L ND N

 Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Bow Road station, London E3

My local Underground station is 100 years old today.

Bow Road

Bow Road is an Underground station, but only partly an underground station. That's because Bow Road is the station where eastbound District line trains finally emerge from their tunnel under East London and head off towards Barking and Upminster at surface level. Half of the station is underground and therefore has crap mobile phone reception. The other half of the station is open to the elements and therefore gets wet when it rains. Pigeons appear to be happy to crap on either half.

Bow Road is a station on both the District and Hammersmith & City lines. You might think this was obvious from looking on a tube map, but it appears that nobody has yet bothered to tell anyone who works at the station. Once upon a time Bow Road used to be a station on the Metropolitan line, until this part of the line was reassigned to the new Hammersmith & City line back in 1990. That was a decade ago, but nobody has yet managed to update any of the signs here. The big nameplate outside the front of the station still proudly displays that Bow Road is a station on the "District and Metropolitan lines". The train indicator on the platform still lights up to announce to passengers that the next train is a "Metropolitan line train via Kings Cross". Wrong. Anyone who wanders into the station expecting to catch a Metropolitan line train is in for a very long wait.

Bow Road is a station on the Hammersmith & City line. Everyone in London thinks they live near the tube line with the worst service in the capital. Everyone else is wrong. The Hammersmith & City line has the worst service in the capital. The trains are infrequent and irregular. On the rare occasions that you might actually want to catch one, you can find yourself waiting around through fifteen minutes of endless District line trains until a Hammersmith & City finally decides to turn up. The trains are shorter than District line trains so you then find yourself having to run down the platform in order to dive headlong into the last carriage before the doors shut. However, should you be waiting to catch a District line train, you can of course guarantee that a half-empty Hammersmith & City line train will rumble into the station instead, open its doors apologetically at the platform and then rumble off into oblivion, ready to stall itself at the signals just outside Aldgate East for ten minutes while everyone in the carriage sighs, shrugs and overheats. Line from hell. Never, ever, rely on it.

Bow Road is a station round the bend. Mind the gap. You have to step carefully on and off the trains to make sure you don't slip and fall through on top of the rats scurrying around on the tracks below. Mind the gap please. More annoying is the impossibility of reading the 'next train' indicator from the far end of the platform. Please mind the gap. Not only is the next destination obscured by the bend and by a huge pillar but, in a way reminiscent of far too many other tube stations, the view is now also completely blocked by the CCTV cameras they've installed - right in front of the 'next train' indicator. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Please mind the gap between the ears of the station planners, more like.

Bow Road is a station with thousands of passengers every day. I know this for a fact, because every day they all seem to stand in my way and block the entrance to the ticket gates. Some of them insist on queueing up to buy tickets from the temperamental ticket machines in the entrance hall, a queue which invariably spreads out to block the two foot gap through which everyone everyone else is trying to walk. Other passengers don't bother to buy a ticket at all and instead walk brazenly up to the special gate for those with oversized luggage, open it and saunter through to the buzzing sound of the electronic alarm. Meanwhile the ticket inspector sits disinterestedly in her little booth and continues to read her newspaper, ignoring the gate even when someone with oversize luggage really is trying to get through. Could this explain why London Underground don't collect enough money from fares to invest in our stations?

Bow Road is an interchange station with the Docklands Light Railway. At least that's how it looks on the tube map. In real life, however, Bow Church DLR station is at least a three minute walk up the road, and not particularly well signposted either. You wouldn't want to change trains here carrying a suitcase (although people do, and they generally get their cases stuck in the ticket gates right in front of me too). I seem to end up at least once a week directing lost travellers from one station to the other before they stumble off lost into the back streets of Bow and are never heard from again. Tempting to send them off in the wrong direction I know, but the pavements are crowded enough round here as it is.

Bow Road is 100 years old. And blimey it looks it. The whole place could do with a lick of paint, and not that ghastly combination of green and yellow they still have down on the pillars at platform level. The station could also do with one of those nice 'how many minutes is it until the next three trains' indicators like they have at the next couple of stations down the line. Not that they're very accurate, of course, but they're better than a piece of smashed glass which lights up merely to tell you there might be a train going somewhere arriving sometime. In fact I doubt that London Underground have spent a penny on this station for years. I hear we're nearly next on the list for renovation, but they've been saying that for years and nothing's happened yet. As a result I suspect the station will continue to be the endearing dump it is today for a number of years to come.

Happy anniversary.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Local transport news - Bow Road tube station

A while ago I ranted about my local tube station being an under-resourced ruin, with not a penny spent on it for years. Until today, that is. Tube operating company Metronet is launching a multi-million pound five year programme to renovate more than 150 Underground stations, all part of the government's controversial public-private funded infrastructure programme. And, what do you know, the very first station to be renovated will be Bow Road. About time too. They haven't told us local passengers yet - I only uncovered the news in Metronet's in-house journal (check pdf pages 6-7 and 28-30) - but renovation is now imminent. Apparently Bow Road station is a Grade II listed building, and we have serious problems with 'water ingress behind a brick retaining wall'. That would explain the acres of peeling paint I get to stare at each morning. Hopefully not for too much longer though.

Bow RoadI wonder if workmen will finally get round to updating the sign outside the station, the one that says Bow Road is on the "District and Metropolitan lines". Bow Road's not been on the Metropolitan line since 1990 when the Hammersmith & City line took over the section east of Liverpool Street. But, I read, there are plans to change that back again. Tube bosses want Metropolitan line trains to run from northwest London right through to Barking again, hopefully by 2011. Meanwhile the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines will be sort-of-merged to provide what's being called a 'T-Cup' service. Trains will run from Hammersmith to Edgware Road, then continue all the way round what's now the Circle line before terminating at Edgware Road second time around. You heard it here first. I heard it here first. And no, I don't believe it'll happen either.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Change at Bow Road...

They finally, finally, made a start on renovating Bow Road tube station today. Well, they dumped four blue portakabins outside on the pavement, even if nothing yet appears to have happened inside the station (see photo).



This is Day One of London Underground's PPP-funded station update programme, which just goes to show how dull history in the making is. Starting on the first of next month they'll be closing Bow Road station early each night and working passenger-free between 10pm and 6am. That's closing early daily until at least the end of September. Great. Every time I find myself staggering home after closing time this spring or summer I shall have to get off at Walford East instead. It had better be worth it.


I know you'll all be on tenterhooks to discover the latest news from Bow Road, the Underground's pioneer renovation station. What rebuilding work will the good people at Metronet be carrying out? How hard will the builders be working? Will the station's listed architectural features remain intact? How will travellers be inconvenienced? What does cutting-edge urban ergonomic design look like? Well, worry no longer, because I've decided to provide regular daily updates...

Monday 9th February (Day 1)
Four blue portakabins have appeared on the pavement outside the station.

Tuesday 10th February
A blue wall has appeared in front of the four portakabins. It is made of metal.

Wednesday 11th February
There are now flashing orange lights on top of the blue metal wall.

Thursday 12th February
The orange lights continue to flash.

Friday 13th February
The sound of sawing can be heard from behind the blue wall during daylight hours.

Saturday 14th February
No sawing today.

Sunday 15th February
The flashing orange lights have disappeared.

Monday 16th February
A group of blue-uniformed staff have been observed entering a mysterious lock-up on the eastbound platform, clutching a wad of plans.

Tuesday 17th February
The orange lights on top of the blue wall have been replaced by more permanent-looking light fittings on the side of the blue wall.

Wednesday 18th February
There are now bulbs in the light fittings, but they're not yet lit.

Thursday 19th February
Still not lit.

Friday 20th February
The blue wall remains graffiti-free.

Saturday 21st February
On closer inspection, there is a padlocked door at the end of the blue wall furthest away from the station entrance. The door is surrounded by safety notices.

Sunday 22nd February
A laminated licence is attached to the blue wall, giving permission to Elliot Thomas Ltd to "erect a hoarding on a public highway" until 25th February 2005.

Monday 23rd February
The licence was approved and signed by Mr P Williams of WSP UK plc.

Tuesday 24th February
Mr Williams' middle name begins with an S.

Wednesday 25th February
The blue wall is starting to get a little dirty.

Thursday 26th February
Most of the blue wall is still very clean.

Friday 27th February
There are a number of discarded cigarette butts at the foot of the blue wall nearest to the station entrance.

Saturday 28th February
Probably about twenty butts, approximately.

Sunday 29th February
The overnight closure of Bow Road station is supposed to be starting tomorrow. Nothing. Not a sign.

