A new railway station opened at the weekend, far from the hustle and bustle associated with Crossrail, and yet I suspect has the potential to become the most interesting station on the entire Elizabeth line.

The station was known to be due to open in “late October”, and an accidental leak of the opening date of 23rd October by Bexley council was swiftly removed from their website.

Having been unable to verify the exact date, and sadly with mobility slightly impaired at the moment, your correspondent was dependent on a report by Diamond Geezer that the station did indeed open at the weekend.

It’s not entirely finished, but it’s open for users of the existing train services that ran through here already, with the Crossrail works still carrying on next door, with those lines due to open next December.

This is a little early present for the Abbey Wood residents.

Unsurprisingly though, most of the attention focused on Crossrail has been on the new underground stations in the centre of London — vast new stations with delightfully curvacious corridors.

As wonderful and huge the new “tube” stations are underground, as they rise up to street level, the result is more of a generic station building. Although each station will be decorated differently at surface level, they are almost entirely basically a box with an office block on top.

When the Jubilee line extension was built, while the tube tunnels are not much different from any other tube line, the ticket halls were allowed to shine. A uplifting delight as you ascend the escalators to the complex at Southwark, of the blue atmosphere at Nth Greenwich, of the concrete box at Bermondsey. And who can’t fail to be amazed on their first (and many future) visits to Canary Wharf.

The Elizabeth line is proving to be almost the exact opposite — with the wonder deep below ground at the massive tunnels and curved concrete decoration, but the ticket halls could have been repurposed retail outlets or fancy coffee shops.

The sole exception being Paddington, which could well rival Canary Wharf station for the sheer grandeur of the entrance, with it’s huge open plan construction and glass roof permitting dappled daylight to reach down to the deepest levels.

Canary Wharf looks impressive, above dock level, but that’s mostly the oversite development for the shops and the roof garden.

But the rest of the central London stations are basically boxes for offices, with the ground floor given to the ticket hall. This isn’t a major surprise as tube stations are almost always built with oversite developments intended to be added, and thanks to their central locations, all of them have buildings going on top immediately.

That’s a marked change from the Jubilee line extension, which is still waiting for an oversite development at Bermondey, although plans are now underway for work at Southwark and North Greenwich.

Canary Wharf was never intended to have buildings on top, and being built inside an old dock had been expected to have the top flooded again to recreate the lost dock. Fortunately that was abandoned, and a much more useful park was put on top instead.

The new Elizabeth line stations in central London are incredibly impressive, but mainly at the deeper level, as the ticket halls are decoratively pleasing, but not impressive structures.

Yet, most of the actual stations that will form the new Elizabeth line already exist, as they are National Rail stations that are getting upgrades to cope with the increased passenger numbers.

For some it’s little more than a lick of paint, others get new footbridges that include lifts. Most get revamped ticket halls, and forecourts are cleaned up to make them more pedestrian friendly.

Some are getting entirely new ticket halls, but, these are generally not much more than glass boxes. Much larger than the often dingy old ticket halls, and a major landmark for the local area, but frankly, mainly, they’re glass boxes and that’s about it.

Then we come to Abbey Wood.

What on earth happened here?

No mere glass box for Abbey Wood, but a zinc Manta Ray biting onto the side of the main road and long sinuous tails sloping gracefully down to the platforms and rising again at a far set of stairs.

Exposed wooden beams inside show off the gently curved ceiling with dark stone flooring adding a colour contrast with the lightness above.

Outside the grey manta ray skin has been lifted up by warm wooden slats on a dark brick foundation, and two sets of wide stairs connect the new ticket hall with the modest parade of shops nearby, which was recently rebranded Abbey Wood Village.

To hit the “late October” deadline for opening the ticket hall, the lifts aren’t ready yet, and outside it’s still much of a building site, but for the local community which has put up with decades of neglect, this opening can’t have come soon enough.

Abbey Wood has long been a bit of a runt of a station, with an ugly steel box and nasty walkways to get from the main road down to the station level. All that has been swept away and elevated. The ticket hall no longer down below but up high, creating a landmark where all was windy 1970s concrete.

The building isn’t tall, but flattened and yet with its elevated location it stands out, clean and glossy in a region that has until recently lacked much in the way of regeneration.

Considering this is a terminus for the Elizabeth line and should also a suitable location for an impressive terminus station, the ticket hall is modest in size. It’s larger than its predecessor, but still managing to retain a human scale about it, without being too overwhelmingly grand.

Sadly though, around half the people who will get off the Elizabeth line trains here will never see the ticket hall. For them, the station will consist mainly of stairs, an escalator and a footbridge as they swap over to the SouthEastern trains heading deeper into Kent.

The locals have gained a delightful station, and I suspect, a lot of architects and train geeks will pay a visit to admire this most unexpected jewel in Crossrail’s crown.

More photos at Diamond Geezer and Bexley is Bonkers and my previous visits

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10 comments on “Abbey Wood station – the unexpected jewel in Crossrail’s crown
  1. Melvyn says:

    I managed to get the opening date via the Bexley leak after doing a search for ” Crossrail ” but have still to visit the new station.

    It looks like Abbey Wood Station has taken advantage of having an empty site in a similar fashion to those Station on the Jubilee Line had at Canary Wharf and North Greenwich which allowed them to take advantage of basically being built like a large shoe box into which Station was built .

    One future problem Abbey Wood may have is if they decide to extend The Elizabeth Line there may not be enough space to extend both tracks ! Something passive provision or even extended tracks should have been done as part of Station rebuilding.

    • Ian Visits says:

      The site was not empty and they spent the best part of a year just clearing and preparing the site before construction could begin.

      As I noted in my previous articles, there is passive provision for extending the line if needed in the future.

      • Ragjack says:

        Are you sure on that? Speaking to a couple of builders on the project apparently there is a mssssive column holding up the new station deck inn the way of one of the crossrail lines

      • Ian Visits says:

        There’s no column holding up the station – it’s mounted on two large new walls that were installed.

        The columns they might be referring to are the ones holding up the flyover — which are in the way of one track, but only one track, and only because there’s no longer enough width to get around them without buying up a lot of extra land, and houses beside the site.

        Passive provision has been included in the design, should such an eventuality be needed.

    • The opening date was first announced at the (statutory I believe) Abbey Wood Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting in March 2017 and repeated six months later. Not sure where all this ‘leak’ business came from. Informed locals have known the planned date all Summer – even though we began to doubt it occasionally.
      http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/2017/mar/2201.php

  2. whiff says:

    It certainly looks more impressive than the bland and soulless new Reading station at the other end of Crossrail.

  3. Jamie B says:

    Thought to be called a village there had to be a green or cricket field… Is this renaming so the estate agents can value the surrounding houses 3 times higher than they are worth… You can not polish a turd, people! May be its just a vagazelisation….

  4. JB says:

    Having actually used the new Abbey Wood station, as station it is badly designed and already over-capacity, even before Crossrail arrives.

    At peak times, there is a long queue at the ticket machines (not enough installed), and in the evenings there is a 10-deep mob of people trying to exit (not enough ticket barriers).

    In addition, the flights of stairs to the platforms are no wider than the previous insufficient ones – again, even before Crossrail arrives.

    • Kelly says:

      Totally agree! It’s far smaller than I imagined it to be from the pictures. Plus one of the only 2 ticket machines consistently fails to work.

  5. The area beside has been known as Abbey Wood village since at least the 70s and probably earlier. Looking at pics of the area reveals why. It had no flyover nor Thamesmead nearby. The woods which gives the town its name extended down to much marshland at what is now Thamesmead.

    Plans in the 70s foresaw the flyover meet the station as now seen before cut back and the tangle of walkways installed.

    Concerning to hear it is overcrowded already if so. Another footbridge is going in at the western end to assist which was a late addition. I’d hoped for a second entrance/exit beside there to aid dispersal of crowds. Greenwich Council own garages there which could be sold for housing to fund.

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