Town Hall’s dynamic duo on wrong track over East Croydon

CROYDON COMMENTARY: As commuters face a fortnight of rail disruption (yes, some still work over Christmas), our local politicians and officials are spending their time proposing unnecessary re-naming schemes. It is an admission that they have run out of ideas, writes STEVEN DOWNES

The vacuousness of local politics, and local politicians, appears without end.

cropped-east_croydon_station_signage.jpgThis is not an opinion formed overnight.

But when the best initiative that the highly paid numb-nuts at Fisher’s Folly can come up with is to announce a desire to re-name East Croydon Station, then you can only conclude that they have lost the plot.

As of this weekend, rail services ceased running into London Bridge for two weeks to enable engineering works to be conducted in and around the commuter terminus (with Network Rail’s fingers crossed that the work can be completed in that time). Got to get to work in The City or Southwark on Monday, a normal working day? Tough.

For residents of Coulsdon, Oxted and neighbouring smaller stations in east Surrey, a new timetable and inferior service into London is being slipped in under the radar by Thameslink’s new franchise-holders (the consultation can be seen and responded to here).

But what is Our Brave Leader, Tony Newman doing? He’s announcing that he wants to change the name of the borough’s biggest, busiest transport hub, to Croydon Central.

This is such a blatantly bullshit idea, it ought to have been binned the moment anyone dared air it. That it was not suggests a real paucity of worthwhile initiatives at the Town Hall.

With anything such as this proposal, there are usually two questions which need asking:

  • How much will it cost?
  • What are the benefits?

In this case, the answers are:

  • an estimated £200,000 (the costs being carried by the council, Network Rail and Transport for London, in utterly unnecessary re-signing around the capital’s transport network and in updating the national railway’s ticketing network), and
  • absolutely nothing.

Two hundred grand for zilch? By Croydon’s recent standards, that might seem like a bargain. Little wonder that Nathan Elvery, the council CEO, has a hand in it.

East Croydon stationThe proposal to re-name East Croydon station has all the signs of the desperation that was evident in the previous Conservative administration’s wasteful pursuit of city status for our London borough.

You might think there are more urgent priorities. But no. Newman and his inseparable new buddy, Elvery, have decided that a facile name change is important.

Re-branding rarely works. Initial confusion might be followed by grudging acceptance, if you’re lucky. Re-naming the Post Office as “Consignia” was an expensive waste of public money. Surrey Docks has become the far more Yuppie-friendly “Surrey Quays”, but the River Thames continues to flow past the old docks and Bermondsey is still Bermondsey.

And try this little test: what do you call Croydon’s biggest hospital? Yes, the one on Mayday Road…

So any re-branding of East Croydon is likely to be expensive and initially confusing. With two other stations also with “Croydon” in their title, that confusion is liable to roll out to affect commuters on platforms there, too. Three times the fun.

What possible purpose might it serve? To meet with the approval of shopping mall developers Westfield, perhaps, or the well-financed lobbyists behind Gatwick’s airport expansion? It certainly isn’t something which has residents or commuters manning the barricades.

It is not as if having the station called East Croydon is deterring people from using it. Figures from the Office of Rail Regulation showed the number of passenger entries and exits from the station up by 832,000 in 2013-2014, to 21.8 million.

A further 6.9 million passengers used the station to change trains.

The sales patter for the name change includes many macho references to size, the sort of thing last heard when Elvery and his colleagues, while “serving” a Tory council,  were wasting their time and our money by making an absurdly weak case for city status.

“We are a much bigger place. We would be the seventh largest city in the country if it was anywhere else other than the edge of London – and I think it’s time we started acting like it,” was council leader Newman’s argument for the name change.

LBSCR sign 1865 East CroydonThere was even the ludicrous suggestion that Newman and Elvery want to “position” Croydon as “the economic capital of south-east England”. Have they never heard of a place called London?

Elvery belittled those who might have reservations about the name change: “If you don’t start making your mark and being bold about things, it will just carry on and we will be seen as a continued suburb of London rather than the geographical economic hub, which we truly are for London.” This man is paid £180,000 per year for this sort of guff.

East Croydon, according to Elvery, “makes no sense whatsoever”. Who knew that Elvery was so easily confused?

