Building a key interchange for inner South East London, similar to Stratford or Clapham Junction, would have many benefits to the area. This blog expores a proposal to develop Lewisham Junction as that interchange.
Lewisham Junction is a proposal for a brand new station on a new site on the south side of Lewisham town centre. This blog explains the rationale for the site choice and how it could be developed.
The first thing to note is that Lewisham Junction is a separate site to the current Lewisham station. The current Lewisham station suffers from a complex flat junction and curving platforms, with little room to make alterations. It is not a practical place to expand or convert into a major junction. That said, the existing station, referred to here as Lewisham (North), is already a reasonably major junction, with lines to Victoria & Blackfriars, Charing Cross & Cannon Street, the DLR, Hayes, Chislehurst, Sidcup, Bexleyheath and Charlton.
The Lewisham Junction site is known to the railway as Courthill Loop Junction. To locals, it is to the west of the river at the south end of the High Street. The map hopefully clarifies the location:
This location is closer to the centre of the High Street than the current Lewisham station. And this access could be dramatically improved as part of building the station by opening up the south end of the shopping centre, across Molesworth Street.
While much of the core land is in railway ownership, the access land is not. The southern part of the High Street and Engate Street would ideally be totally redeveloped to provide good access, including for buses.
The station itself would need 4 platforms on the main-line and 2 platforms for the slow lines to Sidcup and Chislehurst. There would also need to be 2 platforms on the Hayes line that runs at right angles to the main-line under the site. (4 platforms are needed on the main-line to allow a train to pull into one platform while another train is pulling out of the other one).
Key to keeping initial costs down would be to no longer provide for trains to run from Hayes to London direct from Ladywell via the "short cut" on the western part of the site. All Hayes trains would have to go via Lewisham (North). Similarly, there would no longer be a connection from Hither Green to Lewisham (North). All Sidcup and Chislehurst services would run "straight on", avoiding Lewisham (North). This change to the services requires that the DLR is extended to Lewisham Junction, so that passengers from Sidcup and Chislehurst can still access Greenwich and Docklands (extending the DLR south of Lewisham North is not simple, but nor is it impossible).
Note that Lewisham (North) would remain open and unaltered with this proposal, serving that area of Lewisham.
The real question is what have we gained through this scheme?
The benefits to the railway are simpler operation around the Lewisham area. The Hayes and Sidcup/Chislehurst lines have clearly defined routes/destinations, with less need for complex timetabling. Specifically, there is relief of the Lewisham flat junction, which would allow more Blackheath services. These railway benefits are important, providing a step change in capacity. However, there are much larger benefits around regeneration, with longer term benefits.
Next to this site is Wearside, a Lewisham Council Depot. This is a large plot of land that would suddenly be located next to a key railway junction, with fast access to London. Using this land to drive a major regeneration project would be key to the whole scheme. In addition to the Wearside land, there would need to be concerted effort to completely redevelop the southern end of Lewisham High Street. It would also make sense to redevelop Riverdale House, a nearby office building.
Finally, the main shopping centre would need to be opened up to the south, no doubt providing a major boost to retail in the centre. With the increase in people travelling only by publc transport, and not owning a car at all, improving public transport access to urban shopping centres is of increasing importance.
If these redevelopments could be linked together, there may be a surprising aount of money available to fund the scheme.
Some pictures that may help set the scene.
The southern end of the High Street, station site on the right, ideally replacing this row of shops:
Engate Street, behind the High Street. The station site would include this area, requiring demolition of this building and using land further to the right (the High Street is to the left):
Wearside depot, targetted for redevelopment:
The heart of the site itself, taken here from behind Riverdale House:
Stratford and Clapham Junction stations are the models that this proposal looks to. Stratford in particular, didn't start as the huge interchange that it is now. Over time, other railway lines came to Stratford, the DLR twice and the London Overground. A key interchange becomes an attractor that reinforces the location.
In future entries I will look at some possible options that would reinforce the "junction" nature of Lewisham Junction, creating the hub for South East London that is needed, but cannot be built at Lewisham (North).
The current Lewisham (North) station is a reasonable junction, but cannot be expanded. This leaves the Lewisham Junction site, an opportunity for regeneration over a large part of Lewisham town centre and through the Wearside depot to Ladywell. Something that could change Lewisham forever.