A closed entrance at Lewisham station will not reopen with the arrival of thousands of new homes as Southeastern and Network Rail listed a number of reasons to keep padlocks on.
One reason given from Southeastern in response to a question from Councillor Edison Huynh (Labour – Lewisham Central) to keep a previously open entrance and exit to Platform 4 now permanently closed was “due to the narrowness of the entrance”.
They then stated: “The only solution would be the purchase of land, to create space where a gateline could be installed, and as mentioned, planning consents (not assuming any decision either way) would be required.
“Based on previous experience, we estimate such a project would cost at least £2million, which would need to be funded by Network Rail and which is why we believe it would be unfeasible.”
A large number of new homes are currently being built to the north of the station close to the former entrance including Lewisham’s tallest tower. However it appears little to no funding has been allocated.
The development from Mayer Homes on the former Tesco car park also includes a lower-rise element.
Southeastern continued: “In the past there have been schemes (such as at Swanley station) where upgrade work has been undertaken with local authorities contributing substantially to funding”
That would normally be via Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy income. Lewisham begun the process of updating CIL rates in 2019 then halted and have yet to resume.
“We have also made contributions in the past, however this year we have no budget for any station enhancement work on our network.”
Southeastern is entirely owned by the Department for Transport who have sought cuts thus it’s little surprise they will not help assist funding via the rail company.
Network Rail then commented: “We are not able to open this ramp to platform 4 at present as the gradient of the slope is not compliant with accessibility regulations (it is too steep).
Re-grading the ramp or installation of a lift would be required, which we are not currently funded to deliver”.
Many homes are either being built or planned to the north of the station which would benefit from reopening the entrance. Meyer Homes’ tower is the most visible but not the only development.
This image shows the outline of current development sites in red.
The site on the right is part of a redevelopment of two estates. Residents of both sites should begin to move in shortly. These phases total 443 homes and follow 782 recently built.
Then there’s the Tesco supermarket site with news earlier this year for plans to demolish with new housing on site above a new store.
Failing to reopen platform 4 follows another proposed entrance which was partly built but not finished at the base of recently built tower beside platform 1.
The Vita towers included space at street level for a station linking to the Southeastern station and in future any Bakerloo line extension, but no funds were spent fitting it out.
The pandemic offered breathing space to the station which was creaking under the load up to 2020.
A one-way system ended up being implemented in 2019. It wasn’t just a lack of entrances causing congestion but narrow subways.
As passenger numbers recover and thousands of new homes complete around the station the risk returns of severe congestion and overcrowding leading to closures.
By failing to reopen the entrance/exit at Platform 4 or funding a link from to existing lifts for an entrance everyone is forced around the long way round to the existing entrance.
They’ll meet thousands more future passengers the other side of the tracks.
Work is currently underway on Lewisham Gateway Phase 2 as seen below to the left.
There’s also Silver Street nearing completion in Lewisham not too far from the station.
Beyond that we have the shopping centre redevelopment with consultation underway for at least 1,800 homes.
And proposals are still due on building at Lewisham retail park where L&Q gained permission for 535 homes in 2019.
That is not proceeding anytime soon but it’s inevitable work will eventually proceed.
There’s no doubt that without the pandemic and subsequent reduction in passengers post-2020 the station would be struggling with severe overcrowding.
Yet passenger numbers did drop which gave breathing space and ensures housing recently completed or due to finish in 2024 will see new passengers meet reduced – though growing again – numbers using the station.
The question now is will funding be found to open or reconstruct mothballed entrances before other major developments are built and passengers return to levels seen in 2019?
Without it, those scenes of crowding seen four years ago could return.