Old Town underpasses to be filled thanks to £10m TfL grant

Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on moves to remove a barrier to pedestrians and cyclists which has seen the town centre split in half more than half a century

Intimidating, unwelcoming and piss-tainted, the pedestrian underpasses beneath Roman Way and the Flyover are soon to be filled in

The dingy, often intimidating and piss-tainted pedestrian subways under the Croydon Flyover and Roman Way are to undergo a major refurbishment, with most filled in completely, as the result of a grant from Transport for London worth nearly £10million.

Oxford Street’s loss is to be Croydon Old Town’s gain, with City Hall funding earmarked for the pedestrianisation of the West End high street being re-directed to Croydon and other boroughs after the Tory-run City of Westminster did a strop over the Labour Mayor’s radical approach to road safety and air pollution.

As a consequence, Croydon Old Town is one of 11 “Liveable Neighbourhoods” dotted across London splitting £53.4million between them. And for once, Croydon is batting well above average, with its grant amounting to £9.6million.

Cash-strapped Croydon Council is understood also to be pitching in, with an additional £7.7million towards the project, which is likely to take at least four years to complete (or eight, if they ask Westfield to assist).

The money will be used to reduce the impact of the Croydon Flyover that severs connections between town and residents.

The pedestrian underpasses were built as safety features below the four- and six-lane A236 and the A232 Flyover section during Croydon’s great burst of road-building in the 1960s.

But after the first flush of modernist novelty wore off, the underpasses became notorious as crime hot-spots and, especially at night, were regarded as no-go zones, with residents preferring to use the ground-level crossings to get from the Minster and Old Town through to Duppas Hill and South Croydon.

The Liveable Neighbourhoods Programme provides funding for walking and cycling projects. These are the successor to the “mini-Holland” schemes approved in Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest, when Croydon’s bid was dismissed as being not good enough.

On this occasion, much of the credit for the successful bid can be attributed to the cabinet member responsible, Stuart King, working together with the councillors in Waddon ward, who made subway improvements an election pledge last May.

Cyclist King has done much to guide home the 20mph zones around the borough and, more recently, the “School Streets” car-free scheme, which is to be rolled out to another six primaries in September.

Waddon’s councillors (from left Pelling, Canning and Prince) have campaigned for improved safety in the underpasses for years

Andrew Pelling, one of the Waddon councillors who has been campaigning for safer underpasses, said, “This is very good news for the ward.

“This is a huge opportunity to mitigate the divisive effects of out-dated car-first planning policies that built an incomplete ring road of urban motorways through Croydon’s historic Old Town.”

The 11 schemes announced by TfL today have been warmly welcomed by the London Cycling Campaign, as they include transforming the notorious and (literally) lethal Holborn gyratory in Camden.

Among the other schemes receiving funding in this latest round include nearby Bromley, where connections to Shortlands Station with “protected cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings” will be developed, plus “School Streets” and a new low-traffic neighbourhood west of Bromley Town Centre.

And while the City of Westminster has turned its back on traffic-free Oxford Street, Croydon’s cycling commuters will welcome moves for a zero emissions zone in the City of London, where streets in the Square Mile will be gradually closed to most motor traffic and opened up as public spaces.

The Croydon branch of the London Cycling Campaign is to hold a meeting next Monday, March 11, from 7.45pm at the Spread Eagle pub on Croydon High Street to discuss how they can collaborate with Croydon Council to ensure the best possible infrastructure can be introduced to improve routes across the Town Centre.

TfL was expected to make a formal announcement at 10am today, when more details of the Old Town plans would be released.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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7 Responses to Old Town underpasses to be filled thanks to £10m TfL grant

  1. Bernard Winchester says:

    Much as I agree with Andrew Pelling concerning “the divisive effects of out-dated car-first planning policies that built an incomplete ring road of urban motorways through Croydon’s historic Old Town”, I would still require more persuasion before being convinced that the money could not be better spent. Firstly, what is the alternative to the subways? (I would point out that they are not as bad as they were, having been decorated with some quite interesting animal murals in local school projects). Secondly, do they need to be filled in? They could surely be sold for some purpose.
    I am also rather annoyed with TfL for ceasing support for their invaluable bus maps, which were last printed in 2016, and then removed from the website the following year. If they can’t afford a few tens of thousands for basic passenger information like this, how can they afford £10m for the subway project?
    Likewise, Croydon Council: £7.7m would finance the libraries for several years, for instance.

