Victoria Summerley: Let's big up the Junction

Railway stations are about the train service, not hanging baskets

Share
Related Topics

Clapham Junction has long held the reputation of being the busiest railway station in Britain – indeed, there are signs on the platforms stating so. It's not the busiest in terms of passenger numbers – Waterloo holds that particular claim to fame – but it is the busiest in terms of rail traffic. Apart from the Waterloo services, trains from Victoria – the third busiest station in the UK – pass through, along with trains from the West London line.

This week, however, a new distinction was conferred upon this writhing knot of steel and sleepers. It came second bottom on an official list of Britain's worst stations; identified as being in urgent need of cash to improve conditions and services for passengers.

The list was compiled by Chris Green, non-executive director of Network Rail, and the urban planning expert Sir Peter Hall who are advising the Government on station improvements and minimum standards. It has been put forward to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, who said that following a recent national rail tour, he was shocked by the state of many stations. I suspect there speaks a man who normally travels by chauffeur-driven car.

I wouldn't quarrel with the findings. Clapham Junction must be a nightmare to negotiate for anyone who is disabled. Dropping off or picking up friends or family by car requires the skills of a getaway driver. Parents with pushchairs or small children, pregnant women and the elderly have to negotiate endless steps, while being buffeted by a Scylla and Charybdis of commuters rushing to and from the platforms.

But before everyone joins the chorus of what a terrible place it is, I'd like to state that I'm rather fond of Clapham Junction. It has possibilities – dozens of destinations. It offers alternatives if your normal route is subject to delay. If you can get to Clapham Junction, you can get almost anywhere in the British Isles. Or, in my case, home.

This is ironic because most people who use the station on a daily basis don't actually know where it is. They think it's in Clapham. Actually, it's in Battersea. When the station was opened in 1863 to accommodate a burgeoning rail network, the genteel village of Clapham, a mile to the east, had a much more attractive image than Battersea, which had a more, shall we say, industrial tradition. Clapham Junction was a name that would reassure the affluent middle-class clientele the railway companies were hoping to attract.

They'd be shocked if they could see it today. There are no flowers, no fresh green paint, no porters. There are loads and loads of trains, though – 110 per hour. Who needs a hanging basket when you can get to the flower market at New Covent Garden at a moment's notice? Who's bothered about a bit of peeling paint or a leaking roof when – whether you want the seaside, the City or the suburbs – there'll be a train along in a couple of minutes?

We should celebrate the fact that Clapham Junction manages to get what seems like half of London on its way to work every day without mishap, not carp because it hasn't won Britain in Bloom.

It's all very well having cycle parking (one of Lord Adonis's priorities, apparently: that'll come as good news for the disabled). Sure, most sensible people would like clean public loos, lifts and somewhere to get a hot drink. But what you really want from a railway station – and what Clapham Junction delivers with jaw-dropping efficiency – is a good rail service.

v.summerley@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
US first lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) and her mother Marian Robinson (L) share a light moment with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan  

Europe now lags behind the US and China on climate change. It should take the lead once more

Joss Garman
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor