diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Northern line has a long history of widening narrow platforms by filling in tube tracks.

At Euston in the 1960s, rebuilding for the Victoria line allowed the old northbound tracks to become part of a broader southbound platform. At Angel in the early 1990s, a new northbound tunnel allowed the old tracks to become part of a broader southbound platform. At London Bridge in the late 1990s, a new southbound tunnel allowed the old tracks to become a new passenger concourse.

And now Bank station is getting in on the action. [8 photos]

17 weeks ago this was the dingy southbound Northern line tunnel with a narrow platform on the left and the running tracks on the right. Over the years many millions have huddled along its length trying to dodge other passengers squeezing past. But now it's a bright and welcoming passenger concourse with a dividing line down the middle where the edge of the platform used to be. It's suddenly entirely safe to stand beyond what used to be the yellow line. There are also benches along the far wall where previously only passengers inside the carriages could sit. It's quite the transformation.

Look carefully at the northern end (where the stairs come down from the Central line) and a pair of double doors marks the spot where trains formerly emerged from a tunnel. A single offset door at the other end (where the escalators descend from the District line) marks the spot where trains formerly headed off towards Morden.

The northbound platform is pretty much unaltered but no longer feels so squashed because it backs onto a spacious concourse. A combination of pre-existing mini-arches and larger knock-throughs allow passengers to pass between the two.

The real dazzler is the new southbound platform, hewn out of the London clay before this year's line closure took place and since sewn into the fabric of the network. It's not this wide because it comprises previous tunnelwork, it's this wide because this is 21st century forward-thinking and they built it that way. Think of all the pipework, infrastructure, vaults and cabling they had to dig around to create this enormous cavern in the very heart of the City.

All the usual Day One phenomena were present yesterday. These included (a) men in hardhats wandering around looking for snagging that might need fixing overnight, (b) TfL bosses gliding through the station surveying their latest engineering triumph, (c) gentlemen with cameras circling the passageways while trying to take photos with no other gentlemen in them. At least one child was joyfully explaining to his Dad which bits used to be train tracks and which were new, courtesy of a Geoff Marshall video he watched last night.

It's not all perfect yet. The public address system is currently distorted so the announcements are mostly inaudible. The sole display board on the southbound platform persistently insists that the next train will be stopping at 'London Bridge, Morden & Morden'. And whoever commissioned the southbound line diagrams forgot to check them properly because Borough station is missing its 'tick' on every single one of them, even the large curved ones on the platform walls. Someone's already scribbled in the missing blob using a black biro down one of the crosspassages.

The crosspassages are quite long and also quite blue. Some of this blue is the intended final panelwork but the rest is temporary hoardings waiting to be taken down later in the year. That's because yet more infrastructure has been constructed in the gap between the platforms including (i) escalators down to the DLR (wow) (ii) escalators up to a new entrance on Cannon Street (wow) and (iii) moving walkways (wow) leading to escalators up to the Central line (wow). These won't open until the end of the year, but basically you ain't seen nothing yet.

In the meantime it's great to finally have some space at Bank, not to mention a decent connection between the Monument end of the station and the rest, as this labyrinthine station inexorably untangles. If you've not been down yet expect to be impressed as you suddenly pass from familiar passageways into this brighter bubble, transformed at speed. In any normal month at TfL this'd be the absolute highlight, so best get down before next week when Crossrail trumps the lot.

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