The Anonymous Widower

Going Back To My Childhood

Well, not really! But this afternoon, I did go back to the northern reaches of the Piccadilly line. The aim was to look at the escalator layout of the stations to see how difficult they would be to upgrade to step-free access, possibly using inclined lifts, as I outlined here.

I joined the line at Manor House station, but didn’t go all the way to Cockfosters, as the last two stations, don’t have escalators. Starting from the end of the line, here’s what I found.

Cockfosters – This station could probably be made step-free by fitting conventional lifts into the structure to access the tunnel under Cockfosters Road. Once in the tunnel, the station is then step-free to the platforms.

Oakwood – Looking at the ends of the various Underground lines, the end station is more often than not step-free.  But in the case of the northern end of the Piccadilly line, Oakwood was made step-free rather than Cockfosters.

Southgate – When I mused about fitting an inclined lift at this station in this post, I said it would be a challenging design problem. Southgate is one of the architectural jewels of the line and this picture shows why.


Escalators and Uplighters At Southgate Station

It is a gem of 1930s design and architecture with all that bronze, even if the yellow paint on the stairs in the middle for health and safety reasons,  is out of place. The station may not have the original wooden escalators, but someone had the sense to fit modern treads in the old casing, rather than a complete modern escalator.

Escalator At Southgate Station

Escalator At Southgate Station

This station could take an inclined lift in the central space, but it would have to be done with enormous sympathy using similar materials to the original Charles Holden design.

There would be two other problems with an inclined lift.

As the station is now, it could easily be converted into an Underground station of several decades ago for making a film, as it was for The End of The Affair. I remember it was strange seeing a film, that had been shot in a place I knew so well.

The heritage lobby would have a field day trying to stop the installation. After all the station has won awards for its restoration over the last few years and it is a Grade II* Listed Building.

But all that adds to making it the sort of challenge, that a good designer would relish.

Arnos Grove – This is a surface station and could be made step-free with the addition of lifts in the same manner used on several stations on the Undergound and Overground network.

Bounds Green – Like Southgate, this station is a two escalator and one staircase station, where the staircase could be replaced with an inclined lift. But it doesn’t have the heritage problems of Southgate, as the station has modern escalators.

Wood Green – This is a three escalator station and step-free access would probably have to be installed, by digging a traditional lift shaft. I say shaft, as I suspect because the running tunnels are fairly wide apart, there is probably somewhere to slot in a shaft that served both platforms by descending into the platform level lobby or a cross tunnel, as was done at Tottenham Hale station.

Turnpike Lane – The problems here are similar to Wood Green, as it is another three escalator station, where a traditional lift would have to be sunk from the booking office to the platform levels.  But another problem is that some form of lift would be needed to descend to the booking office level, which is below ground.

Manor House – This is very similar in layout to Turnpike Lane, but it would need lifts at seven exits to the surface to be fully step-free.

Finsbury Park – This is almost a low-level station with steps up to a pedestrian tunnel.  Conventional lifts could probably be added without too much difficulty. There is a lot of development going on at this station and it will be interesting to see if the step-free access improves.  The last time I visited access wasn’t good.

I think that the difficulty of making some of these stations completely step-free, shows how much our attitudes to those with difficulties getting about has changed since the stations were built in the 1930s. Charles Holden’s stations either had escalators or a short flight of steps, like Cockfosters or Arnos Grove. Compare the equipment at these stations with those on the Jubilee line extension, where all stations are fully step-free. But to be fair to Charles Holden, the Victoria line built thirty years after the Piccadilly line even now has only three step-free stations, Tottenham Hale, Green Park and Brixton stations. The Victoria line station, that I use the most; Highbury and Islington is a maze of tunnels and little short of a complete rebuild will improve matters.

Having looked at Southgate and Bounds Green, I think that an inclined lift could be a excellent idea at these two stations. You wouldn’t rip out the central escalator at Wood Green, Turnpike Lane and Manor House, as it was put in because the number of passengers needed it. But at least these three stations have larger platform tunnels, which must help the installation of a conventional lift.

However, putting in an inclined lift would not only make it easier for those in wheelchairs, with babies in buggies or heavy cases, but it would add to the station’s capacity.  One point about an inclined lift, is parties where some need the lift and others don’t, can effectively travel up and down together at the same time, with those who can walk on the adjoining escalator.  So the size of an inclined lift, may actually be smaller for the same capacity. It would probably also go up and down almost continuously.

January 21, 2013 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,

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