diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 09, 2023

Today it's five years since the day Crossrail was supposed to open but didn't.

I still don't believe nobody realised it couldn't possibly open on time until four months beforehand, especially given it took another three and a half years to run the first train. People in high places must have been lying their socks off.

That said, the last five years have been boomtime for the opening of new stations in London.
• Meridian Water (replacing Angel Road)
• Battersea Power Station, Nine Elms and the Northern line extension
• Woolwich, plus the Crossrail parts of Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House and Abbey Wood
• Barking Riverside and the Overground extension
We're also getting a brand new station tomorrow which'll be Brent Cross West.

It's another example of a station being built to support a new housing development, and like Barking Riverside is arriving prematurely on the edge of a godforsaken building site not especially close to where people currently live. Inquisitive visitors are going to find a flashy transport hub with access to a fenced off nomansland ruled by security guards and the backside of a retail park, plus on Day One a timetable of special activities because the developers realise they have a job on their hands trying to make the place sound attractive. You can't even get a bus to Brent Cross shopping centre until next year, and the walk is miserable because around here the car is king, and this is all essentially spoilers for the proper review I'll do next week.

But it's still a new station so let's not complain, because over the next five years the number of new stations in London looks like being zero. Blame government pursestrings, blame levelling up, blame economic downturn, blame whatever, but best lower your expectations to floor level throughout the next Mayoral term.

Here then are the stations I think have the best chance of opening during the next five years (and it's very little chance at all).

Beam Park
Where: borderline Havering/Barking & Dagenham (marginally the former)
Inbetween: Dagenham Dock and Rainham
Operator: c2c
First proposed: 2002
Brief timeline: named 2008, stalled, firmed up 2014, stalled, planning permission given 2019, stalled, still unfunded.
Why it's needed: A huge area alongside the A13, approximately on the site of the old Ford Dagenham plant, is being developed for housing. 4000 homes are planned but as yet only a few hundred are complete. Local transport connections are very poor unless you have a car. Also Havering has fewer stations than any other London borough so they totally deserve another one.
The hold-up: Planning for the new station was well underway in 2021 when the government suddenly announced they didn't support it and never had, and the entire house of cards collapsed.

What's there now: A cluster of newbuild blocks brushing up against an A13 spur road, a giant Tesco distribution centre, anachronistic posters promising fast train times into central London, residential roads that as yet funnel nowhere, fenced-off public realm, multiple lorries, the nasty end of the river Beam, new residents trying to pretend that where they live is somehow normal.
Immediate future: More and more houses without a rail connection. Any hope of a new station rests on a change of government, which is at least probable but even then it'd take a few years to add platforms and a functioning station.
Likelihood of opening before 2029: low (but the best chance of any station on this list)

Surrey Canal
Where: borderline Lewisham/Southwark (close to Millwall's ground)
Inbetween: Surrey Quays and Queens Road Peckham
Operator: London Overground
First proposed: 2009
Brief timeline: let's call it Surrey Canal Road, no let's call it New Bermondsey, no let's call it Surrey Canal.
Why it's needed: Multiple railways thread through the area but without stopping. Any transition from grubby industrial estate to housing nexus needs a local station.
The hold-up: Passive provision was made for a station when fresh track was added to link the Overground to Clapham Junction, but in 2010 the coalition government refused to pay £7m (£7m!) to build it because they thought it would be wasted money. Subsequent funding has stalled because long-term hopes for a new housing development hereabouts have yet to come to fruition.

What's there now: a grubby industrial estate, a road that was once a canal, mothballed space underneath a bridge, an optimistically premature pedestrian crossing, warehouses, depots, lacklustre commercial units, some scrappy statue that looks like an anorak with wings, bluecollar workers, queues of HGVs, a massive incinerator, extensive graffiti, nowhere you really want to be.
Immediate future: more of the same.
Likelihood of opening before 2029: low (but never say never)

Thames Wharf
Where: southwest Newham (by the mouth of the river Lea)
Inbetween: Canning Town and West Silvertown
Operator: DLR
First proposed: 2011 (I have photographic evidence)
Why it's needed: The western end of the Royal Docks is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, hence the recent arrival of City Hall, but if the riverside quarter is to evolve into Manhattan-on-Lea it needs a station. Alas the Dangleway passes overhead without stopping.
The hold-up: This is the back-of-beyond they've left until last to redevelop. It's also precisely where the Silvertown Tunnel emerges on the northern bank of the Thames, which is not a nice place to be at present, certainly nothing you'd get estate agents on side with.

What's there now: A massive construction site (I can't emphasise enough how massive it is), diggers, trenches, piles of spoil, mud, muck, tyre-tracks, skips, fences, girders, scaffolding, a hard-hat army, upcoming road connectors, signs saying Pedestrian Diversion This Way, small red trains weaving through the maelstrom.
Immediate future: Nobody's thinking about stations yet, only roads.
Likelihood of opening before 2029: I can't see it.

Beckton Riverside & Thamesmead Central
Where: Either side of the Thames (near Tripcock Ness)
Beyond: Gallions Reach
Operator: DLR
First formally proposed: 2019
Why it's needed: Nobody has ever bitten the bullet and provided Thamesmead with a station, so its residents have suffered severance for over 50 years. Crossrail's a huge step-up but it's not close enough to the action.
The hold-up: There have long been plans for a Gallions Reach Crossing (be it bridge, ferry or tunnel) but they've never been realised. More recent thoughts of extending the Overground from Barking Riverside to Thamesmead proved much too expensive. A DLR extension is the cheap alternative (and was properly mooted six months ago).

What's there now (Beckton Riverside): The contaminated remains of an enormous gasworks, fenced off estuarine nomansland, somewhere to park cars, circles that used to support gasholders, a DLR depot, a motorist-focused retail park, a sewage works, depressingly remote brick towers, developers' signs saying that the Beckton Gasworks Community Planning Weekend took place last month.
What's there now (Thamesmead Central): Morrisons, Aldi, McDonald's, tumps, a chunk of Plumstead Marshes never built upon but so large it puts all London's other development sites to shame.
Immediate future: Thus far the DLR extension is only at feasibility stage so there isn't even a route, let alone chosen station locations. The plan is for "an affordable solution by 2025 in order to enable construction to begin as early as 2028". Also that solution might just turn out to be speedy buses south of the river so don't get your hopes up.
Likelihood of opening before 2029: nil (they're currently saying early 2030s, and that'll only slip)

Old Oak Common
Where: between Wormwood Scrubs and the canal
Inbetween: Birmingham and Euston (or Acton Main Line and Paddington)
Operator: HS2/GWR/Crossrail
First proposed: 2010
Why it's needed: HS2 needs to stop somewhere outside central London and this vast rail/industrial desert is the ideal location, plus it could generate thousands and thousands and thousands of flats as the Stratford of the west.
The hold-up: Essentially we're rubbish at building railways, also agreeing to build them, also funding them, also sticking to plans, also keeping politicians away from them, essentially rubbish.

What's there now: silos, cranes, stacks of temporary cabins, mass workforce deployment, 1000 hi-vis jackets, chains of conveyor belts, sci-fi-shaped security devices, trucks, diggers, more silos, more cranes, a massively engineered hole, a scar across west London (just look out of the window of your Crossrail train to feel the scope of it).
Immediate future: more of the same, plus likely additional controversy and delays.
Likelihood of opening before 2029: nil (the current window is 2029-2033, and that'll only slip)

[bookmark this post so you can come back in December 2028 and laugh at the optimism]

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