The old Royal Mail building and Volkswagen site next to East Croydon Station have been bought by Network Rail, as part of plans, as they put it, “to unblock the London-to-Brighton railway bottleneck”.
The former sorting office site has had planning permission for a mixed used development, including more than 200 flats, since 2015.
But, as with so many schemes around Croydon, the Hyde Group, the developers who originally acquired the site from Royal Mail, have failed to progress with their scheme.
Network Rail’s purchase of the building opens the way for two new platforms to be built at the busy commuter hub, and for the possibility of demolishing the “Bridge to Nowhere” and building over the railway tracks to the north of the station.
But it does not mean that any development work will get underway immediately, either. Indeed, in their announcement today, Network Rail spoke of their intention “to explore options for temporary uses of these sites”.
The sorting office building on Addiscombe Road has been a derelict eyesore for five years, since the Royal Mail closed its operations there.
It was at the centre of controversy when squatters broke in to the property in June 2014 and staged an unlicensed rave, attended by an estimated 2,000 people. The event had to be broken up by riot police, and it later emerged that a 15-year-old, Rio Andrew, died as a result of taking ecstasy at the rave.
Announcing its site purchases today, Network Rail issued a statement, “The railway through Croydon is the busiest and most congested in Britain with 1,700 trains and 300,000 passengers travelling through it every weekday.
“The complex layout of the railway in the area and the lack of capacity at East Croydon station means that the impact of even the most minor incident is magnified, causing delay across the Brighton Main Line, its branches and the wider network.
“To remove the Croydon bottleneck, Network Rail is proposing to rebuild East Croydon Station, with two extra tracks and a larger concourse, and remodel the railway through the Selhurst triangle, adding extra track, new flyovers and dive-unders. The Royal Mail and Volkswagen sites are key to making the upgrade possible.”
Late last year, Network Rail held public consultations on its plans to improve and modernise the rail network in and around Croydon. It could be 2023 before the scheme gets a go-ahead, but the project to unlock the bottleneck remains unfunded.
Network Rail say that the detail of its proposals for the sites purchased by the station are “still being developed” and that the plans “will be the subject of ongoing consultation with passengers, local residents and businesses”.
“By securing these important sites, we have taken another step towards making the proposals a reality,” said John Halsall, Network Rail’s route managing director for the south-east.
“While we continue to develop our designs, consult with the public and make the case for investment in our proposals, we will work with local stakeholders to explore options for temporary uses of these sites.”
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