They told us Barking Riverside station was opening soon.
They weren't kidding.
It opens next Monday.
For over a year we've been told it was opening in autumn 2022, but preparations have moved faster than expected and the full extension is opening in the height of summer instead. If you're out in the estuarine wilds at 5.33am on Monday 18th July you can be on the very first train.
Technically it's very late indeed. The surrounding land's been earmarked for housing for over 20 years but couldn't be significantly developed until a decent transport connection was built. When Ken Livingstone was Mayor he laid plans for a DLR extension but Boris Johnson scrapped that on taking office, then waited six years before finally proposing this Overground extension instead. From initial consultation to opening will have taken eight years, gifting Sadiq Khan the chance to cut the ribbon.
Had things moved faster there could already be 27,000 people living at Barking Riverside, but instead the station will open amid a vast incomplete building site with not a single flat within a five minute walk. Throw in the riverboat pier that opened in April and what we have are two excellent transport connections that as yet make no economic sense. Infrastructure tourists who flock to Barking Riverside next week are going to discover an extraordinary landscape in transition from brownfield to high-density residential, and either wonder 'maybe I could live here?' or 'why would anyone!?'
TfL have moved quickly now that everything's ready, indeed so quickly that the grand opening date has a serious publicity downfall just five days later. Amazingly the new extension will be closed for engineering works throughout the first weekend after it opens, because July 23rd and 24th have long been pencilled in for a full Goblin closure. Crossrail also closed for engineering works five days after it opened, so maybe that's a thing now.
The Gospel Oak route, extending out beyond Barking along the new 4.5km of track to Barking Riverside...
4.5km of track is a heck of a lot of new railway to serve just one station. There was passive provision in the plans to add an intermediate station off Renwick Road which would have better served the isolated Thames View estate but that fell by the wayside for lack of money. These days transport infrastructure is only funded for future residents, not for the poor sods who've been living in a transport vacuum for several decades.
...will help dramatically reduce journey times to Barking to just seven minutes, rather than the current 25-minute bus journey.
Barking Riverside and Thames View currently have one of the most frequent bus services in London, with a nigh non-stop fleet of double deckers ferrying residents into Barking town centre. They're slow because they generally end up queueing to cross the A13, and also because buses from the station area deviate around the estate on the way. A direct train will be a great improvement so long as you live near the station, but for many that's a bus ride away so no faster than continuing to get the direct bus into town.
The route will operate with four trains per hour, providing Barking Riverside with connections to the District and Hammersmith & City lines into central London and C2C trains at Barking.
Also direct connections to Walthamstow, Tottenham and Hampstead Heath, but they're unlikely to be as useful.
Customers will be able to easily interchange with the recently opened Elizabeth line at Forest Gate, which is a short walk from Wanstead Park London Overground station...
The Elizabeth line wasn't 'recently opened' at Forest Gate, it was recently rebranded. Wanstead Park station very much isn't step-free. Journey Planner suggests the connection between the two takes five minutes. It's a useful interchange to be sure, but let's not kid ourselves it's easy.
...as well as River Bus services from Barking Riverside pier.
The new station is indeed very close to the newpier, but it's hard to imagine a useful journey that would require interchanging between the two. If you were in Barking and wanted to commute to the City you'd use C2C or the Underground, as now. If you wanted to cross the river from Barking to Woolwich then changing at West Ham for the DLR remains the practical option, far quicker than heading to the riverside to wait for a half-hourly boat (and £3 cheaper too).
The station enables easy interchange with local bus services...
That's just the one bus service at present, the uber-frequent EL1. The EL2 and EL3 stop half a mile away making interchange impractical, although we might well see a few bus changes in the area after the station opens. If residents are lucky the EL3 will be extended past the station for more than two school journeys a day. If residents are unlucky the frequency of existing routes may be cut now the train's a quicker option. Watch this space.
...and has extensive cycle parking facilities helping to promote greener and more sustainable journeys by making it easier for people to start or end their journeys by cycle.
Cycling to the new station is indeed an excellent option for existing residents who don't live very near the station, which is most of them.
Anyway, it's always better to have a brand new station that not to have one at all, so hurrah for Barking Riverside and its unexpectedly imminent opening date.
Do make plans to visit and admire the infrastructure - that's quite some viaduct - and to see thisamazingcorner of Barking & Dagenham before it's utterly despoiled.
The Barking Riverside development, delivered by Barking Riverside Limited, a joint venture between L&Q and the Mayor of London, is delivering more than 10,000 new homes along with a range of community, commercial and retail spaces along a 2km stretch of River Thames frontage.
Just don't come expecting shops and cafes because that's still some years off, enabled by the arrival of four trains an hour from Gospel Oak. And don't come the weekend after it opens because it'll be closed.