The crowded Denmark Hill railway station in South London gained a second entrance this morning, which will help to relieve the congestion in the peak hours and reduce the journey time to the station for most of its passengers.
Denmark Hill station has an exit on the southern side of the station, which opened a decade ago at the time that lifts and a new footbridge was added to improve accessibility. Even at the time, four standard and one wide gate in the ticket barrier seemed a mistake, and ever-increasing passenger numbers in recent pre-pandemic years has lead to congestion in the station.
At times, it could take as much as 10 minutes to get in or out of the station, and apart from the annoyance to the passengers, there’s a safety issue with crowds on platforms and on the fairly narrow pavement outside the station.
Opening a second entrance on the opposite side of the station not only doubles the number of ticket barriers it will, in a couple of years time, reduce the journey time to and from the station as about two-thirds of passengers approach the station from the northern side and currently walk around to the southern entrance. That will remain an issue until around 2023 when a hospital building site is finished and a closed footpath is reopened. When the footpath opens, it will knock about 200 metres off the journey for most people.
In the meantime though, the new entrance will reduce queues at the station as it’s a tiny detour past the pub when people arrive at the existing entrance to walk around the side to the new entrance.
The new entrance is a grey metal box that matches the design of the other entrance and comes with an external train times display screen facing towards the way most people are likely to approach the entrance.
It may not look it causally, but a lot of work went into the brick wall which had to be partially demolished for the new entrance to be built and was rebuilt to its original design complete with heritage gates partly funded by The Railway Heritage Trust.
Inside, there are four ticket gates and one wide gate. There’s no ticket office in the new entrance, but there are two video-help screens on either side of the ticket barrier which connects to the staffed ticket office. Inside the entrance, the walls have been decorated with a mix of coloured and plain white tiles in a trapezium shape based on the Camberwell Brick, a local branding design that was introduced locally in January 2020. A wooden roof and glass windows overlooking the railway lighten the effect.
There’s also poetry on the glass panels – an excerpt from The Test by Una Marson, a poet, journalist and campaigner who lived locally. She was also the BBC’s first black female presenter when she joined their Overseas Service during WW2. There’s a blue plaque on her home in nearby Brunswick Park.
A set of stairs leads up to the footbridge across to the platforms, and a ramp runs around the side for those unable to use the stairs.
Up on the slope, is a new piece of public artwork produced in collaboration with the Camberwell Society and Camberwell Arts, by the British Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor, using traditional adinkra symbolism of Ghana.
Down in the station, new canopies have been constructed along three of the platforms where people are more likely to need to wait for trains, with the aim of making it easier for people to spread out along the platform when the weather is bad. Solar panels have been added to the roof, which is expected to make the new station entrance carbon negative in terms of electricity generation.
The overall effect is a station of two halves. The older half with its original ticket hall — now a pub — and original staircases and canopy, and then halfway along it changes to modern with the decade-old staircases and lifts, and now the new canopies.
The cost of the new entrance and associated works came in at £7.5 million. Structurally, it’s a modest-looking building, but one that had to deal with a listed heritage wall and be built over a steep slope. However, the modesty of the building belies its likely impact on the local community who not only will have far less congestion in the peak hours, but also, when the closed footpath reopens — with a £1 million redevelopment from Southwark Council — the new entrance will save a lot of walking time for the majority of passengers.
Also next to the new entrance is a large secure area for 85 bikes, partly funded by Sustrans and the local hospitals. Users will need to apply for a security fob to be able to open the gate to the cycle racks.
The new entrance to Denmark Hill station was officially opened by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who was joined by local resident Sandi Toksvig and also by actress Danielle Arthur-Kennedy who read the poem extract that’s in the station.