Some of the stations on the London Overground, are architectural gems.
The picture shows some the internal detail of the refurbished Grade II Listed Crystal Palace station. The cafe was created in an area of the station, that few realised existed.
There is also work going on at Peckham Rye station, where an enormous Victorian waiting room has been discovered. An architect called Benedict O’Looney seems to be on a mission to restore the station to its former glory.
Peckham Rye station could be step-free as early as 2019, so I suspect that the station could become more important in the grand scheme of things.
What would Del Boy have thought?
There is also Camden Road station, which is in pretty-good nick.
If Camden Road station has a problem, it is that the station possibly needs more passenger capacity and perhaps one of the closed platforms to be reopened.
I’d love to know what is behind those windows on the top floor.
Hackney Central station has a similar building to Camden Road station.
It looks like Hackney Central will get a modern station building to go with the step-free footbridge. But I suspect everything is on hold until the plan for Crossrail 2 is finally decided.
Yesterday, I was in Hackney Downs station and I was told that the bland station building abandoned by British Rail, might be worth restoring.
Who knows what lies behind the brick walls and lurks in the dark spaces under the tracks in the old station building?
Knowing the way, many of these railway stations were built, I wonder if London Overground could come up with an imaginative scheme to create a Victorian counterbalance to the more modern Hackney Central, in what will inevitably be Hackney Interchange.
Last week, I went to a consultation about the Draft Hackney Central And Surrounds Masterplan in the Narrow Way by HackneyCentral station.
If you want to see the full version of the masterplan it is available at www.hackney.gov.uk/spd.
As this article will be sent to the Council Planning Department, I’ll say a little bit about myself.
- Widowed, in my seventieth year and living alone.
- I’m coeliac, which I inherited from my father.
- I always describe my politics as left-wing Tory and very radical.
- As someone, who has helped create two high class technology businesses sold for millions of pounds, I’m very entrepreneurial.
- My father and three of my grandparents were all born within the triangle based on the Angel, Dalston Junction and Highbury Corner.
- My father was the least racist person, I’ve ever met. I hope his attitude has rubbed off on me!
- My two grandfathers were of part-Jewish and part-Huguenot ancestry respectively.
- As my two grandmothers families came from Northants and Devon, I usually describe myself as a London mongrel.
- My late wife and myself partly brought our three sons up in the Barbican.
- My middle son talks of that time in a tower block with affection, so I’m not against well-designed tower blocks.
After a stroke, left me unable to drive, I returned to my roots.
My Views On The Masterplan
I like lots of things about it. And especially these!
- The prominence given to new workspace, shops and the creation of jobs.
- The creation of new housing, where I’m only against bad tower blocks.
- The opening up of the railway viaduct, so it becomes a feature. Network Rail get a lot of stick, but they know how to look after railway brickwork.
- The creation of a public square at the bottom of the Narrow Way.
- The creation of more pedestrian streets.
- Better use of the bus garage site.
- Improvement of Bohemia Place.
It wouldn’t be me, to not put in my own wish list.
Truth be told, I don’t think Transport for London, thought the Overground would be the success, it has turned out to be. So the designers did the minimum they felt they could get away with and would satisfy their political masters!
But the London Overground’s success has been repeated in places like the Borders Railway, Electrification in Liverpool, new stations in Leeds and the Todmorden Curve, and it is now proven in the UK, that if you give the population a good train service, they’ll use it.
Now that the walkway has connected Hackney Central and Hackney Downs stations and other improvements to the complex are in the pipeline, I think that serious consideration should be given to creating a second entrance to Hackney Central from Graham Road.
Failing that, pedestrian routes should be improved, so that access to the cluster of buildings around the Town Hall and the Empire is easier.
Hackney Central As A Meeting Point
Once the public square is created at the bottom of the Narrow Way, use of the area as a meeting point should be encouraged.
- Hackney Central is where two rail lines cross.
