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Opinion

An Ode To Vauxhall Bus Station

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago
An Ode To Vauxhall Bus Station

As men in high-vis tabards scrub the metallic corrugated sides of Vauxhall Bus station with long-poled mops, it conjures up a 1930s Lufthansa being prepped for take-off.

Designed by Arup Associates — and landing here in 2004 — Vauxhall's defies the conventional slabby, slobby London bus station for something positively aerodynamic.

From its slanted information room windows (more like a cockpit) to its shimmering stainless steel wings for canopies, to the ribbon of a roof that undulates above passengers waiting for their ride, this place recalls a golden age of travel — with a good punch of sci-fi.  

Then there are those two prongs that 'take off' 20 degrees — halfway between a ski jump and a Stalin-era monument. The bus station might not quite have reached iconic status yet, but leave it there a while and it just might.

In an area flanked by cumbersome Lego builds like St George Wharf Tower (billionaires) and SIS (spies), Vauxhall is a practical transport interchange that provides some sorely-needed oomph and glamour.

It is practical, too; London's third busiest domestic bus station (after after Hammersmith and Kingston Cromwell), Vauxhall sees around 40,000 passengers board or alight every day. Six routes are for night buses, with passengers kept safer by the open style of the building (it was designed in cahoots with the Met Police).

As day breaks — cloud cover permitting — the station creates power for it own lights; the number of kilowatts it's churned out to date, flashes up on a big LED display. "In one year the electricity generated by the solar panels on this bus station," we're informed, "will be enough to make nearly one million pieces of toast!"  

There are toilets, separate pissoirs (sensible for an area with a nightlife like Vauxhall's), and lifts. There's even a miniature version of the main building in the form of another information kiosk.

Unfortunately, the surrounding Vauxhall Cross gyratory isn't so well composed. Cyclists have died at the wheels of tumultuous traffic, and (quite rightly) it's proposed that something is done about it.

But surely not the demolition of Vauxhall bus station?

A second TfL consultation that concluded earlier in 2016, reveals that 61% of participants were generally positive towards the proposals to return the one-way road system at Vauxhall Cross to a two-way system.

Says TfL: "Subject to the results, work could begin in 2018 and be finished in 2020."

Exactly what that means isn't clear — especially when it comes to the future of one of the world's most glamorous bus stations. TfL says it's a matter for Lambeth Borough Council. But after being flipped from department to department over the phone at Lambeth, we were no clearer on what their stance is.

There's no lack of love for Vauxhall bus station. A couple of years back, when demolition was mooted, the Vauxhall Society made cute protest badges. MP Kate Hoey branded the notion of getting rid of the bus station "ridiculous".

Someone somewhere must have an idea what's in mind for Vauxhall bus station. And to that person we say: please can we keep it? Pleeeease?

Last Updated 27 September 2016