Looking at Barking Riverside’s new rail station and (not very good) ferry service

Everyone’s eyes dart to the right again to see if that noise echoing off the river is a Thames Clipper boat emerging around the sweep of the Thames from Woolwich. Once again it isn’t.

This has been going on for about 15 minutes as people become ever more irritated. Kids are bored. Parents are tired. Some have had enough and leave the pontoon back towards Barking to presumably take a train. There’s nothing else to do.

Barking Riverside pontoon. Thamesmead beyond.

So far the experience of using Uber boat – as Thames Clippers has been rebranded – is really not one to repeat.

I check my phone to see what’s happening. The first boat of the evening peak never showed and the second due twenty minutes after is also nowhere to be seen.

Looking back from terminus towards new school

Thames Clippers eventually state on Twitter the first boat is 15 minutes late. It wasn’t. By now we’re about 40 minutes after it was supposed to leave.

Desolate

While some waiting passengers give up and head back to the new station it’s not like there’s many alternatives given how remote the area is. On Twitter some say Thames Clippers regularly don’t show for the first boats and the service is poor. In the waiting area some concur. It’s been shoddy ever since it commenced according to people waiting.

Waiting, waiting and more waiting

Eventually a boat arrives about 45 minutes late. Whether this is the one Thames Clippers stated would be 15 minutes late and due 45 minutes ago, or the second due 25 minutes ago is unknown. But it’s not something to entice anyone to give them a second chance. And at the high cost charged? Even more unlikely.

Let’s back up though and see what happened before attempting to use the shoddy boat service.

I had a rare bit of free time and so I’d check out the new station at Barking Riverside. The one constructed to make onwards extension to Thamesmead expensive, difficult and almost certain never to happen.

Elevated station on viaduct. Any crossing would be in tunnel

Sorry Thamesmeadodeons but after the promise of the Jubilee line, a rail station, a number of Thames crossings, a tram/bus rapid transit and probably much else besides you didn’t think the London Overground would really cross the Thames did you?

First off I travelled to Barking where Network SouthEast lives on in platform signs 25 years after it officially died.

Barking station. A scene that could have been taken in 1990s with old signage

The station is being rebuilt to reveal more of its post-war modernist design (and a great thing too). New builds abound around the station.

Towers beside station

The London Overground now runs beyond Barking to Barking Riverside after the £327m extension opened in July.

Very few passengers are on-board once I hopped on for the short trip beyond Barking station to Barking Riverside.

En route to the riverside

In a rare piece of forward thinking, the station has been built to provide a link for tens of thousands of future residents. Sadly, nothing similar is happening for north Thamesmead to permit 10,000 homes on long vacant land.

Vast areas of Thamesmead are undeveloped decades after the MOD departed

Barking Riverside Station

The station is very quiet as to be expected as the vast majority of homes aren’t there yet – and nor is much else. Though being TfL, it has barriers and is staffed.

Inside station

Compare and contrast to, say, Southeastern Metro. When a station is rebuilt in an area such as Kidbrooke.

New homes around Kidbrooke station

Staffing is minimal in Kidbrooke and plans for ticket gates were removed just before opening due to a funds for necessary staffing levels – and that’s with thousands of homes already complete in the area and thousands more under construction.

New Kidbrooke station entrance closed. Side gate it is

From the Barking Riverside platform Thamesmead is tantalising visible, as well as new Abbey Wood towers.

Looking towards Thamesmead

In place of the London Overground there is talk of a DLR extension to Thamesmead but there’s no funding in the latest finance agreement, and even if it does the plan is not to link north Thamesmead to Abbey Wood to connect with the Elizabeth line, Southeastern and Thameslink.

DLR plan if ever funded

In place is a rebranded bus following pretty much the same route as now.

A DLR extension also doesn’t connect Thamesmead residents to the sheer number of transport options at Barking with tube lines and c2c trains.

c2 train at Barking. Hammersmith & City line tube nearby

Housing

I recently purchased a camera off Ebay with a 12x optical zoom (thanks to those who support the site which helps fund things like that) and put it to use capturing new housing. I bodged some shots but a few came out well.

In total 10,000 homes are planned at Barking Riverside.

Close up of new builds from Barking Riverside station

Terraced homes are rising in sizable numbers off a crescent-shaped road with higher density flats beyond.

Barking housing

The area isn’t exactly enticing with much street space given over to parking. The way the roofline ends with a flat roof at the end of the terrace too. Urgh.

The sense of desolation continues with pylons in situ.

Homes near power lines

L&Q are behind many homes in Barking. Just last week it was revealed they have around 1,500 empty shared ownership homes given prices charged are too high.

Taken from passing train

Shared ownership is also big here. Purely as prices in London and beyond are so high few that can afford to buy outright, so a small share is all people even on decent incomes can afford. Don’t forget rent and service charges on top!

This is one of the better angles of development:

It’s not that bad though. Some parts are relatively ok and density is good. There’s an actual masterplan and no meandering roads lined with cul-de-sacs.

A district centre is proposed close to the station but for now it’s a wasteland. A new school is the closest structure to the station.

On board

The new second hand camera was put to further use on the ferry when it finally turned back as we headed west to Woolwich.

Berkeley Homes’ towers

Zooming in to the new Mast Quay development reveals how cheap it’s looking – and much has been cut from original plans.

Mast Quay in Woolwich

Straight out the early 2000s. Here’s both Mast Quay and Berkeley blocks as seen approaching Woolwich pier:

Not forgetting Thamesmead blocks built around 15 years ago:

Thamesmead flats viewed from Thames

They’re looking a bit scruffy. That render needs a good paint.

And then we’re back in bustling Woolwich which feels a world away from Barking yet is only a quick ferry ride (if it turns up).

In future Greenwich Council will be hoping many will do so to shop in town and visit Woolwich Works, which is a few seconds stroll from the pier.

Good practice as transport arrives before housings

For now though advertising for Woolwich Works is still far from good enough. If it’s to succeed, they’ve got to get the basics right. As do Thames Clippers.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

One thought on “Looking at Barking Riverside’s new rail station and (not very good) ferry service

  • I too checked out Barking Riverside. On leaving the station I got the impression that I’d arrived at the end of the world. It’s a desperate, ugly, miserable place. Abandon hope all who enter here. After looking at the sad, resigned faces of the station staff I quickly boarded the first train out of there, vowing never to return.

    Reply

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