Monday, March 01, 2004


How exciting to be a resident of London E3, now that the renovation of Bow Road station is underway. At least, I think it's underway, it's hard to tell. The station was due to be closing daily at 10pm, starting last week, so that major building work could take place overnight. Didn't happen. Nothing much has happened at all, to be honest. But, as a local public service, I'm continuing to report back every day. Can you stand the excitement?

Monday 1st March
The blue portakabins behind the blue wall are now fully illuminated.

Tuesday 2nd March
A new blue wall has appeared halfway down the westbound platform, floor to ceiling, dividing off a short portion of platform space.

Wednesday 3rd March
The new blue wall is about seven metres long. It makes the platform half as wide.

Thursday 4th March
As suddenly as it arrived, the blue wall on the platform has completely vanished.

Friday 5th March
Behind where the blue wall used to be, the paint is still peeling off the platform wall just as badly as before.

Saturday 6th March
Meanwhile, back outside the station, the lamps on the original blue wall are now illuminated.

Sunday 7th March
A new sign on the blue wall apologises to the public for any inconvenience caused. To be honest, not enough inconvenience has been caused yet.

Monday 8th March
A sign on the blue wall warns passers-by that they are being recorded on CCTV. No cameras are visible.

Tuesday 9th March
The first graffiti has appeared on the blue wall. It's big, it's silver, and it displays all the artistic merit of a two-year-old.

Wednesday 10th March
The public information plan finally kicks in as homebound commuters get to 'Meet The Managers'. Or more likely not meet them.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Meet our Managers

It's been a month now since I started reporting daily on London's first PPP-funded tube station renovation project. It's been a month of compelling drama as blue walls have suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and a month of high tension as those blue walls have occasionally disappeared again into thin air. Then, yesterday, something even more thrilling happened. Elsie got an email about it last week, but the first any of us locals knew came when details were posted on a board at the station on Tuesday afternoon.
Meet our Managers events give our customers the chance to raise their concerns and air their views about the work we are carrying out by asking our Managers questions. It also enables us to receive feedback about general Underground matters, from a cross-section of the public. The event will be held at Bow Road Station on Wednesday, 10 March 2004 between 1600 and 1900.
Needless to say I was very excited by this opportunity to discover more about my adopted pet station. Imagine my joy at meeting the people who would be shaping the future of this Grade II listed building. I could ask them all sorts of questions, not just about blue walls but also about what they were planning to do, to what, and when. Would we finally be getting a train display indicator that would tell us how far away the next three trains were, not just that the next train was 45 seconds away? I have an insatiable blog audience who need to be told, you see.

I arrived at Bow Road station last night around 6pm, crushed aboard a packed District Line train. I wove my way out of the carriage onto the platform and looked around. Paint continued to peel off the walls, the ceilings and all other available surfaces. Of 'the Managers' there was as yet no sign. I joined the home-bound tide of commuters and swept up the stairs, round the corner and into the narrow ticket hall. There beyond the barriers stood a massed gathering of smiling people holding leaflets, much as a group of evangelicals might stand poised with tracts ready to thrust into the hands of passing unbelievers. There was also a trestle table piled high with goodies, but no signs whatsoever that might have told travellers who these people were or what they were doing standing there.

I stopped for a closer look at the table and its contents. There were more leaflets, a pile of uncompleted questionnaires and a small number of stubby light blue pencils stamped with a London Underground logo. There were also some small flat round objects that might have been either pencil sharpeners or key fobs, of the sort that eight-year-old girls buy in museum shops on school trips. I only managed a quick look before one of the people standing nearby, I suspect not a manager, tempted me away from the table by offering me a leaflet. There was no follow-up, no attempt at feedback, not even a free pencil, not for anyone. Within seconds I was outside the station, in front of the legendary blue wall, wondering if there had in fact been any managers to meet at all. My views had not been aired. I was a very cross section of the public.

The leaflet announced that the modernisation of Bow Road station would finally begin next Monday. Workmen will have the station to themselves between 10pm and 6am every day until further notice, i.e early next year, and the rest of us can jolly well walk home from Mile End or get the bus. Oh, and we shouldn't touch our Oystercards on the reader when using the bus or it'll accidentally charge us extra, we should wave our cards at the driver instead. Such is progress. But we are due to be getting:
• upgraded platforms, ticket hall, station entrance, passageways and stairs (and trains? some trains that run on time would be nice)
• all floor, wall and ceiling finishes are either being repaired or replaced
(this wrinkly centenarian station needs one hell of a facelift)
• as this station is a Grade 2 listed building, all the heritage features are being restored
(I wonder if that includes all the chewing gum)
• installation of customer help points
(maybe that's what all the blue pencils were for)
• improved CCTV
(cor, wouldn't a webcam be exciting?)
• installation of induction loops for the hard of hearing
(Mind the gap. I said, MIND THE GAP!)
• better lighting and new signage
(ladies and gentlemen, this way to the replacement bus service)
It begins.

Thursday 11th March
A poster has gone up on a board in the ticket hall with full details of the early closure of the station from next week. The board is currently facing towards the excess fare window, not towards the ticket barriers which might have made it easier to read.

Friday 12th March
Another new blue wall has appeared, this time along the west end of the eastbound platform. The new blue wall is approximately 48 panels long.

Saturday 13th March
All visitors are asked to report to the site office. I'm tempted, but I have yet to comply.

Sunday 14th March
Another sign demands that safety helmets and safety footwear must be worn. Again, I have yet to comply.

<Bow Road station closed before 6am and after 10pm until further notice>

Monday 15th March (Day 1, proper)
Bow Road station closes early tonight for the very first time. It begins. Maybe something will actually happen now.

Tuesday 16th March
Net result of the first night of work: lots of safety signs and a fire alarm have been stuck to the blue wall on the eastbound platform. One of the signs reads 'Site Entrance Caution'.

Wednesday 17th March
The blue wall on the eastbound platform has been extended. It now covers almost the entire length of the platform, right up to the steps.

Thursday 18th March
Along the new section of the blue wall are stuck a number of small white stickers. On each, in blue felt pen, are written phrases such as 'Bow Road roundel', 'No smoking sign', 'Way Out' and 'Advert Frame'.

Friday 19th March
The graffiti on the blue wall outside the station has been painted over. A hastily printed sign taped to the blue wall reads 'Wet Paint'.

Saturday 20th March
Adverts have been now posted on the lower blue wall, stuck over the white stickers that read 'Advert Frame'. One of these new adverts is for the St Patrick's Day Parade that took place last weekend.

Sunday 21st March
There are 37 signs in total on the blue wall, and still three stickers remaining over which signs have yet to be stuck.

Monday 22nd March
The two "Hoarding licenses" at the right-hand end of the blue wall have been moved one panel to the left to allow 13 more stickers to be stuck to the wall.
The new stickers include 'Inconvenience Notice' and 'Advert Frame When Delivered'.

Tuesday 23rd March
Sixteen green cylindrical loudspeakers have ben relocated from the platform wall onto the blue wall, at approximately four metre intervals, joined by a long white cable.

Wednesday 24th March
There are still eight more loudspeakers to be set up on the blue wall. The silver boxes are installed ready, but the last one isn't yet connected to the white cable.

Thursday 25th March
A new third blue wall has appeared at the western end of the westbound platform. This new blue wall is only 10 panels long, with a grey door. There are, as yet, no signs or stickers on the new blue wall.

Friday 26th March
There are now six stickers on the new blue wall, and a 'hoarding licence' giving permission for the wall to be there.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Two weeks into the official renovation of my local Underground station, and time to keep you updated on latest progress. What a fortnight it's been. First a huge long blue wall appeared along almost the entire length of the eastbound platform, screening off the original paint-peeling walls from the travelling public and halving the width of the platform. And then a second blue wall appeared at the west end of the westbound platform, considerably shorter than its twin opposite, but standing tall proud and blue all the same. Today's photo shows an artist's impression of the location of those two blue walls, just to give you a visual flavour of what's going on.



Behind those two blue walls it's been impossible to tell if any real renovation work has been happening at all. I've seen no signs of action, no passing workmen, not even the hint of a discarded tool, no nothing. Maybe all the action has been happening after the 10pm station curfew, with a gang of painters and interior designers drafted in to give the ancient surfaces a silent makeover, but I'm not yet convinced. The planned renovation is due to take a whole year, so maybe actually doing some work comes up at a later stage, but it does seem to be a very slow start.

