I’ve just been to Peckham Rye and back from Highbury & Islington on the new Overground, and what a triumph that is for those who promoted and saw through the scheme. Of course, it was Ken Livingstone who gave the go-ahead for the London Orbital scheme and behind the scenes, though, it was the London director for rail, Ian Brown, who did much of the real work to ensure this happened. Yet, it is Boris Johnson, Livingstone’s successor who claims the credit. Yet, you can bet, bouffon buffoon would never have pushed through a complex scheme such as the creation of London Overground.
I was there for a site meeting to mark the progress of the refurbishment of the station and saw the amazing waiting room built by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway in 1865 to, apparently, meet demand from people going to Crystal Palace from the coast, as Peckham was a junction with the London,l Chatham & Dover. The Brighton company was in the habit of building rather grand stations and Peckham was the beneficiary, though sadly much of the building was boarded up in the 1960s when as one of the promoters of its rehabilation said, ‘contempt for Victorian architecture was at its height’. There is a fantastic massive old waiting room, where the lengthy process of refurbishment has been started with new windows and a patched up floor that was once a billiards hall. Sadly, one impediment to its continued railway use are the barriers which now clutter up the downstairs entrance and make it more difficult for outside events that would be essential for the room’s long term future to be combined with a continued railway function.
Interestingly, I met the impressive councillor Fiona Colley, Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration who is working hard to improve the area, demolishing the ghastly 30s shops that block the view of the station, and making use of the railway arches on either side for retail. She had read the mayor’s recent transport strategy document and like me found it utterly wanting. There is absolutely nothing in it beyond continuing existing projects. As she said, unless the mayor puts forward ideas for the back end of the decade and beyond, such as Crossrail 2 or new extensions to the Underground or tram schemes, nothing will happen. The new Orbital rail route was the result of vision and lobbying, and that is so lacking in City Hall at the moment.