061/270: #Bank – The Gap

From my last station Moorgate (060) to Bank, this part of the journey seems to be all about memories. It was some time around 1994 when the Central Line’s ’92 stock started to appear in service. They had exciting “perch” seats at the ends of each car and I’d not seen anything like it before. I’d be hoisted up onto them at Epping where I’d sit, eagerly awaiting the stretch between Liverpool Street and Bank when I could turn around and look back down the length of the train as it twisted its way round the right curves under Threadneadle Street. I remember being told the violent kinks in the line were built to avoid running into the vaults of the Bank of England itself. This I found enormously exciting.

Excitement would continue if we’d be alighting, where I’d have to jump the gap created between the train and the severe curvature of the platform – which was absolutely astronomical in the eyes of a 6 year old.

Today I have a very mixed relationship with Bank. I still hold onto that exciting memory 20+ years later. I’ll still occasionally glance through the train on the run back to Liverpool Street to watch it meander its way out of the city… But I will always do my upmost best to avoid actually using Bank. To interchange here is a nightmare. All the lines (DLR included) were constructed at different times, in different spaces, under different management. As a result they have never been properly bolted together with any sense of cohesion. It’s cramped, confusing and illogical. To exit here is even worse.

And don’t get me started on Monument.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

060/270: #Moorgate – The Widened Lines

The Metropolitan railway was only 3 years old when it was already expanding its operation between Moorgate and King’s Cross. In 1866 the two track line was widened to four with additional connections provided at King’s Cross and St. Pancras to the Midland and Great Northern Railways. This offered direct through travel on the appropriately named “Widened Lines” from the north right into the heart of the city.

This was always a part of the network I found fascinating, particularly when I was young. The intertwining tube and national rail lines burrowing under and over each other, breaking in and out of daylight as they scraped the surface of the city. The overhead lines, the unusual national rail rolling stock sharing underground space with tube trains, the victorian retaining walls, the 60’s functionality and the people bustling about their busy city lives. This was my vision of London and it all began at Moorgate.

Service pattens, destinations and formations changed throughout the years but the Widened Lines eventually played host to the brand new Thameslink suburban services from 1988. Moorgate’s impressive and spacious subterranean terminal accommodated four terminating and two through lines. Coupled with the Northern City Line terminus below, Moorgate thrived as an important commuter hub in the city.

Sadly these days Moorgate is a shadow of its former self. In 2013 terminating Thameslink services were withdrawn and diverted through an expanded facility at Farringdon. As a result Platforms 5 & 6 closed. They were briefly used as an exhibition space for the Tube’s 150th birthday, but they have since been boarded up – the space to be presumably used for Crossrail expansions. Change is no doubt a good thing but I will always remember Moorgate for what it was. London’s Forgotten Terminus.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

059/270: #Blackfriars – The Station On The Bridge

The mainline station at Blackfriars is unlike any other in London. Spanning the width of the Thames, this impressive structure was completed in 2012 and offers Thameslink passengers spectacular views of the river in both directions as they wait for their trains. The station also intelligently uses recycled piers left over from the 1864 bridge leading into Holborn Viaduct.

Refurbished in the same year, the District and Circle Line platforms are of a simple and spacious design. Escalators lead up to a shared concourse which fronts the street with a sweeping curved glass and metal facade.

Despite it being a reasonably major player, this is one of those stations I rarely use in day-to-day life. The edge-of-the-financial-district location doesn’t offer much for me in terms of surroundings, whilst the interchange from Tube to Thameslink is not one I find myself needing to do all that often… And besides most North East to South East journeys are more efficiently completed through London Bridge or Canada Water. This is a shame as the whole complex is truly a pleasure to use.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

058/270: #BethnalGreen – The Interruption

Ah Bethnal Green. The station that has long but puzzled the Essex commuters. Nobody ever seems to get on or off at Bethnal Green during rush hour and the trains always seem to linger here slightly longer than is necessary. It’s existence also rather spoils the sense of efficiency on this part of the Central Line, interrupting what would otherwise be a 2.5 mile stretch of unadulterated speed between Mile End and Liverpool Street.

Lying both slightly too far south of Cambridge Heath and slightly too far north of it’s mainline name sake, Bethnal Green is a missed opportunity in supplying a useful interchange to National Rail (now Overground). As it also encroaches on Stepney Green and Whitechapel’s respective patches it’s easy to ask what is it’s purpose? Judging eyes wonder how much of their busy lives would been saved not stopping at Bethnal Green every day. How much longer would I have in bed? How much longer would I have to close that big city deal? You can sense the resentment the suburbanites have in stopping at Bethnal Green.

That’s a shame, because it’s actually quite an attractive station. Upstairs isn’t much to write home about but the tile scheme is a classic example of Holden’s interior work. Next time you’re waiting for what seems like an eternity for that train to depart Bethnal Green, admire the 2007 renovation. It really does Holden’s original decoration and tile scheme justice. Well… that is until you spend time too much time looking at the tiled lettering. Some of the H’s and N’s haven’t been put on the right way round. Once you see it, it cannot be unseen.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

057/270: #NorthGreenwich – The Plastic Tent

After Canary WharfNorth Greenwich is always a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, its got it’s merits and features, but it’s probably my least favourite of the Jubilee Line extension stations. It’s just a bit too plastic-y for me. In fact quite a lot of the Greenwich Peninsula has that cheap and nasty feel to it. Not that it actually is cheap mind…

Perhaps it’s the tube driver’s announcement that 11-year-old me heard when I took a ride on this line for the first time that’s stuck: “Alight here for the giant plastic tent.”

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk