Nealy a year later than planned, the cramped old ticket hall leading down narrow stairs at West Hampstead station have been replaced with a huge new entrance building and much wider staircases.
The new entrance is of necessity next to the old, and also set back from the narrow pavement to create a bit more public space. Build in a modern utilitarian style, the glass and steel is unlikely to win any architectural awards, but it is very functional for the majority of people who just want to catch a train.
It’s delayed though – originally expected to open in August 2018, then pushed back to December, and finally opening last week, just about avoiding opening in August 2019, so they can get away with saying it wasn’t quite a year late.
To hit that deadline though, they’ve decided to open it in stages, with the new lifts being added later, and while tickets can be sold in the new entrance from machines, human sales will still take place in the old ticket hall for a bit longer.
Usefully, the ticket machines and olde-style timetables in the new entrance are set back away from the main corridor, so the occasional users aren’t bowled over by hurrying commuters.
The number of ticket barriers also doubled to 10 in total compared to the old entrance.
For those avoiding the weather, there is a very wide footbridge with windows overlooking the platforms on one side, and is certain to become the waiting spot of choice.
There’s still a lot of work to do before the builders pack up and go on to their next project, but at last the new entrance is open to be used.
Some of the funding for the redevelopment comes from Ballymore, who are building just under 200 homes next to the station in a series of low-rise blocks of flats.
The existing Edwardian era station building will be later removed, and is due to be turned into a “retail opportunity”, although problems with the road bridge it sits on may cause those plans to change.