- The London Overground through Hackney Downs gets new trains in 2018.
- There are several bus routes passing through the area.
- Bohemia Place and the railway arches must have potential for specialist shops and cafe/restaurants like Leon.
- Leon was started by a Hackney resident.
Who said it’s all about location?
Learning From Other Cities And Towns
I travel extensively, in the UK and Europe and see both good and bad examples of how to develop cities and towns.
Recently, I went to Blackburn and I was totally surprised at the transformation since I last visited a few years ago.
A Landscaped square had been created between the station and the cathedral.The square is surrounded by a PremierInn, a new office block, a small bus station on one side and a pedestrian way to a supermarket on the other.
Hackney could do similar or even better.
My uncle was a very good sculptor and I feel it is a crime that works of art like large bronzes are kept in store because security and insurance is a problem.
However, there are places where they could be placed with little fear of theft or damage. And that is at carefully selected locations on the platforms of railway stations.
So why not?
Hackney Downs certainly has space for one, but the platforms at Central are too narrow!
When I was on holiday in Iceland, every building with a historic connection, had full information displayed outside.
Is Hackney’s information up to scratch?
This is a series of pictures with comments.
Hackney Central has some interesting buildings on which to develop the area. Unfortunately, there is some bad examples of boring architecture.
Some sites definitely have potential.
- Could the top floors of the Iceland building, be converted into a Southern station entrance, with perhaps a cafe and a couple of shops that travellers like?
- Bohemia Place could be a nice oasis with cafes, workshops and individual shops, a bit like the Box Park at Shoreditch High Street station.
- Bohemia Place will be better, when the arches under the railway are opened up.
- The right architect could do a fine job on the M & S Building.
- The car park at Hackney Central station might be much better as a bus interchange.
In my view the key is Bohemia Place, as this could be a magnet for people of all ages, races and classes to come and shop and refresh themselves.
London Overground are planning an upgrade of Hackney Central station, as I reported in The Redevelopment Of Hackney Central Station.
I went to Hackney Central Library to get a first glimpse of the design.
It’s certainly a big improvement on what’s there now. Some points.
- The station is to a modular design, so we’ll be seeing other similar stations.
- There is more space in the station, with the gate line turned through ninety degrees.
- The guys I met from Transport for London (TfL) were referring to the combined station as Hackney Interchange.
- TfL and Hackney Council are working together to get things right in the area.
- There is no entrance on the far side onto Graham Road, which is something I’d like to see.
- There may even be toilets.
- TfL are welcoming comments.
But TfL haven’t created the web site yet. I’ll point to it, when they do.
Improving Bus Connectivity
Like many in London, I don’t live on top of a Underground or mainline rail station. The nearest is Dalston Junction station on the Overground, which gives me good connections to mist the capital with one or more changes.
So I rely heavily on buses to get to and from stations like Angel, Highbury and Islington, Manor House and Moorgate for onward connections.
It is the same with Hackney Central and Hackney Downs stations, which could be united as Hackney Interchange.
The buses are rather chaotic around the two stations and if Hackney Council achieve their laudable aim of creating a proper public space between Hackney Central station, St. Augustine’s Tower and the Narrow Way, using the buses in the area will get more difficult.
Transport for London needs to take a good hard look at buses passing through the area of Mare Street and the proposed Hackney Interchange.
The Dalston Eastern Curve
The lack of an Eastern Curve at Dalston means that westbound passengers on the North London Line needing to go South from Dalston, must change at Canonbury.
I sometimes do this to get to Dalston Junction station, but I also take the 38 bus from Amhurst Road, after crossing the North London Line on the Hackney Central station footbridge.
In The Dalston Eastern Curve, I talked about the curve, but I don’t think it will be rebuilt in the next few years.
