Saturday, 31 January 2015

Walthamstow Central - new entrances

Sent: Sunday, 18 January 2015, 18:43
Subject: MOST URGENT: - Possible serious public safety hazard, Walthamstow Central Station

Dear All,
I am sufficiently concerned about the state of ongoing works at Walthamstow Central Station, that appear constitute a very serious safety hazard in the making, that I am writing to you all, as a warning and possible wake-up call, before any innocent persons are hurt, injured or killed.  If my concerns seem realistic to you, can you please take whatever actions seem necessary to you to ensure public safety and alert any other authorities whom I have not included in the header list to this communication.
Although the current franchisee for the services to Chingford, “Abellio Greater Anglia” only have until the middle of may this year ( less than 5 months) of their franchise to run, works are taking place at Walthamstow Central station, to completely separate the passenger flows between “their” part of the station and that used by TfL’s “Underground” ( Victoria Line ) passengers.  The fact that, after the end of May 2015, the entire station will be operated by various arms of Tfl seems to be irrelevant to them.   Or, for that matter, to the DfT, who are usually behind the drive to install automatic ticket-barriers everywhere without consideration of any other circumstances, incidentally.   Please see my “Note and P.S”. – below.
In the course of these works, it has become apparent to me that a potentially extremely dangerous situation is being created.   To repeat what I stated above, in seems all too likely that vulnerable passengers may be seriously injured or killed.
In the evening “rush-hour” period, if one emerges from the Victoria Line, you have three choices of exit: 
1: To the right, under the “main” lines, up on to the “up” platform and out into the old station forecourt on the south side.
2: To the left, under the road and up into the bus station.
3: Directly up two sets of stairs, set at right-angles, with a small mezzanine, and on to the “down” platform, then out into Selbourne Rd.
It is the reconstruction of this third option, taken by huge numbers of people that is of concern.
Here is view of the first set of stairs up from the Victoria-line ticket barriers:

Once you have reached the little mezzanine, you turn right and are then facing the second set of stairs, like this:

The width of these double stairs leading up from tube/bus station underpass to the “down” platform is: 2.94m ( = 9ft 7 ins, approx ).  It is easy to see, during the evening peak that people come up here, three abreast on each side – there is usually just room for a potential passenger going in to London , to squeeze along the edge.
However, in the new arrangements, once reaching the top of these stairs, people will turn left as before, but they will now be constrained in to a much narrower passageway, shown in the next picture as the distance between the sets of upright steel posts:

The width of the new “passageway” between new upright poles on platform: 1.83m (= 6ft approx ).  This is only 2/3rds of the staircase width.  This will almost certainly cause crowding and congestion.
However, at the end of this new passage, people will again have to turn left through a 3rd blind right angle, to be confronted with a really narrow exit gateway, as shown here:

The width of this entrance/egress gateway: 1.18m (= 3ft 10 ins approx )
In other words, if you are lucky, just wide enough for two people, if they are fit, limber and not encumbered with say, a wheeled luggage-trolley, a buggy or a child.
Here is a picture looking in to the same opening:

So, it appears that a passageway that has, since the Victoria Line opened in 1969, that is wide enough for 6 people is going to be restricted, after three blind corners, to a very narrow-pinch-point, of at the most, two-persons width.  Furthermore, as should be clear from the pictures there are other obstructions/hazards in this opening.
As if that was not enough, and as a subsidiary issue, it is quite clear, that in the AM peak, it will be quite impossible for people leaving the Victoria line tube to enter the new passageway, as the press of incoming traffic will be too great.  Similarly, in the PM peak, anyone wishing to go in to London on the Victoria line will be unable to enter via this route, since it will be dangerously crowded with ex-passenger trying to leave the station.
Neither of these is a desirable outcome, either.
It is my considered opinion that this is such a potential disaster waiting to happen.  It only requires a child or a parent with a pushchair or a luggage-trolley to trip, or to get caught in the extremely narrow exit gate for an immediate crushing incident to occur, with an injurious or fatal outcome.
Remember that the people behind, still trying to exit the station, will not be able to see anything, as they will be turning through three right-angles before they are aware of anything amiss.  By which time it will be much too late.
The “stairway to heaven” disaster at Bethnal Green, 3rd March 1943, should have taught people of the dangers of this sort of situation, never mind more recent occurrences, such as that at Hillsborough.
I am urging all of you, as responsible persons and authorities to please investigate and hopefully put a stop to this disaster-in-the-making, before anyone is seriously injured or killed.
Yours sincerely,

G. N. G. Tingey.
M.Sc. Eng.
Note and P.S.
If it is deemed really essential to fit automatic gated barriers to all of Walthamstow Central station, then a safe method of doing so should be obvious: namely, to wait for implementation until after the complete TfL takeover at the end of May 2015.   At this point remove those gates at the head of the Victoria Line escalators, and then fit the gates in a perimeter, on to both the platforms of the old, surface station, at the new entrance to the subway/passageway at the South end, and in a wide row across the entrance at the other end, in the Bus station.   The Underground ticket machines would also need re-locating to under cover in the same Bus station.
Problem solved, without dangerous pinch-points, narrow “alleys” or other hazards to movement and circulation.

