AT the bottom of the escalators at Camden Town a disaster is waiting to happen. As people going south stand puzzled at the Charing Cross vs Bank scoreboard, not sure whether to go left or right, crowds pack in from all sides. Even the staggering that is sometimes imposed at peak times does not look like a watertight solution. In fact, sometimes it looks like it could take one dawdler to stumble for the whole ant colony of commuters to get crushed. Transport for London hardly needs graphs and spreadsheets to argue the case for an upgrade.
Over the last ten years, however, it has almost been as if a cloud of sulky indifference has waved over the station. When the 2005 modernisation scheme (pictured) went down after a planning inquiry, there was hardly a rush to find an alternative. It was almost if NW1 was told: Well if you don’t want that, you can’t have anything. Ken Livingstone, the city’s former mayor, went on to say that he did not think Camden Town station would be fixed in his lifetime as the most ‘realistic’ scheme had been spiked.
In truth, the last plan was a bit of a distasteful land grab. The Electric Ballroom nightclub and the market area was to be seized and a bland tower of shops and expensive flats was to be built in its place; a method of paying for the project. But there’s a difference between a project which, to use that recurring, awful politician’s phrase, washes its own face, and another which jet washes everything in sight with a water canon just so that Camden Town’s gateway can be built again from scratch. Ownership of some of the land has changed over the last decade, Hawley School in Buck Street is on the move and maybe the new Mayor, whoever that may be, can take a more conciliatory approach.
Yesterday, all the non-committal we’re-looking-at shrugs were replaced with a chance to look at it all again. New plans were released by TfL, including designs for a second entrance. Will it work? Maybe. But what Camden Town really needs now is an architect hero who can resolve the crush without bleaching the land with sanitiser.
UP THE GOLDEN LION
IF you have a spare morning, afternoon and evening, can I point you in the direction of the Guardian‘s ‘long read’ on the Golden Lion pub in Camden Town today. The three-page piece may go on and on and on and on and on and on, and even promises a part two tomorrow, but the story in a nutshell glows. There aren’t many pubs like it any more, no leather sofas, no pulled pork, no £19.50 roasts. Instead, there’s a dartboard, a pool table and cash register which looks like it should be in a museum. Long may it survive.
NATALIE Bennett’s peaceful Sunday in Somers Town is wrecked…
OLIVER Cooper’s special day