Unblock the Croydon Bottleneck

Let’s avoid the East Croydon Donut

Addiscombe West Councillors response to Network Rail’s proposals to rebuild East Croydon Railway Station

Addiscombe West Councillors: “Good but could be so much better”.

Network Rail is currently consulting the public on its “Unblock the Croydon Bottleneck” proposals (Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme, CARS) to improve the reliability of the  Brighton Mainline by rebuilding both East Croydon and Norwood Junction Train Stations, and untangling Britain’s most complicated set of junctions in the Selhurst Triangle. As part of its proposals, it propose rebuilding of the current Windmill Bridge, which connects Lower Addiscombe Road to St James Road. This rebuilding of the bridge would allow Network Rail to increase the number of railways tracks into East Croydon from 6 to 8.

The independent transport analysis website London Reconnections has an informed write-up of the proposals, which is worth a read.

Your local councillors have read through the proposals and have met with Network Rail and Croydon Council. The proposals are complicated and so we have broken them down into four sections: East Croydon Station rebuild; Windmill Bridge; Selhurst Triangle; and Norwood Station upgrade. Each section describes the proposals and then follows with our comments. If you agree with our proposals we ask that you respond to Network Rail at [email protected], either endorsing our comments or adding new comments of your own.

East Croydon Station Rebuild:

A rebuilt station with two additional platforms, a larger concourse with improved facilities for passengers and better connections with the town centre and other transport links, supporting the ongoing regeneration of Croydon.” Network Rail May 2020.

East Croydon Station Proposals:

Network Rail proposes to move the platforms of the station 100 metres northwards, where there is more room to install eight platforms. Eight platforms is an increase of two platforms and mean more train capacity, which should reduce delays. Moving the platforms increases the space at the front of the station on George Street, which is currently very cramped with limited pedestrian space.

Due to the height difference between George Street and the platforms, new escalators will be installed, which means no more struggling up the steep ramps.  Network Rail proposes a new entrance on Lansdowne Road. The “bridge to nowhere” will be retained and will be incorporated into the new station concourse.

Addiscombe West Councillors Comments on East Croydon Station rebuild proposals:

There is a lot to commend about the new proposals, especially the proposals to increase the number of platforms to eight, and the replacement of the ramps with escalators, but we still have concerns which mean we cannot support the current proposals for the Main Station entrance.

Main Entrance proposals: The East Croydon Donut:

Network Rail 2020 drawings of proposed East Croydon Station showing new forecourt, including the big hole in concourse, the East Croydon Donut
Overhead view of Network Rail proposals for East Croydon Station rebuild including the forecourt donut!

The public realm proposals for the main entrance are a big disappointment. A significant amount of the public space on its forecourt will be lost to a massive hole in the decking, which will then be surrounded by retail units. This East Croydon Donut, a cost-saving proposal that wouldn’t be considered for London Bridge or Kings Cross, is short-sighted and severely restricts how this new public space can be used.

Instead of East Croydon gaining an open and welcoming space, we will have instead a cluttered maze, with poor sightlines, which will not make people feel safe on winter evenings or at night. Considering the amount of money being spent on the proposals, to skimp expenditure on the new public realm space, will be a missed opportunity of a galactic nature. Without correction, it confirms an investment bias by Network Rail against suburban stations by treating them as second-class destinations, not worthy of the scale of investment on high-quality public realms that it lavishes on its Central London Stations. 

East Croydon Public Realm and Public Transport Interchange:  

The proposals will not allow easy integration with the Public Transport interchange with the Trams and buses on Addiscombe Road/ George Street. It will also make it more difficult to rethink the public realm of the whole area, the aim of which should be to make the space more welcoming to residents and visitors, and accessible for public transport users. This is also an opportunity to reduce pollution, and the potential for trees and green planting is maximised. 

Cycling Access to the Station: 

In November 2013, a cyclist was killed near the junction of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road. The coroner was very critical of TFL and their design of the road layout. Since then some cycling improvements works have been completed to try and make the road system a safer place to cycle, but this is only half completed. These proposals do nothing to address the outstanding cycling safety issues of Cherry Orchard Road, Addiscombe Road or George Street. For instance, the prioritisation of taxi access over safer cycling routes is both a strategic mistake in that it will discourage cycling to the Station but also fails to improve safety for cyclists. The incorporation of the bridge to nowhere into the frontage of the Station also removes the dedicated pedestrian and cycling route that was a key reason for the pedestrian bridge being funded in the first place. As Network Rail now owns the old Royal Mail Sorting Office this development should incorporate dedicated cycling routes around the Station, separated from the traffic, on Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road.

Architecture and Use of Materials:  

The glass box proposals are a mistake. It is cheap looking and creates inflexible spaces, which are hard to adapt in the future. East Croydon Station has over 40 years of experience with a glass box approach, and it has not worked. East Croydon station is one of England’s busiest stations, and the design and choice of material needs to be of a higher standard, on par with other Network Rail rebuilds at London BridgeBirmingham or Kings Cross. East Croydon Station is the significant entrance to Croydon, and we need to get this right. Croydon must not be fobbed off with a second-rate design, which will result in a glass box covered in pigeon mess and green moss. 

Taxi Rank: 

Network Rail has given the Taxi Rank a prime spot on the corner of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road. In terms of the public realm, this prioritises vehicles over pedestrians and makes the public space around Croydon’s most iconic building, NLA Tower, more hostile, and leaves that building more isolated than it is already. A Taxis Stand would be more suitable for Lansdown Road and current placing of taxis on Billington Hill shows that the current road system around the NLA Tower can’t cope with Taxis, Buses, Trams and cars. Taking cars away from this entrance will reduce the number of vehicle movements in this area, which will allow better running of buses and trams.  

Cycling Storage:  

Current proposals do not make sense. Having all the cycle stores in one space reduces convenience and is a mistake, as cyclists coming from the north will have to weave through pedestrians to get to it. There should be facilities on each of the main entrances to avoid conflict and increase accessibility to the Station. 

A second entrance to Cherry Orchard Road is needed: 

The original thinking of the “Bridge to Nowhere” was to create a new direct pedestrian link from Cherry Orchard Road to the Town Centre, which would allow residents from Addiscombe to walk to the Town Centre while avoiding the main station entrance. The repurposing of the bridge as part of the new Station entrance means this proposal is lost. Pedestrians and cyclists will have to negotiate the new retail maze in front of the Station, causing additional conflicts. We urge Network Rail to see how the concept behind the original proposals for a link/bridge from Addiscombe to the Town Centre can be incorporated in the scheme.

Lower Addiscombe Road/Windmill Bridge reconstruction:

To provide more platforms at East Croydon station and allow the Selhurst triangle junctions to be remodelled, we need to expand the railway north of East Croydon from five to eight tracks. We propose to rebuild the bridge over the railway, increasing its span, to provide space for three additional tracks.” Network Rail, May 2020.

Network Rail 2020 drawing of Windmill Bridge proposed replacement including new road layouts
Proposals to rebuild Windmill Bridge and closure of Gloucester Road

Windmill Bridge Proposals:

The current Windmill Bridge only allows five trains track, and the new bridge will have a longer span and allow eight tracks beneath it. The proposal is to build a new bridge off-site, using the Little Ground Playground as a building compound and means the playground would be closed for an extended period. When the bridge is built, it will be manoeuvred into place. This construction method should considerately reduce the length of time Windmill Bridge is closed to cars and pedestrians.  Network Rail used this technique was used at East Croydon Station, and you can see how they did this with the new pedestrian bridge. The demolition of the new bridge will mean the loss of employment sites associated with the rail arches on Little Road Gloucester Road. The ramp section of Gloucester Road which connects to St James Road will be permanently closed.

Addiscombe West Councillors Comments on Windmill Bridge Proposals:

Addiscombe West Councillors support the new proposals to increase the number of tracks, and the overall design of the new bridge. We support the off-site construction proposals, which should minimise disruption to the area and maintain links between Addiscombe and West Croydon. We also support the improved cycling and pedestrian facilities on the bridge.

We do have some concerns about the temporary loss of the Little Road Playground for an extended period because this part of Addiscombe is one of the most built-up areas of Croydon, with little open space. The community needs to be compensated for the loss of this play facilities, and Network Road could achieve this via an upgrade of other local facilities in the Addiscombe/East Croydon area. We also support community involvement in the redesign of the playground when the construction works are complete.  

We are concern about the loss of jobs because of the demolition of the bridge and its arches, and we would like to see new arches installed to support employment or community use. 

Noise and dust generated by the works are likely to be a nuisance to residents of Freemason Road and Cross Road. We seek further mitigation to reduce these nuisances. 

We also support the need to keep a cycle link underneath the bridge to avoid cyclists having to cross the main road. We would like to see further proposals on how to improve cycling routes in the area affected by construction. 

“Selhurst Triangle” remodelling:

Network Rail “proposes to grade separate junctions by building new viaducts, bridges and dive-under to separate the tracks as they cross each other. This means trains will no longer have to wait at a red signal for others to pass.” Network Rail, May 2020.

Network Rail computer rendering of the new Selhurst Triangle track layouts with new viaducts
Network Rail 2020 consultation proposals on Changes to Selhurst Triangle.

Selhurst Triangle Proposals:

Network Rails proposes an extensive rebuild of the current area with six new viaducts and 40km of track. To get an understanding of how individual roads will be affected, please check out the Proposed CARS Plan.

Network Rail 2020 consultation drawing of the proposed track layouts of Selhurst Triangle.
Network Rail 2020 consultation proposals

Addiscombe West Councillors Comments on Selhurst Triangle Proposals:

As local councillors, we accept that an extensive rebuild of the Selhurst Triangle is needed if we are to realise the benefits of the CARS scheme. Due to the proximity of the new viaducts to many peoples homes, we are concerned about the noise and dust the construction work will generate during the long construction phase. Especially to Addiscombe West residents who live along Freemasons Road, Davidson Road and Canal Walk, as can be seen in the drawing above.

We are also concerned about the visual impact of the six new taller viaducts, and due to the new heights of train travelling, for the potential for rail noise to travel further and disturb residents who live close to the rail tracks. Network Rail will need to think about how they will mitigate both of these impacts.

Drawing showing Network Rail 2020 proposed viaduct and their height above existing tracks alongside Davidson Road
Network Rail 2020 consultation and their proposed Viaducts alongside Davidson Road, Addiscombe

Norwood Junction Station upgrades:

“We propose to modify the track layout to provide dedicated tracks for fast and non-stopping services, lengthen and widen platforms to allow longer trains to stop at the station for the first time and build two footbridges, one with lifts, to provide step-free access to the platforms.” Network Rail May 2020.

Network Rail 2020 proposals for East Croydon Station
Network Rail 2020 consultation proposals for Norwood Junction Station

Norwood Junction Proposals.

Network Rail states that they would start first on these upgrade works to Norwood Junction Station and to untangling the tracks leading into the station. They are not part of the Transport and Works Act Order application for the CARS Scheme and not dependent on its approval. Currently, the station has no disabled access to all of its platforms, and the proposals would rectify this issue and provide longer and broader platforms, which would allow longer 12-car trains to stop at the station.

Addiscombe West Councillors Comments on Norwood Junction Proposals

We support the proposals for Norwood Junction and access improvements for both rail services and TFL’s East London Line. For many Addiscombe West residents, who live on or near Davidson Road, this may be their closest train station rather than East Croydon. In particular, we support the proposals to make the station fully accessible for people with disabilities or those who use a wheelchair.

Next Steps

You can feedback can be submitted via Network Road website until Sunday 20 September 2020. The comments, which form part of Network Rail’s second consultation on some of the key elements of the Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme (CARS), will then be used to help shape the final designs.

Please note that Network Rail has not yet received funding to carry out this project, and even if the current government does agree to fund these proposals, it may not be until 2033 that all the works are likely to complete.

As local councillors, we are keen to hear your views on these proposals and our comments. Please let us know your views at [email protected]