Wandsworth Council is stepping-in for Clapham Junction station improvement

Author: Cyril Richert

It has just been released this morning that the Council plans to fund additional spending in the provision of the new access from Brighton Yard.

The council is to set aside cash to help pay for a new station entrance at Clapham Junction.

The £300,000 contribution will go towards a new entrance at Brighton Yard which is needed to relieve congestion in the station subway.

Following a five-year council campaign Network Rail has now agreed to provide the additional entrance on St John’s Hill. This would offer access to the platforms via the existing footbridge and new lifts.

The current plans risk being limited to a basic ticket hall with few facilities. This would not be able to cope with large numbers of passengers.

The council’s cash will help expand the facilities to include vehicle access, a taxi stand, cycle parking, a suitably equipped ticket office, automatic ticket barriers, toilets and retail units.

The final extent of the work will depend on further contributions from Network Rail, the Department for Transport and South West Trains.

[…]

The new entrance is expected to cost around £1.5 million. Works could start in spring 2010, once work associated with installing passenger lifts has been completed.

The proposals will be considered by the planning and transportation committee on November 4. To view the report visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/osc/planning, look at the agenda for November 4, paper 09-293.

Councillors will be recommended to set aside £300,000 from the borough’s budgets for capital improvements.

A link to the report (pdf) is available HERE.

Current changes occurring in Clapham Junction Station to improve passenger facilities and accessibility are part of the Government’s £370 million Access for All scheme, which envisaged the station being step-free by the end of 2009. This programme is entirely funded by the government (£9m). As part of this plan, the Brighton Yard entrance at the top of St John’s Hill is to re-open with a small ticket office to provide direct access to the overbridge and the lifts by Spring 2010 (originally planned for end 2009).

In addition Network Rail currently has £22 million in its five-year capital budget for 2009-14 allocated to Clapham Junction, mainly for platform lengthening and straightening (£20 million) with the remaining £2 million for what they call ‘cosmetic’ improvements (it is assumed to be directed to some platforms with canopy and the under-path, but it could also be directed to the new entrance in Brighton Yard).

According to the report by the Director of Technical Services, the total cost for the new entrance is to be £1.5m (including the £300k contribution from WBC?) with:

  1. vehicle access,
  2. a taxi stand,
  3. cycle parking,
  4. a suitably equipped ticket office,
  5. automatic ticket barriers,
  6. toilets and retail units.

Exemplar scheme

However, some of those items were already listed in the feasibility study into improving the Town Centre published in June 2007 and examined by the Transport Committee (part of the Exemplar scheme aiming at improving Town Centres).

The project envisages a step-change in the appearance of the town centre, by:

  • providing new and wider footways,
  • more convenient and direct pedestrian crossings,
  • rationalisation of street furniture,
  • improving location and design of the taxi rank, bus stops (vehicle access) and cycle parking,
  • providing cycle lanes in Lavender Hill SW11 (Northcote and Shaftsbury).

In addition, we have already commented in February 2009 on part of the Exemplar Scheme affecting the road system around Clapham Junction, for vehicles and for pedestrians, especially quoting some elements of the design:

(h) relocation of the taxi-rank from the centre of St. John’s Hill to the kerbside;
(i) merging of westbound bus stops in St. John’s Hill, though otherwise bus stop locations are largely unchanged;

The scheme is estimated to cost £3m, including £800k coming from TfL money and allocated by the Council to the Junction.

Therefore it looks like part of the Council’s proposal was already included in the Exemplar Scheme and we wonder if the new announcement is not a rebranding on already planned/funded work.

Inside the new entrance

As part of the “Access for All” scheme, the Department for Transport is funding the reopening of the entrance in Brighton Yard with a basic entrance.  It will include a drop off facility for passengers with reduced mobility. As part of these works, additional staircases will be provided to platforms 11 & 12 and 15 & 16. A provision of £500,000 has been secured for providing an entrance.

However it was originally planned that step-free access to street level in St John’s Hill from the footbridge would be provided as part of the redevelopment proposals by the Metro Shopping Fund. Therefore, with the withdrawal of the redevelopment scheme, NR cannot rely on the private funding and may only use the government’s money to build the step-free access via Brighton Yard. A new entrance and ticket hall is to be created in the area of Brighton buildings, with cycle parking and a drop-off area in Brighton Yard for taxis, cars and service vehicles. The existing entrances to the Station will remain open.

The current plan for the re-opening of Brighton Yard entrance is such as:

Brighton Yard - new entranceBrighton Yard - new station location

I have an-noted the image so you can see on the existing plan:

  1. equipped ticket office,
  2. toilet,
  3. automatic ticket barriers.

The basic entrance funded by the government is already showing some facilities that the Council has listed.

What the Council is really funding

The Director of Technical Services proposes that the Council contributes up to £300,000 to the existing new entrance project to help to bring it to fruition (funding subject to agreement with Network Rail and TfL [1]). It will add to the £500,000 provided by the government.

It follows discussions with Network Rail, South West Trains and Transport for London (apparently since September 2009), and suggest that a financial contribution to the creation of the new entrance will facilitate it being given higher priority for investment by NR and SWT.

Therefore, WBC’s contribution looks to be an incentive for NR to provide the proper funding for the re-opening of Brighton Yard entrance, providing enough capacity to cater for the flow of passengers envisaged from this side of the Station and to provide congestion relief for the existing entrances and subway.

The report to the Transport Committee envisages several possibilities for funding:

  1. reallocating existing funding provided by TfL through the Government’s National Stations Improvement Programme (NSIP), currently earmarked for improving the town centre,
  2. reallocation of funds from the Exemplar Scheme, which will widen the already existing gap in funding for the scheme, but could be justified with the gain of the new entrance (it would delay the Exemplar Scheme as funding will wait for future allocations from TfL, but we also saw above that some elements were already planned to be funded such as),
  3. direct funding from the Council under Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 (which enables the Council to give financial assistance to achieve well-being).

In order to be fair we must acknowledge that back in 2005, the Leader of the Council launched a 10-point plan for Clapham Junction. This plan proposed improvements to the railway station, to the range of rail services using the Station, to the quality of interchange with the town centre and to the town centre itself. This view was certainly considered when the Council officers encouraged the application for the two 42 storey towers put forward by Metro Shopping Fund. As this plan has failed, and the debate on Clapham Junction Station has grown along 2009 and our campaign backed by about 1000 people, it is good news that the Council is making a move [2].

[1] The total cost is estimated £1.5m, therefore there is an additional £700k to find. It could be withdrawn from the £9m “Access for All” scheme, or coming directly from NR, which has a provision of about £50m under the Discretionary Fund or the Improvement Programme to carry out any improvements before 2014. It will more likely be coming from the £2m provision allocated cosmetic improvement for Clapham Junction station.

[2] Which has nothing to do surely with the local election next year… and the communication done by the local Conservatives.

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