“Thank you,” states the signage seen by tens of thousands of Croydon commuters every day, “for your patience during these essential construction works.”
Note that: the works are essential. Though perhaps not essential enough to get them finished in a hurry.
Another sign outside one of London’s busiest rail stations says: “We are improving East Croydon bus station.”
Though it is hard to see quite how the environment around East Croydon station has been improved by the millions of public money spent so far on the DisConnected Croydon project.
At least £50million has been squandered on new paving and road configurations around the borough in the past five years in the name of “Connected Croydon”, a piecemeal project so mired in delays and disruption that even the council has quietly stopped its embarrassing nomenclature.
East Croydon bus station is just the latest example of largely cosmetic alterations which have failed to be completed promptly. Hardly any progress appears to have been made around the relatively modest site in the past fortnight.
Much of the paving around the railway station was worked on in 2015 and 2016, with concrete block seating put in, perhaps to encourage haemorrhoids in tram passengers – a real pain in the arse, a suitable reminder of our council’s incompetence. Some of that work then had to be dug up and redone to accommodate the (four months late) arrival of another council-subsidised project, Boozepark.
But work around the bus station was not undertaken at the same time, or even started immediately the rest of the public realm work in the vicinity was completed, to avoid, according to council sources, causing any additional delays to Boozepark’s tardy construction.
With Boozepark ready to open, it was on October 21 last year that Croydon Council’s propaganda department issued a press release to announce the imminent start of work on the bus station, to be carried out on behalf of the council and Transport for London at a cost of £5.4million.
Given Croydon Council’s track record on delivering similar projects, perhaps we should have expected delays and snagging issues with this latest high-cost and poor delivery effort. After all, the £22million Bridge to Nowhere still hangs in the air, unfinished on the Addiscombe side of the railway tracks just a short walk away from East Croydon’s unfinished bus station.
The council has supervised the building of what it calls a “cycle hub” at East Croydon, built on the wrong side of a busy road from the railway station (which might have been the obvious place to locate it), and cut off from a number of cycle lanes which might have provided routes to the station, as these have been eradicated by the self-same Connected Croydon works. On South End and along London Road, the council decided to replace some cycle lanes with parking bays for cars.
And when the council and TfL collaborated on the bus station at the “gateway” to West Croydon, the works there took two years, over-running by more than six months and the costly new shed – because that’s what it amounts to – was opened with several snagging issues needing to be resolved.
According to the council press statement five months ago, “The current bus station in Addiscombe Road dates to the late 1990s…”, nothing like public buildings that last the test of time any longer, “… and the upgrade will involve new shelters, better lighting, new signposts, improved pedestrian access, new public seating and tree planting.
“These improvements will ensure easier connections for people moving between buses, trains and trams at East Croydon, and provide better links between eastbound and westbound bus stops.”
But nothing to resolve the Gordian knot of road junctions and pedestrian crossings which have existed outside the railway station since the opening of the tram network, with buses regularly creating tailbacks of taxis and traffic seeking to exit the station.
A solution for that road issue might be coming once the redevelopment of the former post office sorting building next to the station begins – though the property developers who bought the site, the Hyde Group, have gone very quiet about their housing scheme, which was granted planning permission three years ago. It is not only council schemes which are subject to slow delivery in Croydon, after all.
The bus station at East Croydon, the council said, would be completed in March.
“Croydon already plays a big part in keeping London moving,” Alison Butler, the council’s deputy leader, was wheeled out to say for the benefit of the press announcement. “This role will only get bigger with the borough’s huge ongoing regeneration.
“That’s why we and TfL are upgrading the outdated East Croydon bus station with better signs, lighting, paving and planting so this gateway to the town centre is more welcoming and easier to navigate. We would ask our residents, workers and visitors to bear with us while we make these much-needed improvements.”
“Much-needed improvements”? Really. Once it re-opens, bus passengers and pedestrians will be better able to judge, but so far, it appears to be £5million on a few cosmetic changes. And delivered late.
- This is the latest in an occasional series which will compare Croydon Council’s claims of “delivery” with the reality. If you would like to suggest other examples which highlight how council claims fail to match reality, email the editor at the address below
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