Future Step-Free Stations: Central London Redevelopments

Welcome back to the 6th part of my Future Step-Free Stations series. If you are new, you can click here to read the series intro and find links to earlier posts.

StationLineScheduled date
VictoriaDistrict, CircleMid 2018
South KensingtonDistrict, Circle2022
Finsbury ParkVictoria, Piccadilly, Thameslink2019
BankW&C, NorthernMid 2018, 2020
KnightsbridgePiccadilly2020
WaterlooW&CLate 2018

Stations in this group are currently undergoing major redevelopments to increase capacity and accessibility. They stand in sharp contrast to the stations included in the Mayor’s suburban station plan in the previous post. Instead, these stations are highly congested and constrained stations in Central London that require expensive tunnelling and reconstruction. Being one of only two groups of stations that directly impact Central London, these projects are expected to open up many useful journeys for Londoners and tourists alike.

One of the most important stations listed here is Victoria Station, which houses an important London terminal station as well as a busy Underground station. Despite the mainline station being the second busiest in the country and the Underground station being the third busiest in the network in 2016, at that point there was no step-free access to the Underground. Before the first stage of the Victoria Station upgrade opened last year on the Victoria line, Jon and I had to make lengthy interchanges to reach Waterloo or London Bridge in order to access the Underground network. Once that was completed, it was possible to take a single train from Shoreham-by-Sea to Victoria Station and then reach the new Underground ticket hall on foot. Once the final phase opens,  step-free access will open at the south ticket hall and the District/Circle lines, which will enable a quicker interchange from the mainline station and also expand the possible destinations from there.

Newly completed entrance to the expanded ticket hall at Victoria (left). Step-free access work still ongoing (right)

The other station works will also have very important impacts. South Kensington and Knightsbridge are two key tourist destinations due to the large cluster of famous museums and the world-class retail hub, respectively. The works at Bank will connect it to the rest of the Underground network, as currently the only fully step-free way to reach the centre of the Square Mile from the east using the DLR. Finally, the step-free access works at Finsbury Park will cement the station’s role as a major interchange station between Underground lines and an expanded Thameslink.

Lift construction at Finsbury Park (left) and associated urban redevelopment work (right)

A few extra things to note: The Piccadilly line at South Kensington is also slated for step-free access, but will be completed by 2025. Also, Bank has two completion dates since the works on the Waterloo & City (W&C) line and on the Northern line are two separate projects which will have completely separate entrances and ticket halls.

This brings us to a brief discussion about the W&C line, which is a tiny Underground line composed of only Waterloo and Bank stations. In terms of accessibility, both stations would obviously need to be step-free in order to be usable by wheelchair users. The confusing bit is that the only explicitly announced work is the one at Bank, which should open this May after months of delays. This would appear to leave the Waterloo platforms inaccessible, which would be a huge missed opportunity.

However, there are current works at Waterloo aimed at restoring the disused Waterloo International Terminal into regular use for South Western’s “Windsor lines” suburban services. This terminal used to have a connection to a subway leading into the W&C platforms, which is planned to be reopened once the work is completed, along with St Pancras-like retail opportunities. The following graphic is taken from the project’s consultation material to help visualise where everything is located.

Schematic of the ground floor of a redeveloped Waterloo International Terminal. The red path shows the path from terminal entrance to the W&C ramp. The numbers correspond to the places shown in my pictures

My pictures, shown below, show the current state of the three locations on the marked path.

#1 on the schematic. Exterior of the International Terminal under reconstruction

#2 on the schematic. Disused ticket barriers in the subway leading to the closed terminal

#3 on the schematic. Ramp leading down to the W&C line platforms

The platform works at the redeveloped terminal are meant to be completed by December of this year, but it is not clear in what state the rest of the terminal will be. I sincerely hope that they prioritise this connection instead of waiting for the entire retail scheme to open, which would make the W&C line the first fully step-free Underground line.

Finally, level boarding is widely expected for all of these stations, with level platforms already existing at Victoria (although with slightly curved platforms), Waterloo, South Kensington, Finsbury Park, and Bank.

The next post will be a double feature, dealing with the Access for All stations, both current ones and those that have been deferred.

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