We Asked People What Abandoned London Train Station They'd Like To See Reopen

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 6 months ago
We Asked People What Abandoned London Train Station They'd Like To See Reopen

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Aldwych Station
Photo: Shutterstock

London is littered with the remnants of former train and tube stations.

Once deemed necessary when railways exploded onto the scene in the late 19th and early 20th century, these stations were made redundant when passengers stopped using them. But how we move around the city is constantly in flux. Some of these disused stations might justify reopening in 21st century London.

We asked Londonist readers which station they would like to see reopen. We went through the suggestions one by one, judging how feasible a reopening might be.

Aldwych/Strand

Aldwych Station. Photo: Doug

A popular choice, perhaps because it's the best known of all London's disused stations. That's thanks to its prominent placing on the Strand and the frequency with which Hidden London runs tours down there. But isn't it better to keep it that way? Wandering down into the forgotten tunnels of yesteryear?

People who suggested reopening didn't have any practical reasons for doing so. "For historical reasons, suggested someone". Nicholas Perera said: "Strand looks like a cool one to open, it might not be used much but the entrance looks kind of grand." This gets to the heart of the issue. You can't reopen a disused station for aesthetic value alone.

John Smith has a different idea for reopening Aldwych — utilising the original plans for the Jubilee line extension. When proposals first emerged for the extension, the trains would continue on from Charing Cross, to Aldwych, then Ludgate Circus followed by Fenchurch Street, Surrey Quays, New Cross Gate, New Cross and Lewisham. However, the emergence of Canary Wharf changed all that, and there hasn't been any talk of it since.

South Kentish Town

South Kentish Town

This suggestion came up a few times (thanks Toby Morrison and Neil Evans). People think reopening South Kentish Town could relieve some of the pressure up the road at Camden Town. Indeed Camden Town is the eighth circle of hell at rush hour, but still, we question whether many would use South Kentish Town (or Castle Road as it was nearly called) were it to be revived.

Camden Town and Kentish Town are already only a 15 minute walk apart, and South Kentish Town is smack bang in the middle of them. That's too close together to justify having a station outside of zone 1. Low passenger numbers are the reason the station was originally closed in 1924. Redesigning Camden Town is a better bet for relieving that station of its crowds.

City Road

What remains of City Road Station. Photo: Nevilley

Graham Taylor suggests City Road: "It's actually quite a gap between Angel and Old Street, and there's not much going on around there. Would speed up redevelopment." We agree with the first part, but aren't convinced by the second sentiment. Does redevelopment need speeding up in City Road? Canaletto Tower already looks like something out of the budget Dubai skyscraper lookbook.

Apart from low passenger numbers — a running theme on this list — City Road's biggest issue is its tunnels. They're the wrong diameter for the tube, and would require plenty of work to reopen the station.

York Road and/or Maiden Lane

York Road Station today. Photo: Nigel Bewley

Now we're getting onto the stations that stand a bit more of a chance of reopening, as proposed by Michael Kidd and Neil Evans. Back when York Road and Maiden Lane station (well the second of two stations named Maiden Lane closed — it's confusing), the areas around the stations were warehouse heavy and desolate. Now that part of King's Cross is unrecognisable: filled with high-rises, national newspaper headquarters, chichi bars, a boutique shopping centre, a cinema, and an arts college.

All this suggests there's reason to have a station here, especially as more high-rises are still to come. So what are the options? Well York Road, instantly recognisable from its Leslie Green oxblood terracotta tile-work, is on the Piccadilly line between King's Cross and Caledonian Road — a large gap for the line. However TfL doesn't want to slow the Piccadilly down by adding a station and splurging a potential £40 million on it.

There is another option. Maiden Lane could slot in nicely on the London Overground between Caledonian & Barnsbury and Camden Road. This article suggests going the full hog and opening them both for a Piccadilly line and Overground interchange. It's ambitious and unlikely (read: TfL are low on cash so won't do it), but there are some other issues here. Most notably, Maiden Lane is actually a little far from the new developments in King's Cross so there's no guarantee of it getting the passenger numbers to rationalise its existence. Also TfL wants to build stations that will unlock house-building in the nearby areas. Why would they build one in an area where the building is coming without their intervention?

Camberwell

Camberwell Station
The unremarkable remains of Camberwell Station. Photo: jwslubbock

Joe Grey points out:

In terms of improving connectivity for the most people currently poorly served by rail, then Camberwell must be one of the best contenders for reopening.

Out of all the options on this list, Camberwell has had the most press about reopening. TfL went so far as to create a business case looking at the reinstatement of Camberwell Station, published in 2018. The report found that reopening the station — which has been closed to passengers since 1916 — would deliver local benefits. However, it also decided that opening the station wouldn't be a good use of public funds at this time.

That judgement can be broken down in a few ways. The station would cost at least £36 million to reopen, and TfL doesn't have that money lying about. Secondly, the station wouldn't create the opportunity for new homes in the area, which is TfL's priority at the moment. Also there were fears that other commuters further down the Sevenoaks line would be annoyed by their commute becoming two minutes longer. That all means this project is dead in the water for now.

East Brixton

East Brixton Station
East Brixton Station back in 1963. Photo: Lamberhurst

It was the opening of the Victoria line in the 1970s that sounded the death knell for East Brixton as it dragged away all its passengers. Robert Coates would like to see East Brixton Station reopen, as he claims the area is poorly served by rail. That statement is questionable; East Brixton is very close to both Brixton Underground and Brixton railway station.

That's not to say East Brixton wouldn't have a place in today's train ecosystem. If the station reopened today it could be part of the Overground's London Orbital line, slotting in nicely between Clapham High Street and Denmark Hill. It could function as an interchange between the Victoria line, Overground, Southeastern and even Thameslink at Loughborough Junction. Lambeth Council was supposedly looking into a business case for reopening the station but nothing seems to have come of that for now.

File this in the same cabinet as Camberwell: great in theory, but probably too expensive. Early estimates costed reopening East Brixton station at over £30 million.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill Station in 1990. Photo: John Ragla

One of the most popular responses, suggested by three different people — thanks Robert Coates, Christopher Simpson-Brooker and Simon Marcel Wiśniewski. Primrose Hill is home to colourful houses and a glorious view of the city, but no train station.

Its position between Camden Road station and South Hampstead means that were the station to be reopened, it could be used to connect the Watford-Euston branch of the Overground to the North London line branch (and in turn the London Orbital). This could work in numerous ways. Trains could be diverted away from Euston, which as it has so many other stations to deal with, is no bad thing. However, diverting trains away from Euston means sending them towards Stratford, which is already very busy.

Lots of changes are mooted in the coming years for the Overground but this one isn't in serious contention. The West London Orbital is higher up the pecking order.

Honourable mentions

  • Dominic Hewlett quips: "Vauxhall Cross. It would take pressure off 'Bond' Street". This is a fictional station and a James Bond reference for those of you not in the know. (Author's note: Die Another Day is one of the most underrated Bond films out there, as long as you don't think about it too hard.)
  • Graham Taylor exclaims: "British Museum!" No reasoning, because there is none. It closed when Holborn Station opened less than 100 yards away. That's much shorter than the distance between Leicester Square and Covent Garden.

If you've got any more suggestions, let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 15 May 2019