day was held at this station in the summer, despite its relative simplicity, suggesting that the interior was nowhere near ready. Whereas blocks of flats have shot up all around, the station mouth looks stunted in comparison and stands alone. Although it's hard to see much behind the hoardings, watching a flow of orange-jacketed workers stomping up the temporary steps alongside is yet another hint that Woolwich is well behind schedule.

Half the lawn leading to the Dial Arch pub remains a corral for building materials. The M&S Food Hall just before the entrance has opened already, even though its back doors have no passing trade. As for the enormously-wide pedestrian crossing that's due to funnel everyone from Woolwich proper, this somehow isn't finished yet either, with temporary barriers edging people down the road while the tarmac is scraped off and resurfaced. It's been heavily rumoured that even if Crossrail had opened today, Woolwich might have been skipped and opened later. As it is, SE18 has a few extra months to hopefully catch up.

ABBEY WOOD: ready and waiting

And finally, the end of the unopened line. Abbey Wood is another surface level station, successfully remodelled to add two extra platforms for Crossrail and with a brand new manta-ray building facing the Manorway. It's been open since October last year, or at least the Southeastern side has. As yet the two footbridges connecting the two halves are sealed off, and a wooden partition hides most of the new stuff from view. But all the purple platform signage is in situ, wrapped and taped to protect it from the elements, and even the next train indicators are lit in anticipation of the occasional test train.

Nobody came along last night to unwrap the giant purple roundel on the glass above the station entrance, so that'll linger as an ugly off-balance scar for a few months yet. I'm surprised to see that the forecourt out front still isn't finished either, or rather the bus stops aren't, given how long there's been to put them in place. Fresh shelters are only now being installed for northbound buses, while the southbound side remains sealed off (and the pedestrian crossing closed) as local buses continue to stop elsewhere. One day it'll be complete, as will the entire Crossrail line to Paddington, and the whole thing will be magnificent. Today should have been that day, but... deadline missed.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards