Barking up the right tree

Wednesday 28th April 2021

It’s all happening in Barking. And it’s looking pretty good for the potential 26,000 public transport using residents the development known as Barking Riverside is hoping to attract as the promised 10,800 new homes planned for the next few years come on stream.

Rail operator c2c has just started work on a much welcome “multi million pound” (reportedly “five million”) redevelopment of Barking Station; TfL’s GOBLIN line extension from Barking to Barking Riverside, with a new terminus station at the latter, is well underway while ‘East London Transit’ bus routes serving the expanding Riverside area provide some of the most frequent services per head of population you’ll find anywhere.

First up, Barking Station’s revamp.

It surprised me to find out the existing c2c run station, which also sees TfL Underground and Overground trains call, is a Grade II listed building.

Today’s rather down at heel frontage is not what I’d call enticing, nor what’s amusingly called the “booking hall”, but sure enough in 1995 it was listed in recognition of the way the “fair-faced concrete and precast concrete with much glazing …. concrete roof trusses span the booking hall in three unequal pitches …. cranked over the road to provide cover for waiting cars … high level glazing surrounds the building …. fully glazed front. A well proportioned and well detailed building”.

Rebuilt in 1961, it’s now set for another revamp, and it’s good to know the heritage features identified above will be enhanced and indeed the Heritage Railway Trust are contributing £200,000 towards the project.

Thanks to Kim Rennie who kindly tweeted me a photo of how the station looked in the halcyon early 1960s and for sure it really did look attractive, so I can now understand the heritage interest and its good news c2c aim to give it the tender loving care it’s long deserved and “restore the modern Barking station to its former glory,” as their press release advised.

The station’s concourse is being redesigned with a second row of six ticket gates added and entrances from the street will be doubled in size. The existing retail units described as “clutter” will be removed and post revamp there’ll be more shops as well as new toilets and lifts.

So it’s really good news this revamp is now underway and I look forward to visiting again when it’s complete.

One reason for the station’s revamp is the expected growth in passenger numbers as the massive Barking Riverside housing development takes shape.

The 440 acre site lies between the A13 and the River Thames on brownfield land previously occupied by Barking Power Station, which is still in situ and shown bottom centre in the aerial photograph below. There’s planning permission for those 10,800 new homes with an expected eventual population of 26,000.

London Overground extension

That’s why the London Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking is being extended to a new station currently being built on the development site to be called Barking Riverside, shown in orange on the above photograph.

Originally planned to open later this year the timescale has now slipped with a late 2022 introduction now expected.

I took a look yesterday at progress and the station certainly stands out in the current rather barren area surrounding it, but of course all those new homes with potential passengers will be built in the months and years ahead. It does look a massive build for a 15 minute frequency rail terminus, but I guess the development is funding it, so why not?

I can foresee many residents using the Overground and interchanging at the revamped Barking Station on to c2c train services towards central London as well as the District and Hammersmith & City Underground lines. Based on my travels around the area yesterday I also reckon an interchange at Blackhorse Road on to the Victoria line for passengers accessing north London, Kings Cross and Oxford Circus will become popular which might put a strain on the rather basic interchange facilities at that station.

It’s excellent to see public transport infrastructure to serve Barking Riverside being established well before many of the homes are built and indeed this has also been the case with the bus routes which have been running through the development since launching in 2010.

East London Transit

TfL raised their game when introducing ‘East London Transit’ branded bus routes EL1 and EL2 in February 2010 with smart infrastructure and bus priority measures supposedly giving a BRT type feel to the project. Fast forward to today and a network of three bus routes with a PVR of an impressive 48 buses connect the area with Barking, Ilford, Becontree Heath and Goodmayes.

Route EL1 runs from Ilford and Barking and originally terminated at the eastern end of Bastable Road before being extended to Barking Reach in September 2013, which was then the southern edge of the Riverside development. As new roads took shape and more homes built it was extended again to a newly established terminus at Barking Riverside in November 2018. Route EL1 runs at a very generous frequency of every 5-6 minutes pretty much all day widening to every 10 minutes in the evening and half-hourly all through the night.

When introduced in 2010 Route EL2 also originally ran from Ilford via Barking and along the main east-west road through the area paralleling the EL1 but then continued on to terminate at Dagenham Dock Station. In 2016 it was rerouted at Barking towards Becontree Heath rather than Ilford. It runs every eight minutes through the day and every 15 minutes in the evenings.