But the eastbound platform at Bow Road must now be the safest station platform in the UK. Previously the walls were plain white, with just the occasional roundel interrupting the emptiness. Now the blue wall is covered by a dazzling assortment of safety signs, directional signs, informational signs, no smoking signs, way out signs, adverts and yet more safety signs. Presumably this is part of some government workplace directive, lest any innocent member of the public should accidentally stumble into the building site and maim themselves horribly. But it does all seem a bit over the top, especially when the opposite platform is just as dangerous but completely under-signed.

Saturday 27th March
The grey door on the new blue wall is now blue.

Sunday 28th March
The new blue wall is now fully signed. Just two more stickers to be covered on the long blue wall, both for an 'Advert Frame'.

Monday 29th March
For the first time at this station there are now signs on each platform directing passengers towards Bow Church DLR station. Very nice signs they are too, all crisp and white. Wonder how long that will last.

Tuesday 30th March
The new blue wall has been extended and now stretches along approximately half of the westbound platform. The new section covers the large, deep recess away from the platform edge where nobody ever stands.

Wednesday 31st March
There are now 21 stickers awaiting signs stuck to the new blue wall, plus one new sign stickered 'Remove'.

Thursday 1st April
Two-storey scaffolding has been erected across the front of the station, surrounded by grey metal barriers. Signs on the scaffolding read 'Scaffolding Incomplete'.

Friday 2nd April
At last the station looks like a proper building site. Still no building going on though.

Monday 5th April
Only two stickers remain uncovered on the new blue wall, both awaiting 'No Smoking' signs.

Tuesday 6th April
A poster in the ticket hall reveals that Bow Road is used by, on average, 5515 passengers daily. And all 5515 of us can expect the renovation work to continue until July 2005.

Wednesday 7th April
The horse chestnut outside the station is in full leaf. Wonder if they'll have done any real work on the station by the time I get back from America.

<week-long hiatus while I go to America>

Friday 16th April
On my return from America, I spy...
a) the blue wall on the westbound platform has been extended to become as long as the blue wall on the eastbound platform.
b) a new (small) blue wall has been built at the eastern end of the westbound platform.
c) the scaffolding outside the station no longer contains signs saying 'Scaffolding incomplete'.
d) and still no obvious work has been done.

Monday 19th April
It's possible to see behind the blue wall as you walk down the steps onto the westbound platform. There is nothing to see.

Tuesday 20th April
A sign on the scaffolding outside the station reads "Danger, Men Working Overhead". The sign is wrong.

Wednesday 21st April
An old sign still visible under the scaffolding reads "Bicycles may be left here free of charge at owners risk". There'd now be considerable risk getting your bike over the surrounding metal barriers.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


I do hope you've been keeping abreast of my daily reports from Bow Road, London's pioneering tube renovation project. The station upgrade has been going on for over a month now and the place certainly looks very different - four blue walls and a pile of scaffolding now cover the outside of the station and half of both of the platforms. However, there's still no evidence to convince me that a single scrap of renovation has yet occurred. I've not seen one cleaned surface, one lick of paint or even one busy workman since the whole affair began. But, maybe, something, soon.

Thursday 22nd April
The poster outside the station giving details of the overnight station closure and alternative travel arrangements has been replaced, by a much simpler poster on the same subject with a reading age of about 6.

Friday 23rd April
I actually saw a workman working in the station this morning. Unfortunately he was only fixing the photo booth in the ticket hall.

Saturday 24th April
I peeped behind the big blue wall on the westbound platform today.
No work equipment of any kind was visible, just a big empty space (although there were 8 spare blue panels for building blue walls, propped up against the brickwork).

Monday 26th April
A new blue wall has been built, just to the east of the steps on the westbound platform. The whole length of the westbound platform is now blue-walled, apart from two gaps for access to the steps and to the station master's office.

Tuesday 27th April
Only one section of the two platforms remains unwalled - the short section to the east of the steps on the eastbound platform.

Wednesday 28th April
The new section of blue wall is not yet covered by adverts and notices, but then nobody normally stands at that end of the platform anyway.

Thursday 29th April
Last night I rode the quarter-to-midnight train through Bow Road station, which is supposedly closed after 10pm so that renovation work can take place. No renovation work of any kind was taking place. Empty platforms.

Friday 30th April
Another ride through deserted Bow Road station at 11:30pm tonight, just to see if yesterday was an exception. But no visible work going on tonight either.

Saturday 1st May
Immediately above and behind the various blue walls are metal grilles and grey protective sheets. Today the grey sheets along half of the eastbound platform have been raised, completely blocking off the view of what may be happening behind the wall. Or may not.

Sunday 2nd May
A sign on the railings outside the station reads 'Approved personal protective clothing must be worn at all times'. I have yet to see one passenger comply.

Monday 3rd May
There are three ladders on the scaffolding outside the station.

Tuesday 4th May
"Travel update 16:53: Bow Road Station has been closed due to fire brigade safety checks."

Presumably they were checking that all the 'No smoking' and 'Fire alarm' signs had been erected properly. The station re-opened half an hour later, so I guess all was in order.

Wednesday 5th May
I spotted the top of a thick metal frame behind the westbound wall.

Thursday 6th May
It's not a big frame, you understand, just a horizontal metal bar and one, maybe two, vertical bars. Rather dull metal in fact.

Friday 7th May
Evidence of workmen! At 8am this morning a man from the electricity board arrived, parked his van blocking the pavement, then delivered a small canister of calor gas to two workmen waiting at the unlocked fire door to the left of the station entrance. No evidence of work though.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


Let me keep you up-to-date with the latest renovation news from my local station. It's been two months since the first blue wall appeared on the platform at Bow Road, followed by another and another and another and another. Until finally, yesterday, the last remaining short section of platform got blue-walled, the bit to the east of the steps on the eastbound platform. The station is fully prepared for work at last. I look forward, some day, to being able to tell you that one of the blue walls has come down and there's a sparkling rejuvenated architectural jewel revealed behind. But I have my doubts.

Saturday 8th May
A new blue wall has appeared, covering the short section of platform to the east of the steps on the eastbound platform. That's the last bit of platform blue-walled, finally, after two months.

Sunday 9th May
They've removed the photo booth in the ticket hall. They did it about two weeks ago but it's been so busy here I didn't have time to mention it before.

Monday 10th May
The three short blue walls have suddenly been covered by an epidemic of small white stickers. Lots more safety signs are on their way.

Tuesday 11th May
Blimey that was quick. Almost all of the stickers have now been covered by the usual selection of over-the-top safety signs.

Wednesday 12th May
Another new blue wall has appeared, this time at the top of the stairs down to the westbound platform. I think there was a door there before. Now there's a corrugated sheet of ridged metal, just like the very first blue wall round the portakabins on the pavement outside the station.

Thursday 13th May
The new blue wall has only two signs on it - 'Surveillance cameras in constant operation and a licence permitting the wall to be there in the first place.

Friday 14th May
Another new blue wall has appeared, this time outside the station replacing the previous metal railings around the scaffolding.

Saturday 15th May
The new blue wall takes up half the space on the pavement that the old metal railings did.

Sunday 16th May
The new blue wall is opaque, whereas you could see through the old metal railings, which means that you can no longer see the only poster that advises travellers the station is closed after 10pm and tells them where to go instead.

Monday 17th May
The 'alternative travel arrangements' poster has been relocated in full view on the front of the blue wall, along with space for three more posters.

Tuesday 18th May
A 'No smoking' sign has appeared on the side of the new blue wall. Meanwhile two posters have finally been added to the very first blue wall (the one beside the station entrance surrounding the blue portakabins).

Wednesday 19th May
The scaffolding across the front of the station has been obscured by grey sheeting.

Thursday 20th May
The big blue station sign has been moved from behind the sheeting to in front of the scaffolding. The big blue sign still reads
Bow Road Station : District & Metropolitan lines
Bow Road has not been on the Metropolitan line since 1990.

Friday 21st May
Yet another new blue wall has been built, this one just inside the ticket hall to the left of the entrance. It's 7 panels long, right where the photo booth used to be.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Over at Bow Road, my local station upgrade continues apace. No less than three new blue walls have been constructed in the last fortnight. There's one at the top of the stairs down to the eastbound platform, another in the corner of the ticket hall and a third around the scaffolding on the pavement in front of the station. Add those to the five existing blue walls along the platforms and one more on the pavement, and some kind of blue wall event horizon seems to have been reached. Perhaps some renovation work is going on behind those blue walls, it's still impossible to tell. Or maybe we've just become some new art installation, displaying an array of modern safety signage on clean blue surfaces, juxtaposed against late Victorian brickwork.

Saturday 22nd May
The grey protective sheeting behind the blue walls on the westbound platform has been raised to ceiling level, obscuring whatever may be going on behind.

Sunday 23rd May
Peeking through the tiny gaps in the blue wall on the westbound platform reveals that still absolutely nothing is going on behind.

Monday 24th May
Two long yellow light fittings have been installed beneath the scaffolding over the entrance to the station.

Tuesday 25th May
A hole the size of two half bricks has been cut in the wall at the top of the stairs down to the westbound platform. The hole partly obscures the top left hand corner of a new 'No Smoking' sign, so workmen have helpfully posted another 'No Smoking' sign next to it, ten times the area of the original.

Wednesday 26th May
Six white stickers have appeared on the blue wall in the ticket hall - which means even more essential safety signs are on their way.

Thursday 27th May
One white sticker has appeared on the blue wall at the top of the westbound stairs.

Friday 28th May
Six white stickers have appeared on the longest blue wall on the westbound platform.

Tuesday 1st June
There are still two stickers on the second longest westbound wall...

Wednesday 2nd June
... one sticker on the shortest westbound wall...

Thursday 3rd June
... two stickers on the shorter eastbound wall...

Friday 4th June
... and one sticker on the longer eastbound wall.

Saturday 5th June
I took the last train out of Bow Road at 9:57pm. As we pulled out, the station attendant opened up a tube map on the wall to reveal a big sign saying 'station closed'. No workmen rushed onto the platform.

Sunday 6th June
I rode a nightbus past the station at 1:30am. The lights were on in the station, in the portakabin and across the scaffolding on the front of the building. Two vans were parked on the forecourt and workmen were standing around working. No really. They appeared to be affixing a new poster to the blue wall on the front of the station.

Monday 7th June
No, they were actually installing six light fittings on the blue wall.

Tuesday 8th June
There are now orange bulbs inside the light fittings.

Wednesday 9th June
The lights are not yet lit.

Thursday 10th June
The lights are now lit. They're very orange.

Friday 11th June
The giant 'No Smoking' sign at the top of the westbound stairs has been moved to cover over the small hole behind.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


It's been four months now since the first blue wall appeared at Bow Road tube station as part of a major infrastructure regeneration project. Four months during which the station has been overrun with blue walls and safety notices, even if nobody yet appears to have done any actual redevelopment work. I thought you might like to see one of these legendary blue walls, given that I've been going on about them for so long. So here's one.



This is the shorter blue wall on the eastbound platform. It's fairly typical of the five blue walls on the platforms, blocking off half the previous width for waiting passengers. Above the wall there's a long metal grille, with a silvery sheet hanging down behind and a couple of green cylindrical loudspeakers spaced out along the top. And across the front of the wall there's a whole array of 'essential' safety notices. From left to right...

• We apologise for any inconvenience caused (I suspect they should be apologising for the lack of work)
• Tube map (this map opens up after 10pm so that a giant 'Station closed' sign can be displayed to passing trains)
• No smoking (not that you've been allowed to smoke on the underground for the last 15 years anyway)
• Storage licence (permission to erect a hoarding here until March next year, signed by somebody official)
• Poster (it's a London Underground poster, presumably because nobody else wanted to buy the space)
• Fire Point (just in case you can't spot the big red fire extinguisher underneath)
• Bow Road (it's about half the size of the original station name roundel behind the wall)
• ← Way Out (just in case you can't spot the stairs ten yards to the left)
• ← Bow Church DLR Station (what they don't tell you is how long a walk it is)
• Safety helmets and safety footwear must be worn (I've never seen a single person on the platform complying with this instruction)
• two small white stickers awaiting two more signs to be affixed over the top, namely...
    • Fire exit - keep clear
    • No unauthorised persons allowed past this point

• Caution: Site Entrance (optimistic usage of the word 'site' there)

Saturday 12th June
I rode through the closed station after midnight. Still no work going on.

Sunday 13th June
Black and yellow tape has been stretched across the edge of the top and bottom step in each flight of stairs at the station.

Monday 14th June
There's now black and yellow tape stuck along lots of other steps and changes of floor level across the station.

Tuesday 15th June
There are seven separate small rectangles of black/yellow tape stuck to the blue wall at the top of the westbound stairs.

Wednesday 16th June
Most of the black and yellow tape on the stairs has disappeared.

Thursday 17th June
Someone's drilled six envelope-sized holes in the brickwork beside the the blue wall at the top of the westbound stairs, three holes on either side. The six holes are covered by rectangles of black tape.

Friday 18th June
The front of the two steps leading up from the pavement into the ticket hall have been painted bright yellow.

Saturday 19th June
The top of the single step into the ticket office from the ticket hall has also been painted yellow.

Sunday 20th June
Two extra strips of black/yellow tape have appeared on the blue wall at the top of the westbound stairs...

Monday 21st June
... one bottom left and one bottom right.

Tuesday 22nd June
The black/yellow tape round the giant 'No Smoking' sign at the top of the westbound stairs is peeling away.

Wednesday 23nd June
Looks like the sign might eventually fall down.

Thursday 24th June
It's being held up by the strip of tape down the right hand side, and the small length still attached in the top left hand corner.

Friday 25th June
A strip of black tape has been stuck across the bottom of the sign to keep it attached to the wall.

Saturday 26th June
Behind the long blue wall on the westbound platform they're storing some metal grilles and two rows of green seats.

Sunday 27th June
The metal grilles and two rows of green seats are secured by a long strip of black and yellow tape.

Monday 28th June
The only other things visible stored behind the long blue wall are two portable yellow plastic 'Caution Wet Floor' safety signs.

Tuesday 29th June
The yellow safety signs are also secured by the black and yellow tape.

Wednesday 30th June
One would hope that the Bow Road workmen are busy today doing up the station during the enforced closure brought on by today's tube strike. But somehow I think not.

Thursday 1st July
As I suspected, nothing (obvious) has happened.

Friday 2nd July
The wooden panels halfway up the eastbound stairs are still rotten.

Saturday, July 3, 2004


Bow Road station, that Victorian jewel on the eastern District Line, continues to undergo 'renovation'. It's been four months since proper work started, apparently. All the surfaces along the platforms and across the front of the station are covered by blue walls, behind which it's still not clear that anything has actually happened. The ticket hall, stairways and platform roof are not covered by blue walls, and are therefore still as grimy, untreated and rundown as they've been for decades. I have a horrible feeling that this renovation is going to take far far longer than planned. It's also getting more and more difficult to find something new to write about each day given that absolutely nothing at all appears to be changing, but I'll keep trying.

Saturday 3rd July
The brick arches over the western end of the platforms are still grimy and unscrubbed.

Sunday 4th July
The off-cream paint in the ticket hall continues to crack and peel.

Monday 5th July
Some short lengths of scaffolding pole are sticking out horizontally underneath the passenger bridge across the railway tracks.

Tuesday 6th July
There are now vertical scaffolding poles and a small wooden platform right across the outside of the passenger bridge.

Wednesday 7th July
The scaffolding now rises as high as the top of the bridge windows.

Thursday 8th July
The scaffolding now rises even higher and there are two new wooden platforms, one level with the top of the bridge windows and another above that.

Friday 9th July
One tiny block of wood is lying all alone on the northern end of the lower platform of the scaffolding tower.

Saturday 10th July
Of the five planks that make up the lower platform, the tiny block of wood is lying on the second plank from the front.

Sunday 11th July
The block is about the same size as a brick, maybe smaller.

Monday 12th July
The blue wall at the top of the westbound stairs has disappeared. In its place lies a freshly painted pair of green doors.

Tuesday 13th July
Two 'Wet Paint' signs have been handwritten in black marker pen on A4 paper and taped to the green doors and the concrete floor beneath.

Wednesday 14th July
The two Wet Paint signs have been removed and replaced by one similar-looking sign reading 'Fire Exit Do Not Use'.

Thursday 15th July
Two proper new signs have appeared on the green doors, in yellow and black, reading 'Door Not In Use'. Two security cameras have been installed beside the green doors at the top of the westbound staircase.

Friday 16th July
To the right of the green doors the giant 'No Smoking' sign has been taken down, revealing that a number of the bricks behind have been removed.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


Change is afoot at my local tube station. No, really, I know I've been saying this for the last six months, but really it is. Not that I've yet seen any tangible evidence of anything actually being renovated, but we do now have some proper scaffolding erected beside the pedestrian bridge across the railway line. Who knows, maybe one day soon some workmen will actually stand on the scaffolding and regenerate the adjacent surfaces, and I'll be able to look up from the platform and see the results of their labours. Or maybe that's still expecting too much. Whatever the case, you can be assured that this non-story will continue to update daily.

