West Croydon Bus Station re-opens this weekend after two years’ worth of demolition and reconfiguration for the roads in and around the railway station and tram stop, to be able to cope better with the 150 buses that are scheduled to drive through every hour.
The re-opening is six months later than was originally promised by Transport for London, but comes at least five years ahead of the redevelopment that it is supposed to serve, the £1.4billion Hammersfield, where work on the supermall has yet to even start.
TfL never specified exactly how much the new bus station – it is most definitely not a garage – will have cost, preferring to blur the lines by lumping in the price with the £50 million pot for “DisConnected Croydon”, that’s been allocated to various road schemes and an unnecessary loop of tram track in preparation for the big day when, if ever, Hammersfield opens its car parks to the thousands of motorists who it hopes will drive into Croydon from Surrey and Kent to unleash the contents of their bank accounts.
And of course, the new bus station is not necessarily any better for bus passengers, but just likely to be cheaper to maintain. TfL promised the new bus station would have better lighting and “a more spacious environment”, which is council doublespeak for less cover from the elements for passengers waiting for their bus.
There will be an information office open 15 hours a day – a welcome inclusion in an era when TfL under Boris Johnson was committed to closing ticket offices at Tube stations; West Croydon’s office will not be staffed after 9.30 at night.
TfL’s contractors have spent two years demolishing the former station hall, or “oversized pavilion”, as their architects described it, to be replaced by more parking space for buses and an open concourse.
West Croydon is an exceptionally important public transport hub, though the bus station redesign has made little, if any, effort to integrate the bus area with the tram stop and rail station nearby. Passengers will still have to run the gauntlet of a busy road and tram tracks if they want to cross from the bus station to the railway station, for instance.
Before it closed in September 2014, the bus station served 23 bus routes that run to 11 different boroughs, serving one-third of Greater London. Eight million passengers use West Croydon Bus Station each year, which through the rail interchange with the Overground network provides routes to Canary Wharf and east London, and via the tram network to Beckenham and Wimbledon.
The new bus station looks remarkably similar to the one built alongside Westfield’s Stratford shopping mall. The coming weeks will demonstrate whether TfL has made a better job of the roads re-design than they have managed at East Croydon, where bottlenecks caused by trams and bus drivers cause frequent traffic tailbacks.
TfL announced the re-opening in a press release today. “The work on this project has been significant, to meet the needs of our customers for years to come. The redevelopment has involved the comprehensive reconstruction of the whole bus station site, including new buildings.
“We appreciate that the closure of the bus station has caused inconvenience for our customers and we are grateful for their patience.”
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