Special bit for railway buffs

The station name of East Croydon dates from five years after the station’s establishment in 1841, when it was first called Croydon.

Despite Elvery’s pleadings, the name East Croydon does make a lot of sense. The station is at the very eastern end of the town centre and the Croydon Opportunity Area.

To call the station Croydon Central would be to mislead people as the station is most definitely not in the town centre. Misleading people, though, is what people are coming to expect from politicians and, it seems, council officials.

steam trainCroydon did have a Central Croydon station, where the Town Hall now stands in Katharine Street. Some of the station walls can still be seen in the sunken part of Queen’s Gardens. The historical presence underlines further how the proposed name change would be a geographical fiction.

The Victorian extension to Central Croydon was an unmitigated failure, closing after just three years. The line was re-opened 15 years later but again to no success, this time lasting just four years. That is a clear lesson for railway people to ignore foolish ideas emanating from Croydon Town Hall.

But alongside the re-naming proposal’s whimsy comes the blatant efforts of deceit. That such sleight of hand is being attempted so early in Labour’s administration of Croydon Town Hall is as worrying as it is a disappointment, as Newman and Elvery attempt to distract from lack of significant achievement elsewhere.

Rather than sounding off about fanciful name changes, the council would achieve more for Croydon if it secured the connection of the Bridge to Nowhere to Addiscombe, or untangled the bottleneck on the road that delays eastbound buses typically for five minutes or more, or dealt with the frequent intimidation of female passengers that haunts the station exits most nights.

Croydon has an image problem (© Gavin Barwell) in large part because our civic leaders continue to spout obviously laughable nonsense. “The economic hub of south-east England”? Who do they think they’re fooling? Certainly not any serious investors who might consider bringing their money, and business, to our outer London borough.

Coming to Croydon


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15 Responses to Town Hall’s dynamic duo on wrong track over East Croydon

  1. Renaming and relabelling never really solve anything.

    But for once here is an opportunity here not to be missed. Why not go the whole way and rename East Croydon as Hammersfield? That’s the main reason behind the proposals and it would please everyone, Gav, David Brent, Tony Newman, Whitgift, Developers, Traders… everyone, in fact, except the good citizens of Croydon.

  2. Nick Davies says:

    If they wanted to do something really useful they could re-open the subway.

    Outside the peak, most local trains are four coaches long and stop well short of the stairs which point, incomprehensibly, away from the action. In the old days if you needed to change on to a Purley-bound train, positioned correctly you could be down the subway and back up to Platform 6 and on your next train in a matter of moments. Now you have to go some way beyond the back of the train you’ve got off, come back on yourself up the stairs, reverse the process at the other end and sprint down the platform to jump on the back of the train.

    If your incoming train is held up, or you’re stuck behind someone struggling up the stairs with heavy cases and kids in tow because the lifts are broken as usual, you’ll see two red lights disappearing into the gloom and be doomed to a 29-minute wait in less then life enhancing surroundings.

    Did whoever designed that bridge ask the travelling public how it would best suit their needs? Or was it just a PowerPoint slide in some presentation which nobody actually saw because they were all fiddling with their phones?

    • baw30s says:

      I sympathise with this: it seems to me that costly ugly new bridges are being introduced at stations to improve “accessibility” and yet paradoxically always seem to entail far more steps and walking than the structures they replace. Why is the new bridge so high? I wonder if there are plans to introduce taller double-decker trains, as mooted recently in the Evening Standard, and yet how would they pass under older bridges, like the one upon which East Croydon station (may it keep its name) is situated?

      • Nick Davies says:

        I think they look higher because of the roof and lift gear but that the clearance is much the same. I wonder how much more it would have costed to fit escalators; or maybe they didn’t bother because the effort of keeping them working for more than a couple of days at a time would be beyond them.

        It would cost billions to rebuild all the tunnels through the Downs on the Southern and South Eastern routes to take bigger trains. Moving to double deckers is more feasible on the South Western lines which cover flatter territory in the Thames Valley and beyond.

  3. I’m so pleased that the Council believes £200k+ of taxpayers’ money is to be used for this important part of Croydon’s image change. What next? Why not spell C R O Y D O N in 14m high letters on Riddlesdown Common (facing south) to really hammer it home. In for a £100k, in for a £1m.

