Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tottenham Court Road revisited

Back again after a while - this used to be the nearest Tube station to where I worked for 16 years (at Centre Point from 1981 to 1997). At first I used it daily, but the sheer awfulness of the Tube in those days prompted me to change to bicycle or bicycle plus train to Paddington from the late '80s on. Even so, from time to time I'd be forced to use the Tube, so Tottenham Court Road - so I knew it very well.

Closed for the best part of this year, the Central Line platform reopened two days ago, so a visit was in order en route to a business mixer held nearby. I was expecting more change - at platform level, things looked as they did in the 1980s (below). After 11 months out of action, there could have been a sense of work having been... er... finished. The ceiling panels have not been fitted, the tiling is as was.

Much of the mosaic tiling by Eduardo Paolozzi, dating back thirty years, back to the days when I'd commute through here daily, is still in place. Paylozzamoni, as Private Eye used to call him, was well remunerated for his mechanical chickens and consumer electronics, though I never liked the style; if the lot disappeared to another site, I wouldn't be in the least bit dismayed.

Does any Londoner feel any sense of emotional attachment or aesthetic pleasure from passing these mosaics at Tottenham Court Road? I much prefer the late Wojciech Fangor's dynamic typography adorning the second line of Warsaw's Metro.

Up at concourse level, there are improvements - more space, better channelling of passengers towards the escalators. The modern concourse reminds me of ones on the recent Jubilee Line extension.

The station, located at the very centre of London, will also have two CrossRail platforms when the project is completed in three-four years time. This will mean many, many more passengers passing through. Tottenham Court Road, at the intersection of the Central Line (since 1900) and Northern Line (since 1907) is in any case extremely busy. It is busy with two existentially different breeds of human - the commuter and the tourist. It's like comparing carnivore and herbivore. The former is in a hurry and knows precisely where they're going. The latter has time on their hands, and is unfamiliar with the topography of the place. There are huge numbers of both here. You're rushing to a meeting and a Spanish backpacker asks you if this is the Piccadilly Line.

Stepping out at the entrance by Centre Point, I was immediately disorientated by the changes. Gone is the Astoria theatre on Charing Cross Road; gone is the block of flats across the street. I paused for a second to look round, trying to work out where New Oxford Street now is. Immediately, three commuters crashed into me, all of them too engrossed in their smartphones while rushing up from the station.

The changes round here are massive. And massively inconvenient. Streets cut off to pedestrians, being routed round the long way. And though work on the CrossRail redevelopment has been going on for six years, it is obvious that there's still a vast amount still to do. Meanwhile, the very promise of CrossRail - linking the main lines coming into London from east to west under the heart of the capital - is driving up house prices with the promise of shorter commuting times.

I trust the new station entrances will be able to handle greater traffic flow than the old ones. Change is all around. New developments mean more commuters. London attracts more and more people from around the world, to live and work, and to visit and spend.

This time last year:
Zen and the Art of Publishing

This time three years ago:
Wrocław, another Polish city of neon

This time four years ago:
Ronald Reagan remembered

This time five years ago:
Accident of birth

This time seven years ago:
Under the Liberator

This time eight years ago:
Jeziorki on old maps

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was up there the day after you, doing some last minute seasonal shopping. Despite all the change, I was pleasantly surprised to experience the escalator out onto the CX Road. The memories are fecund of some 32 happy years there.

Frater Goldenenenism