A Southern Entrance To Hackney Central Station
Because of its connections to the attractions at Stratford and Crossrail, I suspect that we’ll be seeing more passengers taking the North London Line to and from its Eastern terminus at Stratford station. Especially, when West Ham moves into the Olympic Stadium.
The proposed increase in size and facilities at Hackney Central will be very much needed, for all these passengers.
Many passengers though will need to go South from Hackney Central or along Graham Road, but will be frustrated in having to climb the footbridge to get out of the station on the wrong side of the line.
It is my view that a southern entrance to Hackney Central station would make travel easier for a great many travellers.
In an ideal world, a southern entrance would lead to a light-controlled crossing over Graham Road, to give easier access to the buses.
On Saturday night, I was passing through Hackney Downs station, as I came home from having supper with my son and his partner in Walthamstow.
As I needed some food for today, instead of getting the 56 or 30 bus home, I came down the walkway to Hackney Central station, with the intention of going to the Marks and Spencer by the exit from the station.
The shop was shut, but before I took a 38 bus home, I saw this notice, announcing the redevelopment of Hackney Central station.
The Redevelopment Of Hackney Central Station
When I got home, I searched the Internet and found nothing. Even Hackney Central Library, which is hosting the exhibition on Tuesday, the 17th, has nothing on its web site.
But I did find this article on the Hackney Gazette entitled Narrow Way in line for multi-million pound revamp, where this is said.
Hackney Council has billed the works as a “dramatic reimagining of one of the borough’s oldest and most vibrant shopping districts”. The proposal is to change the former road and footpath in the Narrow Way with a more attractive pedestrian-friendly surface, with the new-look extending to the junction of Graham Road.
So it looks like the area from Marks and Spencer and St. Augustine’s Tower to Graham Road, is in for a substantial upgrading.
This is a Google Map of the station and the lower end of Narrow Way.
Hackney Central Station
If a decent architect can’t do something superb with the area, I’ll be very surprised. These are pictures of the buildings in the area.
One of the ideas in the Hackney Gazette article is a new public square in front of the Grade 1 Listed Tower.
But dramatic entrance squares like St. George’s Plateau in Liverpool need to be served by proper transport interfaces.
So the development of Hackney Central station is needed to complement the work done on the Narrow Way.
From what I read from the notice, the proposals will solve some of the problems of access to the station from the Narrow Way and other places to the North of the North London Line.
But I believe that there also needs to be an entrance to the station on the South side of the Line onto Graham Road, where there would be access to the buses.
The Hackney Downs/Central Link opened at 11:00 this morning.
I’d thought something was finally happening, as there was a group of suits with clipboards about when I had passed through earlier. So after my trip to Surrey, I popped back to get my supper at the Hackney Marks and Spencer. As the link was now open, I took these pictures.
I shall certainly use the walkway regularly, as I often come from Walthamstow or on one the other Lea Valley Lines and either need to go West on the North London Line or like today, get some food at Marks. The walkway will of course be dry in the rain and some might feel safer at night!
I suspect that London Overground might get some ticketing issues with this link.
Take a little old lady with a Freedom Pass, who lives near the current Hackney Downs entrance to what is now a large double-station complex, who perhaps wants to go to the shops on Mare Street in the rain. Being as she’s from Hackney, she would be streetwise and would therefore use her Freedom Pass to work the barrier at the Hackney Downs entrance and then climb up the stairs to Platform 1. She’d then walk down the platform and take the walkway to Central, where she would exit into Mare Street using her Freedom Pass. In other words, she would have done the long walk substantially out of the rain, at no cost to herself.
So what do Transport for London do with someone, who uses an Oyster or contactless card to do the same trip? Will they be charged?
An engineer on Crossrail, who has walked some of the enormous stations, said to me, that in the rain, some of Crossrail stations are so comprehensive, she would use them to keep out of the rain. So we could have the same problem here?
If Transport for London charges, are we discriminating against those who pay for their transport?
Surely, if you come out of the same station complex within the time it takes to walk from one end to the other, you shouldn’t be charged!
