Tuesday, 14 October 2008

New railway stations in West London

It's not often that new stations are an item of news - for years we've been more accustomed to station closures, but there's a whole raft of them currently appearing in West London - including one opening today.

The stimulus for all this work - at least around Shepherd's Bush - has been the development of the huge White City shopping development by Westfield. Included as part of a £200m package of transport improvements, financed by the developer, are two new stations and a refurbished one.

The first to open, on 29th September, was the brand new station on the West London Line at Shepherd's Bush, adjacent to the existing Central Line station. Part of the 'Overground' service and now operated by London Transport, the station features fully accessible platforms and a light and airy ticket office. There were teething troubles in its construction - a mistake on the platform width led to some expensive rebuilding, as well as delaying the opening - but it should now be a huge boon to the area. It will be served by the half-hourly Willesden Junction to Clapham Junction service.

Second was the re-opening of the Central Line station next door, which has been closed while the station was enlarged and refurbished. As well as the Westfield development, the station will also act as an interchange with the new Overground station 200 metres away. It has new escalators, a shiny new silver metal entrance block and lots of additional ticket gates, to help cope with the additional passengers anticipated once the shopping centre gets into full swing.

And today, a third station was opened in the area, this time a completely new one on the Hammersmith and City line at Wood Lane. Built on the western side of the Westfield development, this will be additional to the existing Shepherd's Bush Hammersmith & City station, which will be renamed Shepherd's Bush Market to avoid confusion with Shepherd's Bush Central line station. Wood Lane is again fully accessible, with four lifts, and a modern steel and glass structure enclosing the existing Victorian brick arches. Indeed, it claims to be the first new station on an existing tube line for 70 years.

Finally, a bit further south, another new station is beginning to take shape on the West London line at Chelsea Harbour, as part of new housing and hotel developments at Imperial Wharf. The station is not due to open until 2010, but will radically improve access to what has been a bit of a public transport dead end in West London for many years.

With all these new stations, the West London Line will move from being something of a Cinderella line to an integral part of West London's transport infrastructure. However, there are already questions about its capacity, given that peak-hour trains are already full. Plans are in place to help tackle this, with new air-conditioned trains on order, with four rather than three coaches, and a new timetable planned for 2011 which will see four trains an hour rather than the current two.

So - some good news for a change!

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