Saturday 17th July
The green doors are padlocked using a thick chain in a black plastic sleeve.

Sunday 18th July
I'd not previously noticed, but another row of scaffolding has been erected on the opposite side of the passenger bridge, the side with no windows, right up at the easternmost extremity of the station above the end of the platform where no train ever stops.

Monday 19th July
The new scaffolding is draped with flame retardant fabric (satisfying "LPS 1215 standard").

Tuesday 20th July
The grey sheeting above the blue walls on the westbound platform has been raised to the ceiling so you can't see the top of the platform wall behind.

Wednesday 21st July
The grey sheeting above the blue wall in the ticket hall has been raised to the ceiling so you can't see the top of the wall behind.

Thursday 22nd July
The sheeting on the scaffolding in front of the station has flapped down a few inches over the station entrance.

Friday 23rd July
Some grey metal 'stirrups' have appeared hanging from the roof over the western end of each platform.

Saturday 24th July
Each 'stirrup' is hanging from a thin metal rod screwed into the ceiling.

Sunday 25th July
There are seven 'stirrups' hanging above the western end of the westbound platform, although there are eight metal rods hanging from the ceiling.

Monday 26th July
There are eighteen 'stirrups' hanging above the western end of the eastbound platform, although there are nineteen metal rods hanging from the ceiling.

Tuesday 27th July
The top two layers of scaffolding across the passenger bridge are now covered by white sheeting. The new white sheeting is made from flame retardant fabric (satisfying "LPS 1215 standard").

Wednesday 28th July
Huge new signs have appeared on three of the blue walls on the platforms. Each sign is made up of 6 or 7 panels, each about two metres high and half a metre wide. Most of the panels making up the three new signs depict big bold representations of hammers, padlocks, screwdrivers and other construction material, all made out of tube line graphics. Two of the panels namecheck 'Transport For London'. And one board outlines all the good new things that are coming to pass at the station, like the installation of new seats, the renovation of the passenger bridge and the introduction of CCTV cameras.

Thursday, July 27, 2004


Something old, something new, something Bow Road, something blue

Bow Road station is old, 102 years old to be accurate. Bow Road Station is new, or at least it will be if the current renovation work ever finishes begins. Bow Road is my local station, so I'm getting a little annoyed by it not being open all the time for no obvious reason. And Bow Road is blue, because almost every available surface has been covered by a protective blue wall.

There are eight blue walls at Bow Road station in total - two outside on the pavement, one in the ticket hall, three on the westbound platform and two on the eastbound platform. They vary in size from 'really quite short' to 'longer than a train'. And every single one of them has been covered with signage by some Transport for London safety operative with an obsession for risk assessment. Honestly, you'd think Bow Road station was the most dangerous place in the world given the number of safety signs that have been erected over the last six months. No matter that ordinary stations can get by with just a handful. And no matter that no obvious work seems to be going on to justify the enormous additional signage tally (nearly 200 at latest count).

Yesterday that tally increased. Three enormous new signs appeared, each on a different blue wall and spaced out along the platforms. Each sign is made up of 6 or 7 panels, each about two metres high and half a metre wide. Most of the panels depict big bold representations of hammers, screwdrivers and other construction tools, all made out of tube line graphics. Two of the panels namecheck 'Transport For London', to whom we the lucky passengers of Bow Road should be eternally grateful. And one board outlines all the good new things that are coming to pass at our station, like the installation of more seats (probably to replace the seats they took away when the blue walls were first erected). The bad news is that, apparently, work at Bow Road is due to continue until July 2005, nine months later than originally planned, so you're lumbered with my regular renovation updates for another year at least. Oh joy.

So today I thought I'd treat you to an obsessive list of all the signs and items of associated safetyware to be found on the blue walls of Bow Road station. Because I can. Because it gobsmacks me. And because nobody arrested me while I was recording it.

Key: [ad] London Underground advert, [adf] London Underground advert frame, [ap] Assembly point, [aph] Auto phone, [bc] directions to Bow Church DLR station, [BR] Bow Road roundel, [cse] Caution Site Entrance, [dv] All drivers and visitors must report to the site office, [fa] Fire Alarm, [fe] Fire Escape Keep Clear, [fp] Fire Point (with extinguisher), [fx] Fire Exit Keep Clear, [g] big bold graphic, [int] intercom, [map] London Underground map, [ns] No Smoking, [nu] No unauthorised persons admitted beyond this point, [o] orange safety light, [ru] renovation update, [sc] Surveillance cameras in constant operation, [sf] Safety helmets and safety footwear must be worn, [sh] Safety helmets must be worn, [sl] Storage licence, [slf] Storage licence frame, [so] Site office, [SS] Site Safety instructions, [sap] SAP, [tp] list of ticket prices, [wa] We apologise for any inconvenience caused, [TfL] Transport for London, [wo] Way Out, [wp] shabby word-processed message to site contractors, <doorway>, / corner.
n.b. Signs not yet erected, but whose eventual presence is indicated by a small white rectangular sticker, are shown in round brackets.
n.b. All signs are listed from left to right, and from top to bottom.


Blue wall 1: Pavement, left of station entrance
[fx] <[fe][fe]> [o] [o][adf] [o] [adf] [o][adf] [o][ad] / [o][ns]

Blue wall 2: Pavement, right of station entrance (see photo above)
[o] [ad] [adf] [o] [o] [o] [sc][wa][dv][sf] [o] [o] / [o][so→] [o] [o][sl] [o] [o] / [o] [dv][sf][SS][ap][sap] <[fx][nu]> [wp]

Blue wall 3: Ticket hall, eastern wall
[sl][ns][ad] <(fx)(nu)(cse)> [tp](sh)(adf) / (wa)

Blue wall 4: Westbound platform, eastern wall
<(cse)[sh]> [sh] [sl] [TfL][g][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [bc][wo→] (we) [sh] <(fx)(nu)>

Blue wall 5: Westbound platform, middle wall (east of stairs)
[bc][wo→] [BR] [sl] [sc][sh] <[cse](fx)(nu)> [int] [ad] [ns] [ad] [wa] [fa]

Blue wall 6: Westbound platform, western wall (west of stairs)
[map] <[fx][nu][cse]> (sf)[sl] [ad] [ad] [bc][wo←] [ad] [ad] [BR] [map] [ad] [ns] [ad] [sc][wa] [TfL][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [bc][wo←] [ns][fa] [bc][wo←] [BR] [ad] [ns] [ad] [sl] <[fx][nu][cse] [sh]> [ad] <[fx][nua]> [ns] [bc][wo←] [ns] (sh) [bc][wo←] [BR] (wa)(sh) <[fx][nu](cse)> [ns] [BR] [bc][wo←] [fa] [sl] [ns] [wa] [bc][wo←] [BR] [ns] [aph]

Blue wall 7: Eastbound platform, western wall (west of stairs)
[sf] <[fx][nu][cse]> [slf][sh][sl] [ns] [bc][wo→] [ns][fa] [ns] <[sh][fx][nu][cse]> [ns] [BR] [ns] [bc][wo→] [wa] [BR] [wa][fa] [bc][wo→] [TfL][g][g][g][g][ru][TfL] [sl] [ns] [BR] [ns] [bc][wo→] [ad] [ad] [ns] [ad] [map] [wa][sc] [BR] [ad] [ad] [ad] [ns] [adf] [ad] [bc][wo→] [sl] [nu][fx][cse] <[sf]>[ad]



Blue wall 8: Eastbound platform, eastern wall (see photo above)
[wa] [map] [ns][sl] [ad][fp] [BR] [bc][wo←] [sh] <(fx)(nu)[cse]> [int]

Friday 30th July
The five planks comprising the lower platform on the scaffolding beside the passenger bridge have been covered over by larger sheets of wood.

Saturday 31st July
The larger sheets of wood have been removed, leaving the five planks visible again.

Sunday 1st August
Rode past at 3am - no sign of any overnight activity whatsoever.
Rode through at 10:30pm - no sign of any overnight activity whatsoever.

Monday 2nd August
The small wooden block that used to be lying on the second of the five scaffolding planks has disappeared.

Tuesday 3rd August
The scaffolding on the passenger bridge has linked up with the scaffolding on the front of the station. - 8:28 am | #

Wednesday 4th August
More metal 'stirrups' have appeared, approximately four hanging from each of the brick arches above the western end of the westbound platform.

