The Gateway

By - Friday 23rd August, 2013

Andy Ellis wonders whether new arrivals to Croydon’s busiest station have any idea where they’ve landed

Croydon’s isn’t that good, neither is Bournemouth’s – but nowhere near as bad as Southampton’s. York’s isn’t ideal but they’ve done something about it. Glasgow’s is magnificent.

What am I referring to? The juxtaposition between a railway station and the town which it serves. How does it work – and how could it work – in Croydon?

Returning to London recently, I decided to try to see what first impressions a visitor gets when coming into East Croydon Station for the first time.

Traversing the ticket gates I noticed a sign over the exit doors which indicated Trams (straight ahead) and Home Office (to the right). Ah, that’s Croydon summed up – the Immigration Town!

Emerging into daylight, one might chance a tram. The electronic signs offer enigmatic destinations like “Elmer’s End” and familiar ones like “Wimbledon” but little other information. Little help to the visitor with a specific destination in mind.

For the pedestrian it is no better. One perceives suburbia to the left and urbanity to the right and heads off in the direction of the latter – but with no clue to the whereabouts of the Whitgift Centre, the Market – not even Lunar House. Visitors to the Immigration department stand confused consulting maps and, eventually, some kindly passer-by. There actually is a pedestrian map but it’s so obscurely situated that most people, I suspect, don’t even notice it.

How do we solve this? York has the same sort of problem with a station a little way out of town – but compensated by useful and elegant maps and signposting.

What we also need is a map – and not any ordinary map. Something memorable in its own right. A substantial hoarding which will both inform and entertain the visitor.

I would visualise a pictorial representation of the town: an eagle’s eyes view (OK, this is Croydon: a pigeon’s eye view) from above the station; significant destinations highlighted; buses, tram stops, and route numbers marked.

There’s even a place for it. There’s a short and, to my mind, pointless section of railing beside the pavement on the ‘town’ site of the station. Perfect location!

Who could design it? How about a competition? Get the citizens involved.

The winning entry would, of course, have to rendered into the final map proper. This should not be a problem: we have a college with an Art Department just two blocks away or the graffiti artists who have done great work on the hoardings in Cherry Orchard road or, no doubt, an untapped potential of local artistic talent.

Let’s put the Cronx on the map – with a map!

Andy Ellis

Andy Ellis

Descendant of an old Devonshire family, Andy has spent over 25 years of his life in Croydon. He runs a small computer business, is a student at Seishin Ryu Aikido, helps to teach the Body Harmony community fitness classes held in several libraries across the town and, last but not least, dances with the Purley-based North Wood Morris Men.

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  • Sally Western

    Relocate the station between East and West croydon tracks because the distance between them is ridiculous. To link them nearer the end of Wellesely Road would save walking to either to make connections.. Just one bigger station with walkways to West or East… even better.. link the bloody tracks..

  • nmakwana

    It would make huge sense to link the tracks between East and West Croydon though not sure it is feasible. I have spent many an hour traversing between the two when I used to live in Sutton.

    • Andy H Ellis

      Am I missing something here?

      Tramlink has connected the stations for over a decade.

  • nmakwana

    I meant the train line itself not the tram, about which you are correct.