What do you get charged now, if you enter a station through the barriers and then you realise you perhaps didn’t pick up your paper or coffee before you did and you return through the barriers virtually immediately?
Remember that if there’s a walking short-cut, Londoners and especially East Enders will find it!
I took these pictures at Hackney Downs and Hackney Central stations today,
I don’t think it will be long before when I come back from Walthamstow, I can arrive at Downs station, walk through the link to go out on the street at Central station station to get a 38 bus home. The advantage of this route, as opposed to getting a 56 bus by Downs station, will be that I can do some food shopping if necessary in the Hackney Marks and Spencer.
I can’t help feeling that passengers will press for links between the other platforms and lifts to the platforms from the subway at Hackney Downs station.
The reopening of Lea Bridge station and the possible reopening of the Hall Farm Curve are both developments that could affect any future work at Downs and Central stations. This Google Map shows the layout of the two stations.
Hackney Downs/Central Link
Downs station is at the top and Central station is at the right.
You can actually see some sections of the new link in place, so the image must have been taken recently. The large oval object at the left (west) of the image is the ventilation and evacuation shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which is easily seen from trains on the North London Line. It is connected by a concrete roadway to Graham Road.
Note how it is possible to walk inside the railway land to Graham Road. I believe it would be possible to create a southern entrance for the two stations, by the two bridges, that would give access to the westbound platform at Central station and possibly perhaps using a lift to Platform 4 at Downs station. These pictures show the area of Graham Road, where the two bridges cross.
This is an enlarged Google Map of Graham Road, the two bridges and the two access roads.
An Enlarged Map
In order from the west, the features are.
- The Ventilation and Evacuation Shaft for the CTRL
- The Access Road to the CTRL shaft
- The two-track Curve that connects the Lea Valley Line to the North London Line.
- The four-track Lea Valley Line
- The Network Rail Access Road
The footbridge at Central station is shown at the far right.
As the pictures and the map show there is an embankment, so to get to a possible southern entrance, there might need to be some serious engineering.
On the other hand their is already a light-controlled crossing on Graham Road by the bridges.
The only problem of putting a second link on the southern side of the tracks, is that signalling cables and equipment may get in the way. This necessitated a big redesign of the link, that is now being created. This page on the contractor’s web site, which describes the current link, says this.
An earlier proposal had to be abandoned because it would interfere with Network Rail signalling equipment. The latest plan avoids this problem by building the interchange on the northern side of the track.
So this probably partly explains, why the new walkway is not a small structure.
I also heard in the evening that the link will open next week, possibly on Tuesday.
In the nearly five years, I’ve lived in Hackney, the development of the area around the two Hackney stations has been extensive and it is showing no sign of slowing down.
The London Borough of Hackney is now one of the more desireble boroughs in which to live.
It isn’t as easy to see the Hackney Downs end of the Hackney Downs/Central Link, which is shown from the Hackney Central end in this post. However, I was able to take these pictures.
Some of them were actually taken from a pretty dirty Abellio Greater Anglia Class 315 train. Hopefully, when these trains are taken over by London Overground, they’ll be a lot cleaner. To get an idea of how complicated the pedestrian link will be, look at this Google Earth image of the North Eastern angle between the North-South Lea Valley Lines through Hackney Downs station and the East West North London Line through Hackney Central station.
Hackney Downs And Central Stations
Note that in the South-Western corner of this map is the Graham Road Ventilation Shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
To further investigate I walked from Hackney Downs station parallel to the railway, before turning under the newly-reconstructed rail bridge on Marcon Place (Click here for a construction video!) and then walking round Spurstowe Road. This enlarged image shows where I walked better.
For information, the platforms at Hackney Downs station are numbered 4, 3, 2 and 1 from West to East (left to right).
These are the pictures I took as I walked.