Thursday 5th August
Metal 'stirrups' have also appeared above the western end of the eastbound platform, hanging from almost all of the brick arches.

Friday 6th August
Long grey metal boxes have been threaded through the stirrups on the westbound and eastbound platforms. The boxes are thin but wide, and are probably designed to carry cabling of some sort.

Saturday 7th August
I rode through the closed station just after midnight. Three staff were standing on the eastbound platform but they weren't actually doing anything.

Sunday 8th August
I rode past the closed station at dawn. Nothing doing.

I rode through the closed station around 11pm. The door in the longest blue wall on the eastbound platform was open and some scaffolding was visible behind.

Monday 9th August
The grey cabling boxes run parallel to the old wooden blocks that currently support the fluorescent tubes that light the platforms.

Tuesday 10th August
The grey cabling boxes are joined by small metal strips held fixed by small nuts.

Wednesday 11th August
The metal stirrups and grey cabling boxes now reach all the way along the arched roof on the eastbound platform.

Thursday 12th August
The bottom layer of scaffolding across the passenger bridge has now been covered by flame retardant white sheeting. This safety measure has the very annoying side-effect of completely blocking travellers' views of the trains and platforms below.

Friday 13th August
A new sign has been erected on the blue wall on the pavement to the right of the station entrance. The "Green for GO" sign announces that Metronet is ready to transform the station.

Saturday 14th August
Two of the bulbs in the lamps on the blue wall on the pavement to the right of the station entrance have stopped working.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


It's been six months since the first portakabin and blue wall appeared at Bow Road Station in readiness for proposed extensive renovation work. Six months in which, as it turns out, virtually nothing of any consequence has happened. Now Metronet, the infrastructure consortium, are crowing that the transformation of Bow Road Station is finally underway with the erection of a giant "Green for GO" sign on one of the walls outside the station. Presumably we've been on AMBER for the last six months, with fat cat contractors raking in huge sums of public money in return for knocking up a few blue walls and erecting copious safety signage. I am deeply unimpressed. Anyway, here's what the new poster tells us Metronet are promising to achieve by next Autumn Spring, along with a report on how much they've achieved so far:

"A new ticket hall" (progress - zero)
"New passageways" (progress - none visible)
"Improved station lighting (new overhead cabling has appeared along half of each platform)
"New signage" (tons of it, alas all temporary)
"New platform edge tactile strips)" (progress - zero)
"New platform seating" (progress - none visible)
"New CCTV" (new cameras have been installed in stairwells)

... and that's it. That's all we local residents will be getting in return for more than a year of disruption by the time this fiasco is complete. I suspect Metronet's shareholders will be beaming rather more broadly.

Sunday 15th August
I rode past the closed station at 3am. Nothing doing.

Monday 16th August
Another four-panel poster has been erected by Metronet on the longest blue wall on the eastbound platform, trumpeting future developments.

Tuesday 17th August
An identical four panel poster has appeared on the blue wall outside the station entrance. It's not been put up straight. The top right corner is about 10cm higher than the top left corner.

Wednesday 18th August
The first panel on the blue poster states 'Transforming the tube', with a big red, white and blue swoosh underneath.

Thursday 19th August
The second panel on the blue poster is titled 'A transformation for Bow Road Station', and outlines all the improvements that Metronet plan to bring to the station. All 7 of them.

Friday 20th August
The third panel on the blue poster is titled 'The largest metro regeneration scheme', and celebrates the £17 billion that Metronet plan to pump into their bit of the tube network over the next 30 years.

Saturday 21st August
The fourth panel on the blue poster is titled 'Your new trains', except that apparently the first new trains aren't due until 2009 and thy won't be running on any line that serves this station.

Sunday 22nd August
According to the picture on the poster, the upgraded Bow Road station will include a new blue wall at the eastern end of the eastbound platform - which is the only part of the platforms not to have a blue wall at the moment.

Monday 23rd August
A CCTV camera has been installed above the exit from the ticket hall to the pavement outside.

Tuesday 24th August
The camera is mounted on a long horizontal metal bracket along the wall a few feet above the door.

Wednesday 25th August
A metal bucket at the eastern end of the westbound platform suggests that the canopy roof still leaks.

Thursday 26th August
The two bulbs in the lamps on the blue wall on the pavement to the right of the station entrance have been replaced.

Friday 27th August
A second 'Green For Go' poster has been riveted to the front blue wall parallel to the pavement.

Saturday 28th August
A third 'Transforming the tube' poster has been riveted to the side of the blue portakabin above the front blue wall parallel to the pavement.

Sunday 29th August
Looking through a gap in the blue wall on the westbound platform, all I can see is a large empty space and a few bits of scaffolding.

Monday 30th August
There is no evidence that any renovation work whatsoever has taken place behind the longest blue wall on the westbound platform.

Tuesday 31st August
There is no evidence that any renovation work whatsoever has taken place anywhere in the station for the last few weeks.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


According to the tube website, Bow Road station is supposed to return to normal opening hours next month, rather than closing at 10pm every evening to allow renovation work to take place overnight. Judging by how little work appears to have been done on the station since they started early closing in March I can't see Bow Road reopening fully until at least next summer. In fact there's been so little visible evidence of any building work going on at the station over the last few weeks that I've decided, with regret, to stop my regular daily station updates. In their place I thought I'd write a daily report in the comments box on how the conkers are progressing on the giant horse chestnut tree outside the station, which should be much more interesting. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday 1st September
In the absence of any apparent renovation work going at the station, I thought I'd report on the progress of the conkers on the horse chestnut tree outside the station instead.

Thursday 2nd September
There is a horse chestnut tree outside the station.

Friday 3rd September
The horse chestnut tree is on the pavement to the left of the station entrance.

Saturday 4th September
The horse chestnut tree is very tall, probably just over ten metres high.

Sunday 5th September
There are conkers growing on the tree.

Monday 6th September
There are lots of conkers growing on the tree.

Tuesday 7th September
A few of the conkers have started falling off the tree.

Wednesday 8th September
There are only a handful of conkers lying on the pavement.

Thursday 9th September
I kicked a conker along the pavement. It rolled in a long curve out into the road.

Friday 10th September
There has been a fresh fall of conkers.

Saturday 11th September
Following recent heavy winds, a large branch has fallen from the horse chestnut tree.

Sunday 12th September
The branch has broken in two.

Monday 13th September
There are fresh conkers on the ground early in the morning.

Tuesday 14th September
By the early evening almost all of the conkers have disappeared.

Wednesday 15th September
There are still a lot of conkers lying on the ground behind the gates to the flats next to the station.

Thursday 16th September
There are a number of squashed conker cases on the pavement.

Friday 17th September
There are a number of open conker cases still hanging on the tree, out of which conkers have fallen.

Saturday 18th September
I saw an old man collecting conkers from the pavement outside the station and putting them in a plastic bag.

Sunday 19th September
There are now plenty of conkers on the ground. I guess the old man hasn't come collecting today.

Monday 20th September
After dusk I saw two small boys in school uniform selecting conkers from the pavement.

Tuesday 21st September
All of the empty conker cases have been swept into the corner to the left of the station entrance.

Wednesday 22nd September
The leaves on the horse chestnut tree have a distinct yellowy-brown edge.

Thursday 23rd September
There are still some particularly large conkers hanging on the tree.

Friday 24th September
The pavement is spotless.

Saturday 25th September
A particularly zealous cleaning operative is clearly being employed to keep the pavement beneath the horse chestnut tree free from conker-related detritus.

Sunday 26th September
If you want conkers you need to look on the other side of the wall outside the flats, where there are still loads.

Monday 27th September
There are only a couple of conkers on the pavement today.

Tuesday 28th September
There are almost no conkers on the pavement because there are now almost no conkers left on the tree.

Wednesday 29th September
The few conker cases there are left on the tree are brown and mushy.

Thursday 30th September
I think that's the conker season finished.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Just one month to go until Bow Road station reopens after 10pm every night. Well, that's what it says on the tube website. Except that bugger all renovation has been happening at Bow Road station during the last month, not even the erection of a single safety notice, so a reopening date in October appears to be at least six months too optimistic. The fall of conkers from the horse chestnut tree outside the station has proved to be a much more dynamic phenomenon over the last month, but now it's time to return to the real story inside the station...

