100 Journeys: No 9

The Friday Evening Shuffle.

For those not lucky enough to use Oxford Circus station during rush hour, they often intermittently close the station entrance due to overcrowding on the platforms bellow. This just moves the overcrowding onto street level where people often spill onto the road junction and generally make a massive cock up of an already heavily congested area. This is a station that seems to operate on the cusp of complete meltdown at all times. I’m surprised nobody has yet been hit by a bus or got crushed in the crowd as everybody shuffles closer to the entrance.

It could be argued that Oxford Circus has never really been fit for purpose. Crowds like this would regularly swamp the original Leslie Green surface buildings on the corner of Argyll Street, which, before the advent of the Victoria Line’s construction in the 1960’s, was the only entrance to the station.* London population has now evidently caught up with the 60’s ticket hall which lies directly beneath the road crossing and the crippling crowds have returned.

It’s easy to criticise without coming up with a solution, but a serious long term fix to this problem is a difficult one. The extensive rebuilds of neighbouring Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street stations for Crossrail will no doubt help – the two year part closure of the former of those two certainly adding to the Oxford Circus problem. But how long before these are at capacity? With the ever growing unaffordability of London housing, long distance commuting isn’t going to decrease anytime soon. Another rebuild of the station is probably best avoided too as real estate for alternative entrances is surely unobtainable in this area. It’s also such an important interchange TfL could do without having to close for long periods of time. Perhaps it’s time that pedestrianisation, or at least part pedestrianisation, of both Oxford Street and Regent Street is considered. It would surely give more street space to expand entrance staircases and maybe the ticket office bellow whilst still keeping the station open. The added benefit of course being that Europe’s so called premier shopping street will finally be rid of traffic.

Until then… shuffle shuffle.

*I seriously recommend a watch of Experiment Under London which documents the incredibly clever construction of the Oxford Circus ticket hall we know today.

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