East Croydon Masterplan: A Bridge to Success?

By - Tuesday 12th February, 2013

Like so much of Croydon’s development, understanding the changes at East Croydon requires a look at the big picture

Transport ‘hubs’ are very in vogue at the moment. Constantly in the press we hear the demand that the UK and London needs a new airport hub, and recently the controversy of the location of the HS2 railway’s midlands hub has made national headlines. Will the development of Croydon’s own transport hub be adequate to fit the town’s ambitious regeneration plans?

If you were to take a journey into central London and head to Victoria, Kings Cross/St Pancras, or London Bridge, you would notice they have all had or are undergoing widespread change, both to the stations themselves, and new developments in the surrounding area. In the Transport Strategy of Mayor Boris Johnson two key proposals are improving access and interchanges to stations, and East Croydon is part of the implementation of these plans. Maximising the limited space East Croydon has is vital, both for increasing capacity of the station itself and improving the user experience. According to statistics from 2011 East Croydon is the 12th busiest railway station in the country, serving over 27 million passengers in a year, and is in desperate need of an overhaul. Fortunately in November 2010 Croydon Council provided the town with a Masterplan for East Croydon station and the surrounding area – and the fruits of this plan are already taking shape. In this article I will focus upon the new passenger bridge development.

Photo by Network Rail

The bridge itself is intended to both connect the three platform islands at present, replacing the underground walkways, provide a connection for a potential fourth platform island, and most importantly to create new entrance points to the station to the east and the west. At the time of writing, the bridge is in its initial open phase, simply replacing the underground walkways between the platform. The early verdict is in, and it’s… underwhelming. One of the intentions of the bridge is to improve distribution along the platform to reduce congestion in the rush hour and it does perform this to an extent. However, it takes more time and effort when switching between platforms using the bridge than it did using the underpass, which is not great especially for the elderly, those with small children, or anyone rushing to meet a connecting train.

Nevertheless, it is the long term impact the bridge will make that is important. The congestion during the rush hour within the station is uncomfortable at best and the solution the bridge provides will help ease this. The location of the new entrances may not help this greatly, however. Many of those who come in to East Croydon during the morning rush hour arrive from buses or trams, which deliver them to the main entrance, stymying the effectiveness of the new entrances at this time. More positive however will be the impact of the bridge in the evening rush hour, where the exit on Dingwall Road for instance will allow commuters to use the bus stops there more frequently. But the most interesting part of the development is the proposed walkway direct from the passenger bridge into the town centre.

Directing those using the station into the town centre is a clever, and simple, piece of planning

In my last article I wrote about how Croydon can look at the Westfield development at Stratford as inspiration for how the regenerated town centre can look. Examining Stratford further we can see the proximity of the train station to the shopping centre, and the near necessity of having to walk through the shopping centre to reach what will become the main tourist attraction, the Olympic Park. Directing those using the station into the town centre is a clever, and simple, piece of planning, and something Croydon needs to make use of. At the moment if you were to arrive at East Croydon having never visited the town before you would not necessarily realise where the centre is. The walkway extending from the passenger bridge into the centre of town, known as Lansdowne Walk, will improve the link between the two key developments. Not only this, the walkway can accommodate passengers who are not using the station itself, creating smoother access to the town centre from the bus stops on Cherry Orchard Road.

Whilst the station and Hammerfield will not be directly connected, a pedestrianised walkway between the two adds into improving the Croydon experience, with the plans including natural surveillance and provision for retail, and is a simple measure that may keep attracting visitors back into town – expect it to be an unsung hero of the town centre development. As Kake mentioned in her piece about West Croydon station today, most people use that station if they are coming into Croydon by rail to shop. The passenger bridge should distribute shoppers more evenly between the two stations.

While the passenger footbridge and walkway are a boost to the station, and in particular should link well with the ‘Hammerfield’ development creating a better experience for visitors, the congestion within everyday use of the station, as a hub for commuters, may not be solved in the long term by the bridge alone.

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gilesap Anne Giles

    The bridge will eventually have lifts hopefully by July, to make it more accessible.

  • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

    Interesting piece, thanks! You say that the bridge is replacing the underground walkways — have these already been closed entirely, or are they still open to provide step-free access until the lifts arrive?

    Re congestion, I wonder if this could be partially relieved by running more fast services from West Croydon. There are more than a few of us who live closer to West Croydon than East, but will often travel to/from East Croydon instead because it’s quicker.

    • http://twitter.com/tomblackuk Tom Black

      The problem with West Croydon is one of timetabling on the wider regional and national level, I suspect. The line is Overground now and Overground trains, like Underground services, stop at all stations no matter what – there’s no longer a fast/slow distinction. The problem with that is when it’s mostly just double track with little room to pass each other, having fast trains becomes simply impossible because even if they wanted to timetable a fast service, it would keep getting stuck behind slow (ie stopping) services!

      • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

        Actually there are already some fast trains between West Croydon and London Bridge in the morning and evening peaks (see footnote 13 in my article of earlier this month). Don’t forget that only one of the services running from West Croydon is London Overground — there are also Southern trains to Victoria and London Bridge. The services run on the same tracks as the trains from East Croydon once you’re past the Windmill Bridge Junction (just south of the Selhurst depot), and there is indeed fast and slow track in place. Travelling between Croydon and London Bridge on a fast train, you can often overtake London Overground trains on the way!

        (As an aside, it’s not true that all Underground services stop at all stations no matter what. On the Metropolitan Line, there’s fast and semi-fast running between Wembley Park and Amersham/Watford. I suppose technically you could also say that the Piccadilly Line runs fast between Hammersmith and Turnham Green/Acton Town.)