Bow Road

Friday 1st October
Back to the renovation of Bow Road Station. Here's everything you missed in September:
Friday 17th September: The new grey cabling boxes suspended above the western end of both platforms have been wrapped in grey sheeting. The grey sheeting is secured by sticky tape. Some of the tape is red, some is black and some is brown.
And that's all.

Saturday 2nd October
Posters have been erected in the ticket hall with details of forthcoming station closures at Bow Road.

Sunday 3rd October
Bow Road station will be closed for the whole of next weekend, presumably so that that work can actually go on for a change.

Monday 4th October
Bow Road station will also be closed for the whole of the weekend after that, and the whole of the weekend a fortnight after that, and on other whole weekends during November, December and January.

Tuesday 5th October
Bow Road Station will not be reopening after 10pm from 26th October onwards, as originally planned. Instead it will remain closed after 10pm until the end of February next year.

Wednesday 6th October
Bow Road Station will, however, be reopening before 6am from 26th October onwards.

Thursday 7th October
All the adverts on the two staircases down to the platforms have been removed in readiness for all the renovation work due to take place this weekend.

Friday 8th October
At 10pm tonight Bow Road station closes for 56 hours until 6am on Monday morning.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 9-10 October>

Saturday, October 09, 2004


At last, after eight months of stifling inactivity, some real renovation work is actually happening at Bow Road station. Right now, today. About time too. It appears that closing the station early at 10pm every night since March has been wholly ineffective, and so an alternative way of inconveniencing the travelling public has been introduced. The powers that be have decided to introduce a series of weekend closures in the hope that the station's inert workforce might actually manage to get something done if they have a full 56 hours in which to do it. Bow Road station is therefore to remain closed all this weekend, all next weekend and on three other weekends before the end of January. I wonder what they're going to get up to. This weekend my money's on them renovating the two staircases down to the platforms (because all the adverts down those staircases were suddenly removed overnight on Thursday). I shall be trotting wide-eyed into the station on Monday morning eager to see exactly what magic transformation has occurred during my enforced absence. I'm expecting to be disappointed.

Saturday 9th October
Work is underway! Workmen are busy in both stairwells. They have scaffolding and big hoses.

Sunday 10th October
Work continues. I've never been able to write that before.

Monday 11th October
Bow Road reopens. Both stairwells have new lights hanging from the ceiling. Plastic cable ducting has been installed high on the wall above each staircase, but as yet containing no cables.

Tuesday 12th October
On the wall above the eastbound stairs there is a rough area of plaster covered by strips of black and yellow tape.

Wednesday 13th October
The cable ducting in each stairwell is not yet fully joined up.

Thursday 14th October
Ugly black cables snake across the ceiling of each stairwell, disappearing into newly-drilled holes in the wall above the northern end of the ticket hall.

Friday 15th October
50cm to the right of the existing cable-filled hole in the wall above the northern end of the ticket hall, someone has written CAM 6 in blue marker pen.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 16-17 October>

Saturday 16th October - 9.10pm
Tube trains not stopping. Man wearing hard hat and bright orange jacket leans against blue wall looking at mobile phone.
(report from Dave)

Sunday 17th October
Station closed for second weekend. No obvious activity in the stairwells, but a few workmen hanging around.

Monday 18th October
After the weekend, the lights in the ticket hall have been replaced. There are scars in the ceiling where the old lights used to be, now with some rather ugly grey metal runners bolted alongside. New characterless fluorescent tubes now hang from the ceiling. The ticket hall is noticeably brighter than it used to be. The cable ducting along the staircases is now complete, but still unfilled.

Tuesday 19th October
A pile of what looks like a lot of boxes has been dumped on the pavement outside the station. The pile is covered by a large orange tarpaulin and surrounded by grey metal railings. The tarpaulin is stuck down with giant silver tape.

Wednesday 20th October
A sign on the railings reads
Do Not Enter!!!
No Entry
Keep Out


Thursday 21st October
The pile is not piled quite so high this morning.

Friday 22nd October
The tarpaulin has come loose at the back so it's now apparent that the pile isn't boxes but something else, surrounded by a low plywood wall.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Half time report?

This weekend should have been the final weekend of renovation work at Bow Road station. Back in March when this whole redevelopment debacle began they promised us that our station would be fully reopened again by October 26th. Oh how I looked forward to admiring the gleaming new surfaces and restored Victorian architecture. Oh how I longed for a platform indicator that actually told you when the next train was due, not just where it was going. And oh how I dreamed of being able to use the station again after 10pm, rather than having to walk home late at night from the next station down the line. But no, all my aspirations have been dashed (or at least put on hold) because the brave new Bow Road station is not yet ready. Not by a long way.

It's not yet clear when the work will be finished. I'm indebted to a local correspondent for pointing out that nobody at Bow Road appears to be sure either. He's sent me photographs of four different posters at the station which give four different completion dates (and look, they're all in dg-approved colours!). The tube website until recently offered a different date ("until 26 October") until they updated the site to give yet another ("until the end of February 2005"). Some sort of campaign of public misinformation seems to be underway, raising our hopes just to dash them again when the due date arrives and the work is no nearer to completion. Further official details are now apparent, however:
District line General Manager, Bob Thorogood said "When this work is complete, passengers will be able to enjoy a modernised ticket hall and platforms and the new communications room will help us to make the service more efficient. We are extending the weekend closure to ensure that Metronet Rail SSL are able to complete the work by February 2005."
The first of these extended weekend closures merely resulted in some cable ducting being attached to the stairwells and a line of fluorescent tubes being bolted to the ceiling. The second seems to have been devoted to replacing the lighting in the ticket hall and draping a mass of black cables along the passageways and through a wall. It looks like a colony of giant snakes have taken up residence in the rafters, dangling down and weaving in and out of the ironwork. This is no sensitive Victorian reconstruction, this is infrastructure installation on the cheap. The station actually looks more unattractive than it did before redevelopment began and, because it's now much better illuminated, this just makes the ugly modern intrusions even more obvious.

The rebirth of Bow Road station should be complete in four months time, so they tell us. I remain to be convinced that the end result will justify months of inactivity and inconvenience to long-suffering passengers. Or indeed that this mismanaged fund-squandering fiasco of a project will ever reach a satisfactory conclusion. Watch this space.

Saturday 23rd October
A new blue wall has been built, blocking off the disused stairwell at the far eastern end of the eastbound platform.

Sunday 24th October
At 11pm, as I rode through the closed station, the door in the new blue wall was open and the stairwell beyond was lit.

Monday 25th October
The tarpaulin has come loose again, so it looks like the large plywood box on the pavement outside the station is now empty.

Tuesday 26th October
The tarpaulin has been pulled back over the box, and a heavy grey folded sheet placed on top.

Wednesday 27th October
The leftmost end of the second stair from the top of the eastbound staircase has been covered in black and yellow sticky tape.

Thursday 28th October
Two strips of black and yellow tape have been stuck vertically up the white wooden panelling above the third stair.

Friday 29th October
The four new fluorescent tubes hanging in the ticket hall still have thin white ties secured around their plastic casing.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 30-31 October>

Saturday 30th October
The station is closed for the third complete weekend.

Sunday 31st October
Conker tree update: the leaves have turned yellow and brown round the edge and have started to fall off.


Monday 1st November
After the third weekend station closure the smell of paint is in the air. The ceiling of the ticket hall looks like it's been painted with white undercoat, badly. The paint extends all the way towards the westbound stairwell and halfway towards the eastbound stairwell.

Tuesday 2nd November
Yellow safety material has been screwed onto the horizontal surface of every stair on the westbound and eastbound staircases.

Wednesday 3rd November
All of the decorative wooden boards along the edge of the canopy over each platform have been repainted white.

Thursday 4th November
Plastic cable ducting now goes almost all the way round the top of the ticket hall.

Friday 5th November
A number of strips of silver tape have been stuck to the walls of the stairwells and the ticket hall. Someone has scribbled on each in biro. For example, three of the strips up the eastbound stairwell read New light fitting and give measurements for where the new light fitting is to be positioned.

Saturday 6th November
There are several silver strips stuck to the wall at the top of the eastbound stairwell, including Break Glass Unit and Help Point.

Sunday 7th November
A silver strip stuck to the wall halfway along the ticket hall reads Unswitched fuse for V.E.I.D.

Monday 8th November
Two strips near the top of the eastbound stairwell read 16A 110V S/O surface mounted.

Tuesday 9th November
A strip at the top of the westbound stairwell reads Photo cell for stair lighting.