    • “Firstly, what is the alternative to the subways?”

      Street-level crossings.

      • Bernard Winchester says:

        I’m afraid I still need convincing. It seems to me that about £200 per Croydon Council Tax payer could be being spent so that we unhappy pedestrians might be saved from the risk of crime in order to be placed at the much greater risk of being run over.
        Still, I’ll suspend judgement until the complete plan is published.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Excellent news on the filling of the sordid underpasses, which lacked the beautiful multi-coloured tile murals of the once derided Elephant and Castle underpasses.

    I welcome the filling in of the underpasses where they are actually underneath the road, but I think that the external ramp areas on some of them could be technically suitable to provide a fantastic opportunity for much-needed greening. The resulting voids of the ramps areas could be infilled not with hardcore and concrete, but with soil, forming viably large planting pits for new street trees
    The walls and floor of the underpasses would just need to be punctured to allow for drainage and root extension outwards,

    Opportunities for planting trees in central Croydon are rare, as the land under footways and roads is full of underground cables and pipes, which preclude planting in many places where there is seemingly room to plant street trees.

    I hope that this potential is investigated, as it would be a wasted opportunity to pass up this opportunity for greening of Croydon. I wonder if the underpass outside the Nestle tower is on the list , as this area of road between Croydon College, the Fairfield and the Nestle’s tower is huge and rather bleak.

  3. Lewis White says:

    I was clearly guilty of getting ahead of events in my contribution above, in respect of the ones near Fairfield, as the underpasses in question are actually the ones near the Croydon Minster and Old town, as clearly shown in the Inside Croydon article.

    Sorry…… must have been a Pavlovian reaction —- picture of grimy underpass— words about underpasses and their safety and cleanliness issues– the magic word “infilling”.

    Anyway, a great news story, and hats off to the three Waddon Councillors and to Cabinet Member Stuart King for their successful initiative !

    I look forward to visiting the site and not finding the underpasses once the project is done ! If there are trees planted on any old ramp areas, I will of course be delighted !

    By the way– if any of the bigger underpasses are to be closed…… rather than infilling, perhaps the potential for a Croydon Urban Mushroom and Beansprout Farm could be investigated. Employment opportunities in Old Town ? Worth a look.

  4. This is good news as far as encouraging sensible town planning is concerned. We’ve seen outrageous proposals pushed through by a ruling clique so often, that build on traffic islands, destroy historic buildings and sites, are totally insensitive to existing neighbourhoods and the views of local people, stealing light and fresh air and adding to urban congestion, parking, traffic and pollution, all without producing true social housing. Those have been for the benefit of people with enough money to, both literally and metaphorically, overlook others. The fact is there are some real brownfield sites that have been developed west of the Roman Way and it is good that pedestrian access to Croydon access to the Town Centre is being addressed, even better news that the Councillors from Waddon ward in particular put such a great effort into securing this funding. At least there is space in these developments, such as the South Quarter, with a fairer degree of social housing

    Councillors Pelling, Canning and Prince should be congratulated for the work they put in to secure the LNP funding, in addition to highlighting the problems about the existing pedestrian and cycle routes.

    I believe there is a website link to the plans Croydon put forward, which I’ve seen, but I’m not too technical so am not too sure about how to give the link. It is about greening up, making more accessible, safer and healthier routs for local people. It is true that the existing tunnels under the Roman Way are disgusting, poorly lit and unsafe, despite any pretty pictures on the walls so any critique about blocking them off needs to looked at alongside the new proposals.

    • Don’t worry George. We tend to avoid commenters linking to unreliable third-party websites, such as Croydon Council’s. Full details of the plans will be shared and discussed here on Inside Croydon in due course.

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