Boris plan wants to bulldoze West Croydon bus station

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Plans announced this week suggest a drastic solution to the issue of bus and tram congestion alongside the soon-to-be £1billion Hammersfield shopping centre – knock down the bus garage. The replacement proposed, says ANDREW PELLING, lacks imagination, proper investment and, above all, a bus garage

Mayor Boris Johnson’s Transport for London has made a planning application to “transform” the West Croydon bus station.

West Croydon bus stationThe proposal is a serious blow to Croydon’s twin aspirations of providing an adequate transport capacity to serve the £1bn “Hammersfield” redevelopment and to regenerate West Croydon after the riots.

TfL’s proposals contain hardly any effort to integrate bus, tram and Overground transport at a site where these three public transport modes are coterminous.

The TfL press release issued this week boasts, “The plans submitted today focus on customer and passenger needs, with a significant improvement in the bus station environment – that will be made more light and airy.”

The “more light and airy” theme will be achieved by knocking down the current bus station, which opened in 1983, and … failing to build a new one.

No figure is given for the cost of the proposed works – something which is usually indicative of there being very little money indeed being spent on a project. In an especially unimaginative proposal, the aim is to give more space for parking buses and to reduce TfL’s liability for a building that hosts the hotspot for a daily 4pm crime peak related to travelling school pupils.

TfL’s architect’s statement in support of its application baldly admits the loss of the facility, “The ‘oversized pavilion’ is replaced by an open concourse with two smaller buildings, consisting of a retail unit and an operational building.”

The bus station is a stressed facility that struggles to serve 23 bus routes that run to 11  different boroughs, serving one-third of Greater London.

The changes to the station are supposedly meant to deliver on a 2011 promise to transform London’s bus stations. Dana Skelley, TfL’s director of asset management, says, “We know what an important transport hub West Croydon Bus Station is to many local people.”

Demolishing it, therefore seems an odd way of recognising that value, as TfL wants passengers banished to the elements.

Skelley goes on to recognise Croydon’s possible redevelopment in the context of the proposed Hammersfield shopping centre nearby, saying of the bus station, “Its importance is only going to grow as the London Borough of Croydon publishes it ambitious plans for the town.

“Granting of planning permission for these proposed improvements would enable TfL to support Croydon’s aspirations for south London and welcome passengers to one of the gateways to Croydon by the start of 2016.”

Gateways are normally more substantive than this.

Capacity constraints are an issue for TfL. The 57 per cent increase in bus travel since 2000, when Ken Livingstone genuinely sought to transform bus ridership through increased subsidies of buses by the tax system, has left “physical modal interchange infrastructure”, or bus stations, struggling to cope.

Capacity for buses, it is hoped, will also come with the demolition of two buildings in Station Road when a commercial development takes place.

The scheme is especially disappointing with the effort to integrate bus services with tram and London Overground services limited to vague promises of pedestrian crossings.

There is no effort, either, to see whether there would be a community of commercial interest to co-develop with the new owners of the Delta Point building, Criterion Capital, where 348 flats are to be located.

This is not the gateway to the new Hammersfield that will boost the town’s prospects.

Croydon Council was pusillanimous in securing only very modest amounts of Section 106 money from the new shopping development. This developers’ cash was needed to boost key transport access to serve the needs of the development itself.

When councils fail to secure significant funding for such vital pieces of infrastructure, it is these types of poor public transport proposals that come forward.

Perhaps Croydon’s current London Assembly member, Steve O’Connell, feels that bus passengers from the north of the borough are less important for the new Croydon than the “north Surrey wallet share”, carried into Croydon by car, of the better-off shoppers from south of the border that O’Connell fawningly obsesses about in front of Mayor Johnson at City Hall.

  • Andrew Pelling was the Greater London Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton from 2000 to 2008

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2 Responses to Boris plan wants to bulldoze West Croydon bus station

  1. Well said Andrew.

    If Croydon Council had any political integrity it would reject this application out of hand and ask the Mayor of London to explain the downgrading of his public transport plans for West Croydon.

    As I recall, the idea was to rebuild the overground station to include a deck above the tracks that would act as a bus terminus.

    The additional cost was to come from development of offices or residential accommodation above the new station and redevelopment of the existing bus station once work on the transport interchange was complete.

    Now that’s what I call a gateway.

    Andrew, if you are successful in the forthcoming council elections, I trust that you and your Labour colleagues will press Mayor Johnson further on these proposals.

  2. Mary Wolf says:

    Having had a very gloomy experience wandering round the back end of Westfield Stratford yesterday evening, in an area where some buses appear to gather, I can only say, save West Croydon transport interchange.

    It is immensely valuable. Improve it. Surely it must be in Westfield’s interest to UPGRADE, if anything?

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