Many Ealing residents will be aware of the ongoing public consultation Ealing Council is holding on the provisional plans they have received from Crossrail for Ealing Broadway station, which, like other stations on the new Crossrail line, is set to be upgraded.
For some years now I’ve been chairing a local transport group (EATAG – Ealing Acton Transport Action Group) which acts as a good forum for interested local residents’ groups to hold the major transport agencies operating across Ealing to account.
Naturally, with Ealing Broadway being such a major London transport interchange, improvements at that outdated station make up the bulk of the discussion at our meetings. There are also important issues to discuss surrounding Acton Mainline and West Ealing stations as well as other local transport concerns – but Ealing Broadway remains the big issue.
For some time, though, meetings have taken on an increasingly frustrated tone as we pressed for the release of Crossrail’s plans for Ealing Broadway station, but were told that they had to be delayed yet again. We at last got the plans later on in 2013 and it is nearly time for Ealing Council to feed back its thoughts on the designs. Many local residents will feel short-changed that the time given for this consultation is so brief and so late on in the process, giving little time for community feedback let alone action to be taken. And holding it across the Christmas period compounds the frustration.
It is fair to point out that back in 2010 there were concerns that London might not keep the Crossrail project in its entirety. The Comprehensive Spending Review came at a time when it was financially necessary to reassess the merits of all big infrastructure projects and major spending decisions against a backdrop of economic collapse. Pressure from Conservative MPs across London helped to keep Crossrail on track, in full. Ealing, in particular, has waited many years for a safer, modern station and it was a massive relief when the project was safeguarded. The station that we have planned for us is clearly safer, more modern and a great improvement on what we have at the moment. That much, at least, is positive.
While we welcome a new, safe and improved station, it is clear that there remain aspects of the plans that are a serious disappointment. There don’t seem to be adequate and lasting solutions to the many problems around the station – the bus stops, the future of Haven Green and the fact that there won’t be anywhere at the new station to drop people off who are arriving by car, often with heavy luggage for Heathrow. And why no escalators in the station itself, which were originally in the plans? At the very least, we need reassurance that the station design will allow these to be retrofitted at some stage.
All in all, there’s a distinct lack of imagination and an absence of a bold vision for what is a key London transport interchange. Where is the ambition? Where is the determination to grab hold of this once in a lifetime opportunity?
Reading what other London boroughs are doing with their Crossrail opportunities, I must say I think Ealing could do far better, particularly given the importance of Ealing Broadway station to the whole of West London. For a start, what about negotiating more forcefully to insist on an entrance which makes a real statement and which blends with the local architecture, rather than the rather drab, functional design that we have been lumped with?
And even now, concerns continue that the station design is based on questionable projections about passenger numbers once Crossrail is up and running. These are all points that have been raised at successive EATAG meetings, as our minutes would attest to, but we have been consistently told to wait for the designs to be made public. Now we can see them, it is clear that they fall short of what Ealing deserves.
There are a few days remaining to have a look at the plans and help persuade the Council to take a tough line by responding with comments through the consultation process.