diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Normally they turf you off the train at Kennington, but the trains with the brand new destination on the front now go further. After the doors close they enter the loop where services once reversed, then suddenly break out into fresh broader concrete tunnels where the track noise sounds altogether different. It's over a mile to the first station, a concrete cavern which has transformed the land beneath Sainsbury's car park into an outpost of Zone 1. The final part of the journey is quicker, eventually crossing a broad scissor junction which feeds the train into the correct terminating platform. Welcome to Battersea Power Station station, born Monday 20th September 2021.

It's very much not your normal Northern line station, all stooped and curved, more a large rectangular box scooped out of the ground with trains at the bottom. The tracks run to either side, with connecting concourses at both ends and plenty of room for the escalators up the middle. The inner walls are shiny steel, each platform roof a stripe of ribbed timber and the outer walls matt black so as not to distract the eye. It reminded me a bit of Canary Wharf (but without the platform edge doors) and a bit of Heathrow Terminal 5 (though with more money thrown at the aesthetics).

On Day One the station was awash with people come to see what all the fuss was about, notably Freedom Pass holders and infrastructure enthusiasts. Some wandered round briefly, then headed up and out to explore the neighbourhood. Others undertook a full circuit before poking their nose into every cross passage and lift lobby in case they'd missed something. A few set up tripods or crouched patiently on the floor, attempting to get exactly the right camera shot without any pesky passengers wrecking it, something that'll undoubtedly be easier next week. And a lone member of staff sat in his cabin at the inbound end, seemingly watching over us all.

The outer walls are free from adverts and the platforms mostly free of seats, for connected reasons. A train will usually be waiting to take fresh passengers away, so they can sit in that, and at no point will the surface behind be clearly visible. At present the station sees only half a dozen trains an hour, max, with a brief period inbetween when neither platform is occupied and the litterpicker takes a breather. Several doors lead to hideyholes for staff, including one for Cleaners, a Mess, a Train staff toilet and the BPS Train staff tea point. If the roundels look crowded it's because Battersea Power Station is the longest station name on the tube network.

It doesn't matter which set of escalators you take because both lead to the centre of the mezzanine. This is vast with mighty pillars supporting a sawtooth roof, and includes a rectangular gash through which activity on the platforms can be glimpsed. Only those heading for a lift need make their way around the rim. The gateline is a dozen slots wide, easily large enough to cope with future hordes returning from as yet unfinished shops and offices. And occasionally the walls change colour. This is Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset by Alexandre da Cunha, two 100m long kinetic sculptures made from a sequence of rotating billboards which periodically spill a fresh shade from one end to the other. Top marks for its apparent simplicity.

Beyond the barriers are the key components of a 2020s station - five ticket machines, a rack of maps and a departures indicator. Don't expect to find public toilets but there are a number of retail units awaiting tenants, because that's inadequately funded public services for you. You might also bump into armed police keeping a close eye on things, or maybe that was a Day One exclusive. Eventually there'll be a second exit feeding directly into the heart of the Power Station development but for now signs direct you left towards the lesser heights of Battersea Park Road. Keep walking past the place that doesn't yet sell coffee, and then it's up and out.

The final escalators pierce the surface beneath a jagged skylit roof. Imagine a yellow sheet dropped on top of a smaller glass box at a jaunty angle and you'll get the picture. One day this'll be a busy street corner with a multi-towered backdrop, but for now it's just a hoardinged piazza with a few planters acting as passive security barriers. It was buzzing yesterday as crowds flocked in to see the new station and maybe grab a selfie outside. More serious photographers stepped back into the cycle lane for the ideal shot capturing both station and chimneys - a view that'll be sequentially disappearing as time goes by.

The one thing it's currently difficult to do from Battersea Power Station station is walk to Battersea Power Station. The developers have posted up a glossy map detailing all the posh refreshment options by the riverside but failed to mention how to get there, and those who mistakenly choose to walk clockwise rather than anti-clockwise face a much longer hike. It's almost as if the line has been opened a couple of years prematurely because as yet there's nothing convenient to visit, nor any tenants in the strange wiggly flats who might wish to travel to the West End. Instead it's the lucky residents of the Savona Estate opposite and the Patmore Estate behind who've been gifted an ultra-convenient A-list tube connection most other social housing backwaters can only dream of.

Battersea Power Station station's not yet what you expect it's going to be, and all the better for it.

20 Flickr photos taken yesterday (and more from Nine Elms to come tomorrow)
Geoff's opening day video (including a ride on the very first train)

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