Dear Stella,

Thanks for the quick response, the alterations to passenger flow and installation of ticket gates for the National Rail platforms is being driven by Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA) with support from Network Rail (NR), the owners of the surface station. TfL, at the moment, have very little involvement until the 'heavy rail' station lease passes from AGA to London Overground on 31 May. However I'm sure that TfL were consulted by AGA and cannot have raised any objection to the works AGA wanted to carry out.

I attach some photographs I took on Saturday evening on the 'down' side of the station (Platform 2) to try an illustrate what is being implemented.

  1.  Shows what will be the Underground entrance on the far right. A high wall or steel fence will run from the nearest side of that entrance behind the Oyster reader out to the nearest of the new steel columns in red oxide and wrapped in yellow/black hazard tape. The wall or fence will then run between the new columns along the platform before turning to finish against the wall on the far side of the steps down to the Victoria Line escalator hall.
  2. The Underground entrance/exit will be between these two red column, the National Rail booking hall is the right of the glass screen.
  3. To the left of the yellow/black striped posts is the route between the top of the stairs to the escalator hall and the entrance/exit to Selborne Road. To the right of the yellow/black taped columns is the National Rail platform and route to the AGA gateline and booking hall entrance/exit to Selborne Road.
  4. A look at the Underground entrance from the foot of the ramp from Selborne Road. To pass between the National Rail station and the subway and Victoria Line passengers will have to pass around the end of the glass screen nearest the camera.
  5. A view of the the partially installed AGA gateline, the wide disabled/heavy luggage gate is nearest the camera.
My concern is the safety implications of funnelling Underground passengers through this bottleneck of a passageway and the inconvenience for passengers in having to go right out of the station before entering again if they want to interchange between Victoria Line and Chingford Line. If you share my concerns perhaps you can take it up with Abellio Greater Anglia & Network Rail? You could also ask TfL London Rail if they are happy with what they will be taking over in June? If you need a complaint from a constituent to start the process, I can't help you (I'm too ashamed to admit to who my MP is!), but I think I could find a constituent of yours to write such a complaint.

Kind regards


Sent: Friday, 9 January 2015, 16:56
Subject: Re: Train services

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your good wishes. I am aware that I still owe you a reply to your email in late November/early December about the Network Rail land on the marshes. Hopefully I will manage to work through my inbox and get back to it.

I don't think TfL really know how to cope with a multi-company bus strike. After all that's why the routes were put out to tender by the Thatcher Government in the first place, same as Major privatising the railways - divide and rule. It's still quite possible the companies, or some of them may go to the High Court and get an injuction to overturn all or some of the strike ballots at least so that it stops all the companies' staff striking on one day while UNITE have to ballot some company's staff all over again. Got some experience of this sort of thing from my years as an RMT lay representative post privatisation.

TfL sanctioned LOROL hiring a lot of agency staff for crowd control during the Underground strikes but I don't know if they will for a bus strike. You certainly won't see any extra staff on Abellio Greater Anglia  or c2c stations! Mustn't spend the shareholders' dividends! Anyway I couldn't miss an opportunity to highlight the overcrowding on the Barking - Gospel Oak. You can keep up to date by following our Twitter feed @RidingtheGoblin or viewing it on our website home page.

I tried to clarify the situation at Walthamstow Central in my comments on the story on the WFG's website. The station subway was built as part of the Victoria Line construction, opening in mid 1968. It is therefore owned by London Underground Ltd. A year or two later British Rail removed the station covered footbridge which stood at The Chingford end of the platform canopies. I assume this was to save maintenance costs, but it only left the Underground owned subway. Until fairly recent times the Victoria Line used to start later in the mornings, especially on Sundays when the first train was 07:30. Durin the time the Vic Line was closed the "Bostwick" gates at the BR platform entrances to the subway were shut and BR passengers had to walk over Hoe Street bridge to reach the opposite platform. Once ticket gates were installed at the top of the Vic Line escalator hall in the early 1990s it wasn't so important to close the subway gates when the Vic Line wasn't running and they were left open most of the time.

What is happening now is that National Rail passengers are to be excluded from the subway again. LUL have already, behind a hoarding demolished the wall at the top of the stairs on Platform 1 (to London) and the exit onto the National Rail platform will be closed and the new subway entrance/exit will be right by the mini-cab office. The route into the Underground from Selborne Road will be as follows. At the foot of the ramp down from opposite the bus station is a new glass screen running out to the platform. To the left of that screen will be the new National Rail ticket gates. To the right of the screen is a narrow steel gate leading onto the platform. The narrow steel gate will be the new Underground/subway entrance. Running along the centre line of the National Rail platform 2 (to Chingford) will be a high wall or steel fence to the entrance steps down to the escalator hall, the wall/fence keeping National Rail and Underground passengers segregated. That's about the best way I can explain it.

The rather make-shift 'new' National Rail booking office on the Chingford side will be the sole booking office on the station. On the London side, the booking office is already permanently closed. It is to be turned into a waiting room. The exit from the booking hall onto the London platform will have to widened to accommodate the new ticket gates. A minimun will be two standard gates and a wide one.

I am quite happy to do a site visit with you if you want. I was going to ask Tobias for a site visit anyway, to discuss problems with the walking route from the station to Ray Dudley Way.



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