London, 13 January 2010
Dear Lord Adonis
Mr Linton has kindly agreed to deliver this letter to you, and we hope very much that you will consider it carefully and reply in due course.
We are a local action group committed to improving conditions at Clapham Junction Station. Last year we were instrumental in stopping a commercial development of the station site which, in the opinion of the many hundreds of residents who took the trouble to write letters to Wandsworth Council, would have done nothing to alleviate the problems of the station whilst proposing an over-development of the site which was entirely out of context with the area.
Thanks to your Station Champions initiative Clapham Junction station has been recognised in a Government report as being the second worst in the country due to its overcrowding, lack of facilities and dilapidated condition. We thank you for visiting the station in November and understand that you were also appalled at what you saw. Indeed you were quoted as saying:
”There is no obvious evidence of any investment or modernisation at Clapham Junction for 30 years apart from the installation of some new lifts.
One of Europe’s busiest stations, it doesn’t have a single escalator, the platform canopies cover only a minority of the congested platforms.
There is virtually no waiting area and no bike parking that I could see.
The station badly needs a new entrance which links into the overpass, relieving pressure on the congested tunnel linking the platforms, and this is now proposed.”
As a result of the report, at least £5 million and maybe significantly more has now been made available to fund immediate improvements. We understand that you will be meeting with Network Rail on 20th January to hear their proposals which, we understand, will be restricted to extending canopies, repairing the subway, and providing additional staff, waiting rooms and more stairs from the over-pass to the platforms. Funding is already in place to provide a third, step-free access from Brighton Yard and to go ahead with much needed platform lengthening and straightening works.
Whilst extremely welcome, these measures do not go far enough to tackle the fundamental problems of the station. The main station entrances on St John’s Road and Grant Road are on the scale of small tube stations and will remain poky and overcrowded. The subway will remain congested with regular queues building up to pass through the ticket barriers, and the rickety over-bridge will retain its antiquated ‘seaside-pier’ ambiance, providing only the most basic access, with none of the facilities which the public expects of a major 21st century railway station and interchange.
What is required is a long term vision for the station with substantial funding being made available in the next review period from 2014. The short-term funding which has recently been announced should form part of this longer-term vision, and not act as a constraint on future redevelopment. For example, if new canopies and stairs are being proposed now, then they should be designed with a longer term goal in mind to modernise the existing overpass and underpass and extend their facilities in the future. Otherwise, there is a real risk that the money being made available will be wasted.
We would suggest that Network Rail should invite design proposals immediately for a full redevelopment of the station to meet its current and future needs, and that the new funding should be integrated within these proposals as a first stage to a full redevelopment. There is a need to provide new station entrances linking the overpass and underpass both at St John’s Hill and Grant Road, and any current proposals relating to these structures should be designed so that they may, in future, be fully integrated within this wider redevelopment.
We enclose with this letter a draft dossier that we have produced setting out the challenges for Network Rail together with some suggestions as to how these might in future be addressed (we are currently in the process of collecting views of local residents too that we intend to communicate to Network Rail). These are by no means the only solutions which might be considered. Network Rail’s framework designers and contractors might propose alternative solutions which could prove equally effective in addressing both the current problems of the station and its future expansion. Above all, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that the new public money that has been made available is spent wisely in providing facilities which will see the test of time, and not be rendered obsolete by a future redevelopment.
We will be meeting with Network Rail ourselves on 21st January and hope that by that time you will have passed on the message that further, significant measures will be required in the next funding period. We look forward very much to hearing of your discussions, and would be extremely happy to meet with you at any time.
With kindest regards
Kate Williams and Cyril Richert