I don’t think massive is an appropriate word for this walkway high in the sky. It certainly couldn’t be described as flimsy!
These pictures sort out a lot of questions, but they still don’t show how you walk from the top of the stairs and lift into Hackney Downs station.
This plan that I clipped from this page on the Dalstonist web site, appears to show that there will be a gap made in the wall behind Platform 1 to access the walkway.
Hackney Link Plan
TfL obviously have the figures and know the details of the various passenger interchanges between the two stations, but I can’t help feeling that at least one direct interchange other than between Platform 1 at Downs and Platform 2 at Central may well be necessary.
I would assume that there are plans for adding lifts between the platforms and the subway at Hackney Downs, but that will still mean a step-free walk from Platform 2, 3 or 4 at Hackney Downs to Platform 1 at Hackney Central will be four lift journeys.
If I look at my own use of the walkway, it will be in probably in changing between a train going East to one going North or the reverse. Both could need three lift journeys, although I generally can easily manage the foot bridge at Hackney Central.
However, mine and the usage of many others of the interchange would be improved or minimised, if Transport for London develop the Lea Valley Lines and other transport links in East London as many expect they will.
1. Higher frequencies from Hackney Downs to Chingford, Cheshunt and Enfield Town, which are currently four, two and two trains per hour respectively.
2. More trains between Stratford and Cheshunt via the new Lea Bridge station.
3. A reinstated Hall Farm Curve allowing trains to run from Chingford and Walthamstow to Stratford for Crossrail and all Stratford’s other services. Walthamstow to Stratford could go from a 43 minute journey to one of just twelve.
4. We’ve already had notice of a blockade on the Victoria Line this summer to enable track work, that will increase frequency to 36 trains per hour.
I also have a few questions that I would like to see answered.
1. There is a curve under the former Olympic Village that enables trains to go between the North London Line the Lea Valley Lines. Are there any future plans for this curve?
2. Many passengers using the trains to and from Hackney arrive at the complex by bus. As the area around the stations is developed, will we see a much better bus interchange?
3. My personal favourite addition to the Hackney station complex would be to see a second entrance at Hackney Central direct into the westbound Platform 1, which for many journeys would avoid the need to cross between the two platforms at Hackney Central. Are there any plans to improve this access?
I suspect a lot more will be revealed in a few months.
I took this picture today.
Is Work Starting On The Hackney Downs/Central Link?
It looks like something is finally happening to build the pedestrian link between the two stations.
It should all become clear in the coming weeks.
I’ve posted about rebuilding the footbridge connection between Hackney Downs and Hackney Central stations before.
TfL have decided to replace it after seventy years and Hackney Council has approved the proposal as reported here. It seems to be positively received.
Hackney Central ward cllr Vincent Stops welcomed the news. He said: “It is quite exciting that this proposal remakes an historic connection between Hackney Central and Hackney Downs stations that was lost in 1944. It will greatly benefit Hackney residents and those visiting Hackney Central town centre. Now permission has been obtained I am determined that Marcon and Aspland Estate benefits both in terms of the re-provision of play facilities and that the green wall and tree cover really improves the outlook of residents and reduces train noise, a long standing issue for the estate.”
I wonder how long it is before TfL decides that the two stations are one and renames them to either Hackney or Hackney Junction.
I suspect that the renaming will get more objections than the five who objected to the footbridge. One was objecting that it might mean to a loss of car parking spaces.
The councillor involved in transport has replied that Network Rail and Transport for London are actively pursuing plans for a possible pedestrian link between the two Hackney stations, similar to that, that existed before the Second World War, with the aim of completion in 2014. They included this old photograph, taken in 1928.
The amount of steel in the bridge was probably the reason it was taken down. After all there was a war on!
This could be the same bridge today.
The Bridge Taking The West Anglia Main Line Over The Overground
The track layout is slightly different and there is no trace of the footbridge. Judging by the modern-looking support at the right, it could have been rebuilt.