  4. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    Harebrain scheme to rename East Croydon – waste of money!

  5. davidcallam says:

    Next year some of us will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Croydon becoming a London borough.
    By contrast, our civic leaders will keep banging on about city status or the latest codswallop about being the economic hub of the south-east
    We have an important role to play in London government, if only our local politicians would stop their Ukip-like yearning for the past.

  6. joeycan says:

    I read the article about re-naming East Croydon station as Croydon Central and could not believe that a more asinine proposal could be made by this newly-elected Labour Council, currently faced with serious financial problems.

    The CEO of the Council, Nathan Elvery, who is purported to have some financial nous enthusiastically agrees with the mad plan. He knows, perhaps more that most Councillors, how much any consultancy contract will cost, how much the REAL cost of renovating Purley Pool will be and how much the needless work to realign the Purley Way flyover is at present costing.

    The two stations currently serving Croydon are either side of the Wellesley Road meridian; self-evidently, ‘West Croydon’ is to the West and ‘East Croydon’ is to the East. There is nothing illogical about the nomenclature.

    Central Croydon bisects that meridian and as those with some knowledge of the history of their town know, the Town Hall in Katharine Street and the ‘historic’ part of Queens Gardens form part of what was accurately described as Croydon Central station in the late nineteenth Century.

    It is hardly reasonable to assume that both structures will be levelled to re-instate a previously failed station, but what could happen, if this stupid idea is allowed to develop, with the support of the Conservative opposition(although, it would seem to his credit, not with the approval of the Croydon Central Conservative MP), is that scarce internal council resources, already severely stretched, will be side-tracked further into delaying this Administration’s other, perhaps, more worthy ideas. This, cynically, could be a Conservative game-plan designed to delay or curtail future projects which they might not want to pursue of which might,to their frustration, be completed within the time-frame of the present Council’s tenure.

    In view of the furore that accompanied the re-branding of Smitham to Coulsdon central, which was not in the same league as East Croydon, but had some logic, but with the possibility of eye-watering costs, the Council might want to think again about this insane current proposal.

    Incidentally, on a geographical note, I can walk from West Croydon station to the town centre/shopping precinct in far less time than from East Croydon station.

  7. This is an ultra-nincompoopobulous idea. Whoever dreamed up this proposal has presumably never heard of the real Croydon Central station, which used to be in Queen’s Gardens. Or are they going to build a new “East Croydon” station somewhere in Shirley?

  8. Nick Davies says:

    Just having a nose round the web about ‘city status’. It seems Reading, another regular unsuccessful bidder, decided to put ‘City Centre’ on the front of its buses anyway. We should do the same, I’m sure plenty of unwitting tourists would enjoy a ride on the 159 when they’ve finished nosing round Brixton Market. I’m sure the Croydon Glee Club can set up some sort of visitor attraction to relieve them of a few quid when they get here. An identikit shopping precinct maybe?

  9. arnorab says:

    Joeycan makes a very important point which our esteemed leaders and money wasters could do well to consider seriously. West Croydon Station is within easy walking distance of the current Whitgift Centre, much more convenient than “Croydon Central” and the tramstop too is much more convenient. There are many bus routes close by. It makes much more sense to concentrate on improving this link, with all its overground connections, than it does to concentrate on “Croydon Central”. Hopefully, neither will actually ever be necessary. One look at the failed Centrale should convince the developers, if they have any common sense, that transport links are not that critical. The day of megamalls, the dinosaurs of retailing, is close to over.

  10. It is indeed very rude to refer to the leader Cllr Newman as a nincompoop(A foolish or stupid person). Perhaps we should refer this to the fairness commission. I am sure the Bishop will forgive you John.

  11. How about rebranding Nathan Elvery? Richard Head or Dick Witts, for example?

  12. Rename Nathan Elvery vulgarly? No, no, no: if he is to be renamed then David Brent he is,in looks, behaviour, attitude and style as well as cognition. Why mess with something that is so evident and natural?

  13. joeycan says:

    Picking up baw30s point about double- decked trains and their effect on bridges (possibly even some tunnels), the answer is – don’t raise the bridges LOWER THE TRACKS. I wonder if Network Rail or TfL have bothered to cost the effect of such a move.

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