Thursday, November 10, 2004


They're spending lots of money doing up the Underground. You can tell this because every weekend they shut down half of the network. Last weekend you couldn't travel anywhere up the eastern end of the Central line, this weekend Wembley Park is (again) a no-go zone, and the following weekend the entire middle chunk of the District line will be out of action one more time. You have to check where you're going very carefully these days in case what should be a quick tube trip turns into a bus replacement nightmare. Then there are tens of stations being closed for months, for part of the day at least, so that workmen can erect big blue hoardings and then pretend to deepclean the walls behind. I actually saw some of these workmen at Bow Road yesterday, during the rush hour no less, which was something of a revelation because I had thought that workmen at Bow Road were imaginary creatures like leprechauns or something. There are two big doorways in the front of the station building, one of which never ever opens. Until last night. Through the autumn gloom I saw a long secret room bathed in golden light, packed with orange-coated men in clean white helmets. There were at least four of them anyway, either busy renovating this space no travelling passenger ever uses or standing around in cryogenic storage until this whole sorry modernisation illusion is finally over. To give them their due these mystical workmen have somehow managed, over the last nine months, to paint half the ceiling, hang some lights and plug in some new cameras. But not a lot else. If this is where the government's hard-earned tube subsidy is going then I'd rather they'd left the old station as it was - rundown, functional, and 100% open.



Wednesday 10th November
During the day someone has started to remove the peeling white paint from the old wooden panels along the side of the eastbound stairwell. About time too.

Thursday 11th November
The paint has now been stripped right across the edge of the bridge, but not yet right along the stairwell.

Friday 12th November
11:30pm, and a crowd of at least ten workmen are standing around outside the closed station doing nothing.

Saturday 13th November
Workmen are present in the station during the day. Maybe this is finally getting serious.

Sunday 14th November
I peered behind the blue wall on the westbound platform. A lot of metal ducting appears to have been bolted to the wall (which remains unpainted).

Monday 15th November
The stripped paint on the bridge now stretches part way up the window casing.

Tuesday 16th November
I peered inside the station supervisor's office at the top of the eastbound stairwell. She has a nice vase of flowers in there.

Wednesday 17th November
Workmen were seen standing outside the station, on a weekday. Still not quite sure what they're actually doing.

Thursday 18th November
Peering through the gap in the door in the blue wall on the westbound platform I saw a lot of bolts on a trestle stand, plus a box of screws.

Friday 19th November
I also saw yet more (ugly) metal brackets bolted to the old unpainted Victorian platform walls.

Saturday 20th November
At 1pm, workmen were seen walking up the westbound stairwell discussing the PDP.

Sunday 21st November
Announcements about engineering works can only just be heard over the intercom because there's a noise like a pneumatic drill in the background.

Monday 22nd November
The stripped paint on the bridge now stretches all the way up the window casing.

Tuesday 23rd November
One corner of the tarpaulin covering the big box of building materials at the front of the station has been fastened to the railings, obscuring the poster that tells passengers how to make alternative travel arrangements when the station is closed.

Wednesday 24th November
New strips of silver sticky tape show that five new cameras will be installed up the eastbound stairwell.

Thursday 25th November
Cam 14 is going at the foot of the stairwell, Cam 13 halfway up, Cam 12 round the corner at the top of the stairs and Cam 11 and Cam 10 together a few steps further along at the entrance to the ticket hall.

Friday 26th November
According to another strip of tape, Cam 43 will be installed at the foot of the westbound stairwell.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


It's becoming disturbingly clear what the modernisation of Bow Road station actually involves, and it's not renovation. The most visible change in recent weeks has been a proliferation of cables - along the platforms, up the stairs, across the ticket hall - everywhere. They're especially ugly cables, attached to walls by particularly ugly cable brackets, and they're doing nothing for the Victorian heritage of the station. I had been wondering what all these cables could possibly be for, but the answer has come in the form of short swatches of silver tape plastered all over the stairs and ticket hall, each with some special code scribbled on in biro. Some codes indicate new lighting (Light fitting above) and some indicate new electrical equipment (Unswitched fuse for V.E.I.D) but a surprisingly large number foretell the installation of new cameras. And lots of them.

According to the stickers Cam 14 is going at the foot of the eastbound stairwell, Cam 13 halfway up, Cam 12 round the corner at the top of the stairs and Cam 11 and Cam 10 together a few steps further along at the entrance to the ticket hall. Why one stairwell needs five cameras to watch over it is beyond me. If the dozy mare who sits in the booth by the ticket barrier looked up from reading her Metro occasionally, like when yet another teenager is escaping through the luggage gate without paying, we wouldn't need half as many cameras.

Most worrying of all, however, is the sticker at the foot of the westbound stairwell which reads CCTV Camera 43. It appears that tube bosses plan to install at least 43 cameras at this station! What the hell for? It's not an especially big station, but some safety bigwig appears to think that no corner of this station can possibly remain unsnooped. It's not an especially busy station either, with an average of just 5500 users each day, but it looks as though there's going to be at least one camera for every 125 passengers. What an incredible waste of money. This looks like tube surveillance overkill to me, organised by some profligate underground Big Brother figure. Sorry, but I don't feel any safer just because the station supervisor can sit in her new office and flick between 43 different video shots of me walking around her empty platforms. I'd just like some money to be spent on a decent functional station with a lick of paint and a 'next train' indicator that's less than 40 years old, please. Some time in the next four months would be nice.

Saturday 27th November
No sign of any of these new cameras yet, just the old ones.

Sunday 28th November
A new poster is on display in the ticket hall apologising that the station will have to be closed more often at weekends over the next three months in order to complete all renovation work to schedule.

Monday 29th November
Instead of the two remaining planned weekend closures, there will now be seven weekend closures during the next three months, including all three weekends in the run-up to Christmas.

Tuesday 30th November
Conker tree update: half of the leaves have now fallen off, mostly from the top half of the tree. Of the leaves that remain most are yellow, but some (particularly the lower leaves nearest to the station building) are still mainly green with yellow edging.


Wednesday 1st December
A silver sticker labelled Z2-5E has fallen off the wall and is stuck face-up to a stair in the eastbound stairwell.

Thursday 2nd December
The writing on the silver sticker is now completely illegible.

Friday 3rd December
The previous silver sticker has disappeared, and the sticker reading Cam 12 is now stuck to one of the steps on the eastbound stairwell instead.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 4-5 December>

Saturday 4th December
A new leaflet being given away at the station apologises that "modernisation work will involve more closures than originally anticipated." This weekend sees the first of the additional closures.

Sunday 5th December
I saw a few workmen standing on the platform of the closed station. If they were doing any work, it wasn't on the platforms.

Monday 6th December
After the weekend closure, it appears that:
a) lots more cables have been coiled across the ceiling of the ticket hall.
b) strips of red and white tape have been stuck up the walls of the two stairwells, perhaps to protect the tiles (or where the tiles used to be).
c) strips of black and yellow tape have also been stuck up the walls of the eastbound stairwell, and also stuck to the wooden panels above the two ticket office windows in the ticket hall.

Tuesday 7th December
A cross made out of yellow and black tape has appeared on four of the windowpanes above the eastbound stairwell.

Wednesday 8th December
New fluorescent light fittings have been attached to the grey cabling boxes suspended from the ceiling along the western half of the eastbound platform. The lights are not yet functional.

Thursday 9th December
Four of the pillars in the middle of the westbound platform have been painted grey, then covered by transparent plastic sheeting.

Friday 10th December
Some of the new cabling is a light shade of mauve-y purple.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 11-12 December>

Saturday 11th December
The station is closed for yet another whole weekend.

Sunday 12th December
Still closed. The station is closed every weekend this month.

Monday 13th December
After the weekend closure, it appears that:
a) there are loops of thin white cable in various locations around the ceiling of the ticket hall and up the stairwell.
b) cheap wooden boards have been placed over most of the rotten wood on the bridge.
c) there are irregular areas of brown cement daubed on the walls of the ticket hall

Tuesday 14th December
All of the pillars on both platforms have now been painted grey (except for the very top of the easternmost pillar on the westbound platform which remains green and yellow).

Wednesday 15th December
A giant reel of one-inch thick rubber cabling has appeared in the fenced-off area on the pavement in front of the station entrance.

Thursday 16th December
The brown cement on the eastern wall of the ticket hall has been plastered over. The brown cement on the western wall of the ticket hall has been covered by orange plastic sheeting.

Friday 17th December
Some of the windows on the bridge appear to have been reglazed. There is the smell of fresh (white) paint.

<Bow Road station closed all weekend: 18-19 December>


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