The EL3 arrived as a route number in 2017 but had first began as route 387 in 1993 running from Little Heath and Goodmayes through Barking to Creekmouth just to the west of the Barking Riverside area. It was rerouted to Barking Reach in 2001. It currently runs every 10 minutes during the day and every 20 minutes in the evenings.

The resultant combination of routes means the main residential roads through Barking Riverside, in particular the east-west Bastable Avenue, enjoy frequencies of around 19 buses an hour. It’s very impressive. You certainly don’t have to wait long for a bus.

All the more impressive at the moment, south of the original route EL1 terminus – on the last seven minutes of the route – between what TfL call Barking Reach and Barking Riverside there’s a five minute frequency service for a small number of lucky residents who’ve already moved into the homes built close to the rather generously apportioned new terminal point.

And, this being TfL, there was pretty much always four buses laying over during the late morning period of my visit yesterday which did smack of some rather slack scheduling.

As part of the initial ‘East London Transit’ launch smart new bus shelters with prominent road markings were installed at bus stops along the routes and were all branded with the same red and orange colour scheme applied to the buses allocated to the routes. This continued in 2017 when New Routemasters were allocated to the three routes, presumably as a useful home for these buses, even though their two-staircase three-door facility are hardly relevant to the routes.

I noticed some of the original shelters installed eleven years ago are looking a little uncared for these days…

… and it’s a shame the poster cases have effectively become redundant since spider maps were discontinued, making all the letters installed on the bus stop flags throughout the area irrelevant.

More positively many of the bus shelters have real time information installed, even those close, and in the direction of, the Barking Riverside terminus, where I doubt anyone boards.

Not so impressive are the timetable case displays, which really don’t come across as very professionally laid out.

The introductory infrastructure package also included some natty bus priority measures along Bastable Avenue, but I’ve always thought these have had more of a ‘tick-box’ aspect to them rather than actually being useful in any practical way to speed up journeys. I guess they served a purpose in that they won an infrastructure award for TfL at the 2010 UK Bus Awards.

The centrepiece is a roundabout in the middle of Bastable Avenue by a health centre, community centre and some local shops where a two-way bus only lane with bus stops runs through the centre while through traffic goes around the outside.

Bastable Avenue has a 7ft width restriction which exempts buses and at the eastern end this is laid out so buses pass through the centre of the road in a short “bus lane” but I son’t see why it’s needed if the width restriction was self enforcing with a camera. It looks good though.

On the new section of route south of the old Barking Reach terminus a short stretch of bus lane has been incorporated into a road junction for southbound buses taking them directly to a traffic light controlled road junction. It’s all very quiet there at the moment, but I suppose highway managers expect a busier time in the future.

Another bit of priority which has always puzzled me is in central Barking where the three ‘East London Transit’ bus routes are allowed to use Ripple Road with its bus stops located very conveniently for the shops and market whereas all the other ‘ordinary bus routes’ have to take a circuitous detour ‘around the back streets’ and offer less convenient bus stops. This really makes no sense at all.

The low density homes built early in the development at Barking Riverside look very attractive with an air of space and greenery.

But south of the interim terminus for route EL1., and now the terminal point for route EL3, at Barking Reach the build height increases upwards …

… and further towards the new terminus for route EL1 there’s a distinct change to become a higher density ‘apartment land’ rather than house and garden territory.

I didn’t see any local shops incorporated into this apartment zone, but between the site of Barking Riverside Station and the new terminal point for route EL1 is a large secondary school which has been open for a few years – called Riverside Campus.

It also incorporates a nursery. TfL schedule extra journeys on the EL1 and some extended journeys on the EL3 to serve this education complex at start and finish times and I would imagine they get very busy.

As you’d expect there’s plenty of enticement for you to “be, become and belong” to Barking Riverside online. The Barking Riverside website boasts “state-of-the-art infrastructure” including a “healthy town”, “direct river access” (Thames Clippers – aka Uber Boat – are building a new pier for their River boat service to call), “7 new schools”, “21 hectares of open space and sports pitches”, “community-led infrastructure” etc etc.

But for me, the online glossy images don’t quite capture the reality as the homes are slowly taking shape.

If you do fancy a frequent bus service outside your flat and living close to a newly built train station bringing you a newly extended railway line, albeit one that’ll probably involve you in changing trains along your route, then there’s a large sales office onsite located conveniently right next to the new route EL1 bus terminus.

And it comes with a handy car park too!

Roger French

2 thoughts on “Barking up the right tree

Add yours

  1. This is the way to do it, the way that we in the UK choose so seldom – get the heavy infrastructure in first, and lead the formation of travel patterns, rather than coming in late to follow already established travel patterns, which may not be the right patterns.


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