Inside Croydon reported last week how the £22million Bridge To Nowhere, at East Croydon Station, may be demolished before it is ever completed. Given some serious reservations about the way it was designed and built, that may not be an altogether bad thing
East Croydon is one of the busiest non-terminal stations in Britain. This means that one of it most important function is to allow passengers to make connections between trains. Yet since 2012, when the inter-platform subway was filled in and the £22million bridge was built by Network Rail, Croydon Council and Transport for London, the facilities for passengers to change trains have been less-than-good, some might even argue inadequate.
Even as you arrive at the station’s main entrance on George Street, there are shortcomings caused by poor design decisions that have been badly applied.
The glazed ramps that serve the platforms from the main concourse have had opaque film applied, deliberately obscuring passengers’ views of the trains, tracks and platforms below. Originally, the ramps were clear-glazed so you could see the station platforms and the trains approaching and departing. They are now obscured glazed so you cannot see the trains in case you run, and fall.
Network Rail thought this would be a good safety feature. But people still run down the ramp hurrying for their connection. All that has happened is that passengers have lost visual connection and continuity with the platforms. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
When the new bridge was installed at the northern end of the station in 2012, the designers sacrificed the existing subway that connected all platforms in order to locate the lift pits that served the new bridge. This was a short-sighted and lazy design decision.
The underpass was the most rapid means to connect platforms. It was perfectly serviceable and could have been upgraded. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer and a big loss in functionality and cross-platform connection.
And the new bridge is flawed.
The brief for the bridge was agreed between Network Rail and Croydon Council. They got it wrong. According to architectural designers who have contacted Inside Croydon, there’s a number of reasons why the bridge is such a bad design:
- Its access steps face the wrong direction – northwards, and away from the station’s main concourse. Network Rail has already admitted that this is wrong. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
- It does not allow the travelling public to enjoy the benefit of being under shelter when moving between platforms. Because the access stairs face the wrong direction, the designers were not able to link the bridge into the existing platform canopies. It’s a fundamental error that would have failed a first-year architecture student. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
- The separate canopies on the bridge deck itself adopt a silly “Y” form, meaning their edges flare up and they provide no protection to the deck from rain, wind or snow – a fundamental design error that means people using the bridge get wet while on the bridge and when approaching it. It has even forced the station management to close the bridge on occasions during particularly severe winter weather. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
- The angle of the treads on the stairs are not level and do not meet British Standards. This is a fundamental error. Next time you use the bridge, observe how the steps are inclined. This, too, contributes to the bridge being not-fit-for-purpose in snowy and icy conditions. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
- The bridge gives no visual connection back into the station – only views in one direction, away from the station. Visual connection is important – it’s an architectural and design failure to have missed the opportunity. A stupid decision by the station revamp designer.
A catalogue of errors from Network Rail and the station revamp designer has fundamentally impacted East Croydon as an effective intersection station. Its functionality is far less than the larger and more complex Clapham Junction Station.
Much of the design was overseen by architects Hawkins\Brown, a firm which is so up itself over their work that they can’t use a hyphen between the names in their title, not even a conventional backslash, but they pretentiously opt for the backslash – \ – to signal their supposed modernity and “edginess”. It is, though, perhaps apt for a firm that managed to oversee the design of a bridge that faces the wrong way, and which – some seven years on – is still boasted about on their website.
Croydon Council contributed millions of pounds towards the project, which is still burdened by the fundamental flaw that no one in their legal department, nor at TfL nor Network Rail, ever bothered to get, in black and white, a signature from developers Redrow Menta on an agreement that would allow the bridge-builders access to the site on the eastern side of the tracks to finish the bridge and provide the entry point to the bridge and the station which the project was supposed to deliver.
Croydon Council appears unconcerned by the design problems of the Bridge To Nowhere.
Indeed, when seeking design experts for its Place Review Panel, which passes down judgement on the architectural merits, or otherwise, of other schemes proposed around the borough, the council chose to ask two designers from Hawkins\Brown to sit on the panel and they pay them for their “advice”.
Worth every penny, we’re sure.
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The failure in this is Croydon Council and Network Rail splitting responsibility and both failing to take ownership and ensuring the sort of cock-up we see today does not happen.
This clearly didn’t happen and we all then live with the consequences.
The only safety net could have been a competent architect who calls out the potential problems with the proposed design. This didn’t happen.
This is probably the only major mainline station in the U.K., where after a significant refurbishment, you can still get drenched moving between platforms in inclement weather.
The ramps cannot be considered as viable for moving between platforms on the one of the busiest transfer stations in the U.K.
A total failure of design – whether the bridge stays or goes is Academic – the station is fundamentally flawed.
Perhaps, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Croydon can capitalise on this example of a complete design/construction failure – as a tourist attraction?