Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clapham Junction

Commuting again through Clapham Junction brings home just how awful this station – the busiest in Britain and apparently Europe – actually is. It was constructed as a joint venture between competing train companies in 1863 and their conflicting requirements (and joint enthusiasm for cutting costs) must have informed the appalling design of the station – for something this busy, space for passenger orientation is simply inadequate.

Access to all 16 working platforms is through a leaky underpass barely 15 feet wide, with not a single lift or escalator anywhere. Imagine what it is like in rush hour, with people beginning their journeys to work or changing trains. Not to mention, Clapham Junction is a major hub for people making their way to Gatwick Airport.

So I’m pretty thrilled to hear that there are plans to upgrade this station – it’s desperately needed. Hopefully these will go ahead – however, a major plank of the funding is going to be two tower blocks of luxury flats built up over the station. One wonders how commercial these will turn out to be – would you like living over a station with a through-put of 119 trains per hour off-peak? That is, of course, if complaints from locals don’t scupper the development at the planning stage. Also, it has to be said, in this post sub-prime economic apocalypse, it would be a very brave developer who actually went ahead with this!

From the drawings released, the development doesn’t look architecturally distinguished – not anywhere near the standard of the Waterloo or St Pancras Eurostar terminals or the stations on the Jubilee Line extension. However, I suppose this is sarf London and we must be grateful for what we can get!

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