In a couple of years time, the name of a small station in the depths of South-East London will become suddenly very familiar to millions of Londoners as its name is repeatedly read out as the final destination — for Crossrail.
It will probably remain a mysterious place for many — a name on the front of trains, a place that trains go to turn around, a place that few will ever visit — and yet one which millions will come to know with a detached familiarity.
Abbey Wood station has been around for over 160 years, but the ticket office had been rebuilt twice in just the past 50 years and is again getting a major rebuild for Crossrail.
The station building used to be next to a level-crossing that ran across the tracks, which was a bit of a pain for the railway and road traffic alike. So it was in the late 1970s that a massive dominating flyover was constructed, with an Escher-like set of ramps down from a rather grim looking concrete bus stop to the platforms.
All this has been swept away, and the ticket office which had remained down by the platforms is to be elevated upwards to the flyover, with a huge manta ray-style building which may possibly finally mean the flyover road is no longer the dominant feature on the landscape.
However, the level crossing (photo) which was removed in the 1970s proved to have left a legacy which was to affect Crossrail.
That level crossing had proven to be a very useful spot for a lot of utilities firms to cross the otherwise unforgiving railway line, and those utilities were still down there. Ordinarily not a problem, unless you need to drill around 100 piles down into the ground to support a huge new railway station building.
It’s taken around a year of work, and considerable coordination with the services to prepare new tunnels under the tracks to one side, then divert all the services to their new home. A year of work, with nothing on the surface to show for it.
However, it did finally allow piling to start, and one of the outer walls is now nearly complete, with piling starting on the other side right now.
In the middle columns are being erected to support the station building above — and the concrete beams forming its base will start to appear around Easter time.
Somewhat sooner than that — this very weekend in fact — another major change is about to take place.
In addition to the new station building, they are shifting the existing railway track southwards to allow space for the Crossrail trains, and one of the new platforms is on the verge of completion.
Over this weekend, the existing track will be slewed to line up with the new line and the connection made.
Then they can start demolishing the ex-westbound platform and rebuild it to become the new eastbound platform for Southeastern trains. That should be finished around this August.
In addition to the legacy of that level crossing to be dealt with, the new tracks run close to residential housing, which has seriously constrained their work site, and with a number of narrow residential roads in the area, deliveries have had to be carefully timed to avoid congestion.
It’s a curiosity of huge construction sites that they are often too small and in the wrong place for convenient deliveries, and almost every site your correspondent has visited has been a tale of the logistics needed just to ensure spoil can leave and replacement concrete arrive on time.
Meanwhile, tracks running from the tunnel at Plumstead have already been laid, and are tantalizingly close to Abbey Wood, but have to wait until the station is ready.
The tracks and signalling aim to be in place by next Easter for a final handover to Crossrail.
When finished, there will be two island platforms, the southern for SouthEastern trains, and the northern for Crossrail.
Further down the platforms from the ticket office is a set of steps across the tracks, as the station is a hub — a place where it’s expected that the majority of passengers will be swapping between services.
Indeed, people one stop closer to London, at Plumstead may travel out to Abbey Wood for a faster trip into London.
There had been plans to share the platforms, so that people coming in from Kent would just cross the platform, not use the staircase, but that meant some Crossrail trains crossing the tracks to get to the Plumstead tunnel — a most undesirable risk.
So, large staircases, escalators and lifts.
In addition to the new platforms and tracks, a lot of work has gone into improving the drainage, as the soil is quite soft damp peat based, and deep drainage channels now run along some of the new tracks.
The station building should open in late 2017, with Crossrail trains arriving in December 2018.
One last piece of work that has to be done once the main station is completed, is removing the temporary ticket office they built, and taking down the third of the new staircase that wont now be needed. Probably to be reused elsewhere, as although the impetus for these works is Crossrail, they are being carried out by Network Rail.
In a couple of years time, people will travel on trains that repeatedly intone that they are terminating at Abbey Wood, and this is what it’s taken to make that happen.
Article last updated on April 14th, 2021 at 10:14 am