The Conservatives and Clapham Junction: wishful thinking

5 mins read

I was pleased to receive in my mail box the leaflet distributed by the Wandsworth Conservatives for Shaftesbury Ward (click below to see bigger).
inTouch-0910I was also glad to see that their front page topic was focused on CJ station and that their title was positively acknowledging that work needs to continue.
Indeed they focus on some improvements or added services:
Extension of the East London Line (read our article HERE) announced by Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson, but after years of campaigning from Labour MP Martin Linton.
New lifts and staircases are being built with a new entrance from Brighton Yard. It is fair to say that the changes occurring in Clapham Junction Station to improve passenger facilities and accessibility are part of the Government’s £370 million Access for All scheme, which envisaged the station being step-free by the end of 2009. This programme is entirely funded by the government (£9m). The Brighton Yard entrance at the top of St John’s Hill will be re-opened with a ticket office to provide direct access to the overbridge and the lifts.
Therefore, Cllr Guy Senior is a bit stretching the reality, saying:

We won’t stop there […] we’ll be campaigning for a proper entrance from Brighton yard that’s suitable for people with disabilities, pushing children in buggies or just with suitcases; Oyster Pay As You Go for the ticket barriers; the rebuilding of platform 1 and the Falcon Curve viaduct

– The impossibility to use Oyster Pay As You Go on most of the trains is actually due to the long refusal of South West Train which, despite having renewed its franchise (up to 2017), argued on cost (Southern train accepts them). To make the story short, train companies want to use ITSO cards, currently not compatible with Oysters run by TfL; in addition SWT has managed to negotiate an opt-out clause saying that if they cannot agree with TfL, they are not forced to implement Oyster PAYG. It’s the privatised railways structure itself that makes it difficult. Therefore, negotiation must be carried out between SWT, TfL and Central government (DfT).CJ-platform1
– Regarding the rebuilding of platform 1… looking at the photo on the right, just remember that the East London Line mentioned above will arrive there in 2012. Work will therefore be carried out without need for intense lobbying.
As Cllr James Cousins is summarizing:

None of this is difficult or needs huge rebuilding

Indeed, especially as the Conservative Councillors have nothing [1] little to do with these!
They pledge to carry on with the campaign, and therefore I wish to help by providing with an update on their defined objectives:

Your local Conservative Action Group Team will continue the campaign for as long as it takes, to see longer platforms to fit longer trains and ease overcrowding; raising and straightening platforms so they fit the trains;

Good news, we know already how long it takes: in Network Rail CP4 Delivery Plan 2009 Enhancements programme published in June 2009 we can read (p 72):

Project definition: Clapham Junction station capacity and platform lengthening […] The platform lengthening works will be complete in time for the December 2013 timetable change. Minor works on platforms 3 to 6 will be complete for the December 2011 timetable change.

Clapham Junction has already an allocation of some £20 million for platform lengthening and straightening and £2 million for minor improvements to platforms and the tunnel for the period 2009-2014.

improving routes by bringing […] a direct link to Heathrow Airport by lobbying for the Airtrack scheme to go ahead.

Good news again, BAA asked already the government (DfT) for permission to develop a new rail link from Terminal 5 to Waterloo and it was confirmed this summer (Time line: Late 2014 – Heathrow Airtrack services operating)
Highlighting their concern for Shaftesbury Ward and printing an article on Clapham Junction station on the front page of their leaflet was a very good move from the Conservative Action Team. However it felt short of real proposal and (rightly worded) “actions” for progress. Below is what should could have been the article.

Conservatives welcome the planned improvements at Clapham Junction and pledge to continue the campaign.
Clapham Junction is vital to us all” says Councillor Edward Lister, Leader of Wandsworth Council. “Over 25 million journeys are made using it every year and that’s why your local Conservatives and  Conservative Wandsworth Council have campaigned for years to secure improvements to the station on behalf of local commuters“.
Each day about 2,000 trains, most stopping, pass through the station, more than through any other station in Europe. Interchanges make some 40% of the activity and by that count too it is the busiest station in the United Kingdom.
The recent campaign against the project to redevelop the station by adding two 42-storey towers has shown that local residents rejected the planning application on the grounds that the scale of the proposed development was inappropriate to its location and that the proposed ‘tall buildings’ in particular are unacceptable in terms of their height and design. But most of the presentation were also expressing concerns and suggestions for the regeneration of Clapham Junction Station.
Through the year a number of improvements have already been announced or taking place:

  • New lifts and stair case are currently installed and should make the station step-free by the end of the year;
  • Re-opening of Brighton Yard entrance with a small ticket office;
  • Extension of the East London Line (planned for 2012);
  • Platform lengthening and straightening to accept longer trains and ease congestion (due to be completed by 2013);
  • Announcement of the direct link to Heathrow Airport (2014).

In addition to this, Wandsworth Council will start work next year on the “Exemplar” scheme to improve the roads outside the station, with wider pavements, less clutter, smoother traffic flow and much better road safety.
Justine Greening (Conservative MP in Wandsworth, Shadow Minister for London) was recently saying:

I am a firm believer that we need to make planning as local as possible to communities because they’re best placed to know what will work. Finding out what the community wants is actually the best way of making sure that when we get regeneration it actually works, and that’s in everyone’s interest“.

The improvements in progress and the unprecedented amount of presentations received by the Council in the recent campaigns are many more marks highlighting the urge for a major redevelopment, including:

  1. increase passenger capacity,
  2. remove a notorious congestion in the station by enlarging and facilitating access,
  3. include re-modelling the platforms,
  4. redesign both entrances, providing access to both over-bridge and under-pass from each side,
  5. improve pedestrian links to the city centre,
  6. re-defining the image of the building using stunning architecture.

Back in January, Jane Ellison, the Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Battersea, said:

In considering the current planning application [planning to build two 42-storey towers] I have asked myself two key questions: firstly, will the changes to the station result in a substantially better experience for all of us who use it and, secondly, if this was the ‘once in a generation’ chance to make improvements, is this plan for the station ambitious enough? I believe the answer to both these questions is NO.

Your local Conservative Action Team pledges to continue to campaign for as long as it takes for a major improvement for Clapham Junction Station which truly places our area on the map as London’s greatest transport interchange.
With local groups and Societies, we wish to start a consultation on the future of the area and will campaign for further proposals and a vision for the redevelopment of Clapham Junction Station and its vicinity.

So lets start real work now: when can we meet and work together to define ambitious plans for the redevelopment of Clapham Junction Station? Unfortunately this is not easy work and it needs huge rebuilding!
You might want to refer to our previous articles:

[1] See our new article on Brighton yard entrance HERE.

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.