walbrook

In the transport industry it’s not everyday that one of your projects opens to the public and when they do, it’s always nice when they look and work just as you intended.

The new entrance at Bank station in London has, since 2003, been the peripheral L-shaped box in the bottom left hand corner of my Bank station masterplans. Even back then, when the assessment of capacity and risk was embryonic at best, it was evident that even the most extensive of our underground stations was beginning to creak at the seams.   I had already established that the long-feted Pedroute programme had a fatal flaw, and the capacities of our computers were insufficient for the potential of the emerging Legion dynamic modelling programme. So down went 100+ students armed with coloured monopoly cards to establish the flows, and from that we developed ambitious solutions to spread the people more evenly through what was left of the clay in this part of the city.

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Of course the focus was on the heart of the station, where layers of underground tunnels jostle for space between the buildings above, overlapping and consolidating their passengers in ever more complex conduits. And all the while, my little box in the bottom left hand corner sat waiting patiently for attention.

It was not until one Sunday morning that those in power closed the City to test the effectiveness of evacuation from the Waterloo and City line platforms. The results were never published, and the Walbrook project quietly rose to the top of the priority list.

Naturally, the grand gesture of the Northern line solution made the magazines, it was where the big money lay and the swanky new tendering method was devised, tested and enthusiastically promoted to showcase the new value driven approach of the industry.  But all the while, down in the bottom left hand corner, the Walbrook team were quietly getting on with establishing the developer sponsored approach to infrastructure enhancement, agreeing the funding methods and the interfaces, the legal structure and the coordination strategy that would foretell London’s transport development approach in future periods of government austerity and beyond.

This is not to say the process was without its difficulties; this was new ground for the LU and developer teams and their station box, and the challenges were physical and emotional as only those projects whose protagonists truly care about the results can be.

It is now 15 years since those first masterplan sketches and 10 years since the LU/TMA team was established to push ahead with what more latterly became known as the Bloomberg entrance. All of the struggle and strife is now past and the number of participants who rightly feel responsible for and proud of the new entrance has grown exponentially. And after 15 years and in keeping with it’s nurturing, the new Waterloo and City line entrance has opened quietly and effectively, no trumpets, no showmanship, simply getting on with its job of increasing safety and capacity in the system, in a manner that is as engaging in its spatial generosity as it is in its cost effective delivery.

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