Thursday 21st July 2022
As TfL advised “do not travel” due to the record breaking temperatures, Monday also saw the much anticipated 2.8 mile extension to the Overground from Barking to Barking Riverside open for business. It brings a 15 minute rail service taking a scheduled seven minutes to the huge 179-hectare brownfield site on the north bank of the Thames. Until now planning conditions have severely limited the number of new homes which could be constructed to 4,000.
Originally planned for opening in December 2021, then reprogrammed to December 2022, it’s rather cheekily being billed as an opening “ahead of schedule”.
That twelve (reduced to seven) months delay has been blamed on “issues diverting utilities combined with Covid-19 restrictions”. These “issues” included “unchartered utilities” identified as a Thames Water pipe and telecoms cabling.
Now the extension is open, and pretty much trumps bus route EL1 which has been operating to Riverside with a 25 minute journey time from central Barking since way back in 2013 and Thames Clipper’s (aka UberBoat) peak hour weekday service (all day at weekends) introduced earlier this year, it’ll be full steam ahead building thousands more houses and flats (6,800) destined for the site of the former Barking Power Station.
The extension was originally budgeted to cost £260 million but has come in at £327 million due to the aforementioned unexpected engineering problems and the need to change working methods at the height of the pandemic.
What’s called “passive provision” has been made for an additional station on the extension at Renwick Road when another planned housing development for 11,000 homes to the north of the area becomes a reality.
The new tracks leave Barking station on the southern most platforms (7 and 8) used by c2c trains to Rainham and Tilbury.
Overground trains from Gospel Oak now use these tracks for one and a half miles before taking a new spur through DB Cargo’s terminal rising to a new viaduct and over Choats Road.
The new tracks continue for about a mile where you can see the current terminus of bus route EL1 and the homes that have been built….
….. continuing to the new elevated station south of what’s planned as a retail area with shops, healthcare services and commercial outlets.
Residents destined for central London now have a choice of connections at Barking – c2c to West Ham (for the Jubilee line) and Fenchurch Street or the Hammersmith & City line. Another option is to stay with Overground to Blackhorse Road and change there to the Victoria line.
With the heatwave abated I popped over to have a look at the extension yesterday morning. It was good to see around half a dozen or so passengers getting on and off trains but as befits the surrounding barren land it was generally eerily quiet.
The new elevated station has a central platform with tracks for terminating trains either side. As the actual journey time only takes four to five minutes instead of the scheduled seven a train arrives from Gospel Oak just seconds before the previous one leaves which saves time waiting for the crossover to clear.
Two lifts and/or a two-part staircase take you down to ground level ….
…. where there’s a gateline and an entrance hall with ticket machines and office.
Not surprisingly there are no retail outlets yet and I was a bit surprised buses on route EL1 which pass close by ….
….. haven’t been rerouted into the drop off circle immediately outside the station where there are two ‘loading bay’ spaces with a 15 minute limit (“no grace period” – it’s “private land”).
You’d also have thought TfL could have arranged for bus stops to be much closer to the new station. They’re quite a long walk away. As it is the nearest bus stops haven’t even been upgraded from their temporary status. Still.
A poor show for integrated travel which TfL are supposed to be leaders in.
But, no expense spared for cyclists ….
…. who have their own secure parking facility ….
…. although I’m not sure how it works to have turnstile access when that shutter door is closed?
There’s the usual posters, next train(s) signs around the station and generally it’s all to a good functional as well as attractive design and will serve the growing Barking Riverside population well.
A shout out to TfL and their joint venture partners Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure and VolkerFitzpatrick for completing an impressive project.
It’s just a shame about that poor bus interchange.
As Barking Riverside is set to enjoy its frequent new rail service, adding about five minutes to the network, over in the far south east corner of London, five minutes is being lobbed off a bus route that’s being cut back from Saturday.
The cut is pretty minor involving just three bus stops in the rural area bordering Kent through the hamlet of Maypole close to Chelsfield village.
TfL states the stops are only used by an average of 16 passengers per day. I’m surprised it’s that many when you look at the sparsely inhabited area on Google maps.
By avoiding the circular route via Maypole and it’s rather quaintly named Bo-Peep pub and instead taking a shorter return journey in Chelsfield village itself…
…. it’s hoped the half hourly route R7, which continues through to Chislehurst after Orpington with a 50 minute journey time will become more reliable while causing minimal inconvenience to the small number left unserved.
The clockwise loop via Bucks Green road, Maypole Road and Hewitts Road is very rural and narrow by TfL bus route standards….
….. including passing by Bo-Peep pub.
I had a ride on the route back in 2019 but took a ride again yesterday afternoon for one last time around the circuit and although three passengers boarded at the terminus we didn’t pick anyone else up at the three soon-to-be-abandoned stops.
Although it was touch and go as we passed by Bo-Peep pub where there was a huge crowd waiting by the bus stop and I could sense the driver’s alarm as she saw them all and began to pull up at the bus stop thinking they’ll never all fit on the bus.
Luckily they must have just been pausing on a ramble of some kind and let the bus go by.
It took us five and a half minutes to do the circuit so that’ll be time in the bank from Saturday to make the service more reliable. Mind you the current timetable already allows for ten minutes layover by the Five Bells pub in Chelsfield Village during which time you could easily walk to the first about-to-be-abandoned bus stop in Bucks Green Road.
TfL says there’ll be a new timetable from Saturday presumably adding some, if not all, of the five minutes saved due to the curtailed route, to the layover at Chislehurst which is also currently 10 minutes. So in a two hour rounder there’ll now be 25 minutes layover which sounds a bit generous to me, but probably about right for TfL and its penchant for inefficient layovers.
It’ll be interesting to see if the new timetable is posted at bus stops from Saturday. You’d hope so, but on past experience I’m doubtful.
It would have been helpful to post it in one of the two vacant spaces at the same time as putting up the yellow notice about the change. But that’s not how things work these days.
It’s instructive to note TfL, as befits its mandate, went through the usual full blown consultation procedure to assess public responses to Saturday’s change a year ago in July 2021. Unsurprisingly the consultation didn’t attract a very big response with only 167 replies (including 6 stakeholders) and as expected TfL reported “from the responses we received to the open questions, there was general opposition to the proposal from both the public and stakeholders.”
TfL know a thing or two about consultation responses – people impacted are hardly going to welcome the withdrawal of their bus service – so ignored the responses and go ahead with the changed route from Saturday.
And in a classic of its genre of why consultations such as this are really just a ‘tick box’ and ‘going through the motions’ exercise, TfL adds “we would like to provide assurance that all comments are taken into full consideration when proposals are being developed. We use consultation to make a better informed decision. Often consultation will highlight issues that we may not have considered as part of the planning process. The consultation also forms part of a wider decision making process that includes looking at impacts on passengers across the whole service. It is not always possible to accommodate every request and suggestion.”
So there you have it. What TfL gives to Barking Riversiders it takes from Maypolians.
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