After several years of preparatory work, the formal planning application has now been filed to upgrade South Kensington tube station.
Attempts to upgrade the station have been proposed several times since the late 1980s but have struggled to reconcile the cost of the upgrade being funded by over site developments and the vocal local lobby concerned by over development of the site. One exceptionally controversial proposal called for the demolition of the Victorian era shopping arcade entirely and a new round tower constructed instead.
The proposal that’s going to the council for approval will see the bullnose at the front of the station replaced with a larger building to increase rental income, although slightly smaller than TfL had originally aimed for, and there will be a new row of housing built along one side of the station wall filling in a space that was created in the 1960s.
The existing row of shops and flats will also be rebuilt behind the facade to bring the shabby interiors up to modern standards. The proposals also include new homes in Thurloe Square to reinstate housing where the square connects with Pelham Place. The original homes in this location were removed for the construction of the original railway in the 1860s.
These are all to help cover the cost of the tube station upgrade itself, which will eventually see step-free access to the ticket hall and to the Circle and District line platforms.
The ticket hall, currently massively congested at rush hours will be reconfigured to roughly double the number of ticket barriers it can hold along a much wider and straight barrier line.
To help reduce overcrowding on the narrow stairs from the Circle/District line platforms to the ticket hall, they plan to bring back into use a disused platform, so that passengers for eastbound trains will have a separate staircase to use from passengers heading west.
There will also be a new station entrance added on Thurloe Street.
If the planning application is approved, then this will be the first stage in a series of upgrades which will also eventually see step-free access to the Piccadilly line. That cannot start though until the rest of the station is upgraded as it would require the closure of the Piccadilly line platforms for several months, and the sub-surface platforms need to be able to cope with the additional passenger demand.
The proposals have been developed by Native Land and TfL, and designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, with the historic building specialist Julian Harrap Architects working on heritage elements of the scheme.