diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 09, 2020

TfL have been rebuilding Bromley-by-Bow station for the last three years. I think they've finally finished.

(normally I'd pop down and check, it's only a ten minute walk, but what follows is based on what I last saw three weeks ago)

Bromley-by-Bow is one of the tube's oldest stations, predating the Underground itself, having been opened in 1858 as part of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. But the original Victorian station building was swept away in 1972 after the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road was built, and replaced by a low-cost functional structure. Here it is in 2008.

A minor refurb followed, replacing the front doors with a sliding barrier and removing the signage which still claimed the station was served by the Metropolitan line. Here's the station in 2015.

But the building was still an unimpressive gateway to what was fast becoming a development hub. That enormous tower block in the background, for example, was built on the site of the former St Andrew's Hospital. Thankfully with new development comes section 106 funding, some of which was set aside to give Bromley-by-Bow station a much-needed makeover. And quite a startling makeover at that.

The most important part of the makeover was the provision of step-free access to both platforms, and this was completed in March 2018. But work above the main ticket hall dragged on, the new glass roof permanently shrouded in scaffolding and sheeting.

By the start of 2019 it looked like things might be getting somewhere, with the new atrium finally uncloaked. But the scaffolding only came halfway down and the blue hoardings around the front of the station remained in place for months. Initially no reason was given, but it turned out asbestos had been found and the ticket office roof had unexpectedly needed to be replaced.

Here we see an internal view during the interminable hiatus. The main roof looks finished but scaffolding remains to the left, and cables dangle above a funnel of hoardings up front. Notice that the ticket barriers are open, indeed Bromley-by-Bow's barriers have been open for the vast majority of the last few years in the absence of supervising staff.

Finally, as of mid-March, I think we're there. All the scaffolding's disappeared, all the hoardings are down and a new station sign has been emblazoned across the front. It looks good. Other than the word underground missing from the roundel, it even looks like the original artist's impression.

Let's zoom in. The station entrance now has a glass-topped canopy to provide shelter. To the right, where the newsagent's kiosk used to be, is a smart blue-tiled alcove where station information is displayed. A new empty unit has been added immediately behind, potentially retail but unlet and shuttered at present. The ticket barriers were still wide open when I took this photo but I've noticed they're closed a lot more of the time nowadays. Staff still aren't supervising in the ticket hall, but they can sit in the former ticket office and watch everyone passing through, so that's nice and cosy for them.

But if the station upgrade is finished, a massive error remains on view for those exiting the ticket hall. Buses to Bow and Stratford do indeed leave from bus stop BE to the right, but across the road at bus stop BA they no longer go to North Greenwich and Lewisham. They used to, but in 2016 TfL switched round routes 108 and D8 so buses now go to Canary Wharf and Crossharbour instead.
I've been dying to tell you about this error for years, and have been waiting for the station upgrade to be finished so I could gloat about how the tube bit of TfL doesn't know what the bus bit is doing. Now that day is finally here it turns out we all have far more to worry about than an outdated bus destination sign, but I can confirm that TfL's Signage Team are still overlooking the little things in a depressingly familiar way.

And here's what the new station looks like from the side, presenting a much more modern silhouette than that drab 70s box. I particularly like the subtle muted geometric shapes in the wall. I also like that the glazed facade was provided by a company called DG Glass.

So hurrah, a new gateway to E3 has arisen and the rebuilding of Bromley-by-Bow station is complete. Sadly very few of us will be seeing it any time soon.

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