1 Southall footbridge half a century ago by Frank Dumbleton

Go ahead for new larger station buildings at Southall and West Ealing

Published: 3rd July 2015

Historic rail enthusiast landmark to be demolished as new railway modernises the area?

The stations just to the west of Paddington, Southall and West Ealing are to be swept away and replaced with fit for purpose modern buildings as part of the Crossrail programme. These modernisation plans have just been approved by Ealing Council and while passengers and staff will welcome these, a tiny piece of railway history is likely to disappear. The disused footbridge at the London end of Southall station will be demolished and will be missed by a group of enthusiasts who are now pensioners!

The founders of the Great Western Preservation Group based at Didcot used to meet on this bridge and watch the trains go by and as the demise of steam approached in the mid-1960s, they resolved to preserve a locomotive. The steps down to the engine shed are where the trainspotters all sat, and got in the way of the shed staff going on duty and carrying their bicycles down the steps. Half a century later, they operate the former Didcot Engine Shed and are a highly successful and respected preservation Society.

What is to happen at Southall?

The proposals are described by Crossrail are for an elegant glass and steel structure making use of natural light creating a bright, airy and welcoming environment for passengers. Currently, the station forecourt is best described as complicated and the station front is extremely cramped leading directly onto a very busy main road. The new forecourt will make it easier for passengers enter and exit the station and avoid the existing congested entrance.

The station will be provided with lifts to each platform (which are to lengthened) via a new footbridge and fitted with new lighting, customer information screens, station signage, help points and CCTV will be provided.

The work commences in a few months and will take two years to complete from when the station will be operated by Transport for London (TfL) rather than First Great Western as now.

Crossrail also has plans to upgrade the surrounding area in conjunction with Ealing Council and Network Rail to be carried out once the new station building is open.

They said;

Matthew White, Crossrail Surface Director said: “The Crossrail improvements will transform the station and deliver a larger building that will serve local people for many decades to come. The designs show a bright, spacious structure that will be easier for passengers to get around and will provide a focal point for the local area.”

David Laing, Studio Director at Bennetts Associates who designed the buildings, said: “The design of the new station will provide light and spacious facilities for passengers - from its canopied street frontage, through the double-height ticket hall to the route to the platforms - its transparency and lighting enabling clear views through the building during the day and at night. It will be recognisable as one of a family of new Crossrail stations designed by Bennetts Associates about to emerge through west London.”

When the TfL run Crossrail fully opens in 2019, up to ten services an hour in each direction will call at Southall station, more than double todays service frequency. This has triggered regeneration along the route and at Southall, Crossrail was a key factor in the redevelopment plans for Southall Gas Works. This 83 hectare brownfield site should see 3,750 homes and 525,000 square feet of commercial and community space and a primary school built on it.

New station building at West Ealing

West Ealing will also get a new station building as part of the Crossrail project and as with Southall, the proposals are by Bennetts Associates are for a bright, modern, spacious new ticket hall. The glass and steel structure will let in natural light and will be surrounded by a large canopy. The new building will be located on Manor Road to the northwest of the existing station building.

And again, provision of a new footbridge and lifts are included in the modernisation plans and for operational reasons, a new bay platform will be built for Greenford branch services. Platforms will be extended and the construction timeframes are similar to Southalls.

West Ealing will have four trains each hour in each direction when the full service commences in four years time.

Many moan about the railways but it is an undeniable fact that they can and do regenerate areas around stations.

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