Thanks to train delays at my local station tonight, I decided to go to Shoreham via London rather than my usual routes via Clapham Junction or Gatwick. This gave me a rare opportunity to do brief step-free access spotting at Victoria station, which is, in all likelihood, the next station that will gain step-free access in the Underground. All in all, while there are no new step-free routes yet, I am happy to say that there are important updates and that this scheme may be coming to a close after long-drawn delays.
One of my readers notified me a few days that sections of the hoardings at Victoria had been replaced by light fencing, hinting at an imminent opening of another part of the station’s redevelopment. And then, this afternoon, TfL fired off a tweet announcing the opening of three new escalators at the station’s south ticket hall (the one connected to the railway station).
The Victoria Underground Station upgrade is closer to completion with the opening of 3 new escalators in the south ticket hall today.👍
Temporary station closures due to congestion will be reduced and there’ll be direct stair access to the westbound District and Circle lines. 🚇 pic.twitter.com/Uvx5vUfLIh
— Transport for London (@TfL) August 24, 2018
My immediate question, and reply to the tweet, was about step-free access and whether any new lifts had opened. While I got no reply from TfL, my changed travel plans allowed me to see the station for myself. I am always suspicious of TfL, which have developed a habit of not announcing when stations become accessible, which is exactly what happened last year when the first part of Victoria station gained step-free access.
Below is an illustration of the Victoria State Upgrade scheme, which aims to bring step-free access to all lines, increase capacity, and open a north ticket hall to reduce overcrowding at the south ticket hall.
Victoria Station Upgrade (source)
The olive green sections correspond to the new parts of the station, while the yellow structures denote the 7 lifts that will make the station accessible. Last year, the north ticket hall (the bottom one in the drawing) opened as well as three lifts bringing full step-free access to the Victoria Line. Unfortunately, since the north ticket hall is at the opposite direction of the railway station, step-free interchanges between London Victoria and the tube station are lengthy and a bit chaotic.
Maze between Southern trains at London Victoria and the north ticket hall of the Underground
Today, the remaining escalators as well as a new passageway to the westbound District/Circle line platform were opened to the public. You can see the scope of each opening in the drawing below, where the purple area opened last year and the red area opened today.
Phased opening of the scheme (purple = 2017, red = Summer 2018)
In addition to the aforementioned escalators, one of the 4 remaining lifts is located in this area. It will offer access between the south ticket hall, the westbound District/Circle line platforms, and an interchange level that leads to the Victoria Line and the north ticket hall. Frustratingly, the lift itself is not yet in service, but I was able to capture the new areas where the lift will operate.
Entrance to lift at interchange level
Entrance to lift (in the back) at District/Circle line level
Entrance to lift at south ticket hall level
The remaining lifts, which give access to the railway station and the eastbound District/Circle line platforms, are still hidden behind hoardings.
Hoarding in front of the lift at the railway station level
Old picture of lift to eastbound District/Circle line and Victoria line (still looks like this)
It is very annoying that, yet again, step-free access is the last thing to open when it comes to redevelopment projects. It is also unlikely that the “open” lift will be put into service before at least one other lift is ready to open, as this would give step-free access either to the railway station or to both sub-surface platforms.
Overall, the newly opened section looks very good and spacious, so I have no doubt that it will be a very well-received. The only question is: How much longer will we have to wait?!?