Overdue Update: Surprises and Progress
I must apologise for my long absence. After going on a much needed holiday in Germany, as well as planning an exciting tube-related event to be revealed later in the year, I am back! Despite an upsetting further Crossrail delay revealed last month, we are now gearing up for an exciting summer, filled with more step-free access, new stations, new trains, and a hopefully pain-free and relatively subdued timetable change.
Beyond Access for All
Network Rail’s Access for All programme, providing funding for step-free access across the national railway network, typically gets the most coverage in terms of improved accessibility. However, a significant number of step-free access projects occur outside of the scheme, with collaboration from local government and private development. One prominent example of this is in Borough of Hounslow, where the borough is using every imaginable resource to achieve near-universal step-free access. As highlighted in this article, the London borough is already benefiting from both TfL’s step-free access plan (Osterley and Boston Manor) and Access for All (Isleworth).
In addition to this, works at Syon Lane, Gunnersbury, and Kew Bridge are at various stages of planning/completion. The most advanced scheme is at Syon Lane and will feature a new footbridge and footpath, bringing step-free access to the westbound platform. This scheme is ambitiously planned to be ready by the end of this summer and is being funded by South Western Railway, the borough itself, Sky, TfL, and the Community Infrastructure Levy. The other works are less advanced and are tied to development in the borough, with Gunnersbury being tied to the Chiswick Tower and Kew Bridge being tied to the upcoming new Brentford stadium.
Another scheme that has slipped in quietly in the background is Chessington South. Currently, the entire 4-station branch line is inaccessible, but this is set to change in a matter of days (!), as the terminus’s single working platform will be made step-free by the end of May. This will allow for a vastly improved experience for passengers wishing to reach Chessington World of Adventures by rail. It is always good to be pleasantly surprised about more step-free access!
Another exciting development in the coming days is the brand new station in North London, Meridian Water. Taking the place of the soon-to-close Angel Road station, Meridian Water will bring step-free access to a neighbourhood undergoing intensive regeneration. This scheme is closely tied to works at both Northumberland Park and Tottenham Hale, which will also become step-free by the end of the year, if not sooner. The only issue I have with the project is the rumour that both Meridian Water and Northumberland, just like Lea Bridge, will be fully unstaffed. We will have to see how this develops.
New Stadler Trains
Speaking of Tottenham Hale, we are likely now only weeks away from the launch of Greater Anglia’s Stadler Rail trains, as seen in the following tweet:
In total, there will be 20 class 745 trains running in London, covering the intercity service to Norwich as well as the Stansted Express. These will offer level access for the first time in the national network without requiring raised platforms.
Finally, we have a new timetable starting next week. To be honest, compared to the one last year, it is quite minor and uneventful. Limited to a handful of extra services, mostly at peak-time, the changes are purposely subdued precisely because of last year’s disaster on Thameslink and Northern. Planned changes, including a dramatic increase in frequency between Reading and Waterloo and the whole recasting of the Great Western Railway timetable are now due for December. One change that is going forward, long overdue and delayed, is a steady increase in the Thameslink frequency at weekends from 7 to 11 trains per hour.
May we have an exciting summer with welcome surprises and on-time delivery!