Saturday 16th February 2019
There’s another rail construction project approaching its deadline for completion – the opening of a brand new train station in London.
Meridian Water is due to welcome its first passengers coinciding with the summer timetable change on 19th May. That’s just twelve weeks away so I thought I’d pop along for a sneak peep through the hoardings and see if it’s worth ordering the cupcakes and balloons for the opening ceremony.
Meridian Water is a huge long term (twenty years) £6bn regeneration scheme in the south east corner of the London Borough of Enfield, in an area east of the Edmonton to Tottenham corridor between the North Circular Road and Northumberland Park where a massive Tesco Extra, IKEA and other retail sheds dominate the landscape to the east of the rail line. The Master Plan boasts of 10,000 homes and “thousands of high quality new jobs” benefiting the local, regional and national economy.
Commendably the project has kicked off with construction of the new Meridian Water station which began in November 2017. It’s situated on the line from Liverpool Street and Stratford via Tottenham Hale to Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. The location of the new station can be seen under construction on the above satellite image just to the west of Tesco Extra which is in the centre.
The two track railway is being enhanced with a third track which will run from the south through Tottenham Hale and Northumberland Park stations (where London bound platforms are being widened into new island platforms) and ends in a new “turn back” facility at Meridian Water.
The new station is just south of Angel Road station (as seen above and in the satellite image just north of the North Circular Road). Angel Road is famed for not only being London’s least used station but also having one of the most desolate and uninviting entrances. The station will shut when Meridian Water opens which is effectively a replacement station in a more convenient location for the development.
The extra track will enable a more frequent service with extra trains starting at Meridian Water to Stratford and Liverpool Street as the development builds over the next couple of decades.
It’ll be a slow build though as construction of the first 725 homes on land to the west of the new station (see satellite image above and photograph below) in an area endearingly called Meridian Angel isn’t due to start until next year. These new homes will be in the shadow of Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground seen in the distance – another late running construction project!
Meanwhile those few passengers who currently use Angel Road (pictured below looking south) and wander off to their homes sited north west and west of the current station will have a much longer and circuitous walk to and from the new site.
I thought it was worth visiting Angel Road to savour the dying embers of London’s iconic least used station before it closes. It doesn’t inspire, being adjacent to various scrap metal dealers and assorted light industry. As you can see from the following photographs, even the Samaritans have given up presenting a decent image. Talk about down at heel. The only bright spot was a notice pointing the way to a telephone (goodness knows why in this smartphone era) but even that proved elusive – I couldn’t find it. It’s safe to say Angel Road won’t be missed for its ambience and Meridian Water can’t come soon enough.
But is three months soon enough for the work still left to do in finishing off? I know these things always look as though they’ll never be finished in time and all of a sudden, the last bit of tarmac is laid, the paint is touched up, the windows polished and it’s all fine for the opening, but when I visited this week, the site had the usual handful of hard-hat-industrial-boots-orange-high-viz wearing construction gang present but I didn’t detect any sense of urgency as they wandered around the site sauntering up and down the vast number of steps the new station will offer its new passengers who’ll certainly keep fit to and from the platforms on their daily commute.
I may have missed it, but I didn’t spot any easy pedestrian access across from Tesco Extra and IKEA with no crossing facility at the very busy adjacent traffic light controlled junction. I also had to walk along a muddy grass verge with no footpath approaching the new site from the south. However the architects visionary mock up computer generated image shows a utopian world of just pedestrians and cyclists approaching the station and that busy junction has completely vanished.
The mock up also shows the first 750 homes (as in blocks of flats) all fully built with lots of potential passengers flocking to the station but with construction of those homes not starting until next year I’m thinking it may take a year or two for Meridian Water to climb into a busier passenger usage league. There has to be a strong chance Meridian Water’s first year will see it retaining Angel Road’s crown as the least used station in London … but with the newest and most pristine facilities!
I’m far from an expert on construction projects but it looked to me as though there’s quite a lot of ‘finishing touches’ still to be done, and then there’ll be the usual rail bureaucracy hoops to go through before the station can open (think Kenilworth) so I wouldn’t put serious money on a 19th May opening judging by what I saw this week. Still at least Angel Road can live on a bit longer, if necessary.
Further south down the line, Northumberland Park is also wrapped in hoardings with a new footbridge access over the extra track looking ready to open as is Tottenham Hale, which is undergoing a complete transformation including a new and expanded ticket hall for the Victoria Line, which I can very confidently say won’t be ready for 19th May. As the photograph below shows, there’s quite a bit of fitting out yet to do!
It will be good for the credibility of rail project deliverability if Meridian Water actually does meet its promised 19th May opening date, but it’s not looking hopeful.