This post was first published by My London on 02/04/2019.
Network Rail buys old Royal Mail depot as part of plans to expand East Croydon station
Network Rail wants to build a whole new station with two extra platforms.
The old Royal Mail and Volkswagen sites next to East Croydon station have been bought by Network Rail as part of plans to tackle the Croydon bottleneck.
Network Rail unveiled plans last year to improve the rail network for the 300,0000 passengers who travel between Croydon and central London or towards Brighton every day.
As part of the upgrade, if approved, a series of new railway flyovers will be built to solve the ‘bottleneck’ problems at Windmill Junction, the major interchange at Selhurst. By replacing the existing flat junctions, it means fewer trains would have to wait at red signals.
The plans would also involve a major upgrade of East Croydon station, with two extra platforms. Network Rail say this change will lead to more services frequently running on time, thus leaving more commuters happy because their train is delay-free.
Although plans are not likely to be approved in the short term, the announcement of Network Rail buying the vacant Royal Mail and Volkswagen sites certainly shows their ambition to potentially start the development sooner rather than later.
How much they paid to purchase the sites has not been disclosed.
Where are the sites?
The derelict Royal Mail sorting office next to East Croydon Station shut way back in 2014 when parcel collections were moved to Factory Lane instead. The site became notorious after it closed when a teenager, Rio Andrew, died during an illegal rave.
The site had been sold to developers who put forward plans for 200 homes on the site, though the prospects of that happening look at an end with it now under Network Rail’s control.
The other site is the Volkswagen van centre on Lansdowne Road, which is to the north west of the existing East Croydon station.
John Halsall, Network Rail route managing director for the South East route, said: “For too long passengers travelling on the Brighton Main Line have had to put up with an unreliable service.
“Unblocking the Croydon bottleneck is the only practical way to improve punctuality to a level passengers deserve and provide the extra capacity needed to accommodate rising passenger numbers.
“The detail of our proposals is still being developed and the plans will be the subject of ongoing consultation with passengers, local residents and businesses. However, by securing these important sites we have taken another step towards making the proposals a reality.
“While we continue to develop our designs, consult with the public and make the case for investment in our proposals, we will work with local stakeholders to explore options for temporary uses of these sites.”
What is the Croydon bottleneck?
Passenger numbers have doubled since 2000 on the Brighton Main Line and this part of the network is a regular on the lists of the country’s most crowded services.
Train punctuality on the Brighton Main Line is the lowest of any major route as the bottleneck magnifies the impact of even the most minor incident or delay.
But there isn’t any room for more trains to cope with the increasing demand on the line because of the Croydon bottleneck.
Network Rail warns this will lead to even more overcrowding if nothing is done.
The tracks to the north split into routes to Victoria and London Bridge, creating what’s known as the Selhurst triangle – and it’s all those trains having to pass through East Croydon, as well as the trains having to cross lines to go to West Croydon and Sutton.
About 75 million train passengers go through Croydon each year, which is up from 45 million in 2005 and expected to rise to 90 million by the early 2030s.
As part of a £300m government-funded programme to tackle hotspots and boost rail reliability in the South East, Network Rail is already carrying out a major project to upgrade tracks and signalling on the southern end of the Brighton Main Line.
To find out more, click here.
What changes are proposed at East Croydon?
As well as increasing the number of platforms at East Croydon from six to eight, the plan is make the station bigger with a new concourse offering better access to platforms and also out to the town centre
According to Network Rail, the changes at East Croydon station would mean a “bigger concourse with improved facilities for passengers”.
It would also help the ongoing regeneration of Croydon town centre, it claims, with potential for new homes and offices to be built above and around the station.
As part of the plans step-free access would be added to Norwood Junction station for the first time.