A station. In Twickenham
It’s happening. The building work at Twickenham station has really begun. There are bits of scaffolding, a new bridge, assorted hoardings, men at work and the demolition of Puccino’s cafe and the toilets on platform 4. Despite the toilets being out of action we presume drunken men are still free to continue using the nearby stairway from London Road down to Mary’s Terrace as an alternative toilet facility.
So far the disruption to rails services has been relatively small although residents in the immediate vicinity might feel that they’ve had their share of noise already. The project covers a number of improvements in the run up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup although, as you know, the “big station build” is not now going to happen until some time after England Captain Chris Robshaw lifts the Web Ellis Cup at Twickenham Stadium next October. The work is being partly funded by a grant of £1.6m from Boris’s budget. Nice one. But as we’ve said before and we’ll say again, it’s always been a bit of a mystery as to why the overarching Solum Regeneration development plan was not able to stump up enough dosh to fund all the basic station improvements required. Funny dat.
Anywayyyy… the work includes new footbridges (one between the platforms and one over the whole line) and platform resurfacing. The impact? Well, before we’re ready to enjoy a whole new and improved ‘rail customer’ experience the station needs to be closed for several days. This is going to happen over assorted weekends and all lines through Twickenham will be closed all day. Expect disruption, cranes, scaffolding, more men in orange suits and plenty of noise during those periods.
The affected days/weekends are:
13th / 14th September
20th / 21st September
Sun 28th September
Sun 9th November (morning)
We’re not being pessimistic, just realistic, when we say to you, “Check travel websites the morning after the closures in case it all overruns”. If you want to find out more about the work (but not that elusive “big build”) then there’s a public meeting hosted by El Brute and Network Rail at the Brunel Room of the RFU on Wednesday 10th September between 7.30pm and 9.00pm.
During the closures there’ll be mucho mucho changes to timetables with buses replacing trains in the Twickenham area. And when it comes to getting that crucial replacement bus service, just make sure you’re better prepared for it than Messrs Jackson and Attenborough. Good Luck!
* South West Trains Engineering Works
* El Brute Twickenham Station page
Mr Orange, Twickenham
Just when you started to wonder if the redevelopment of Twickenham station was all just a dream given the complete lack of communication over the last few months and, hey presto, a drop in session suddenly appears.
Twickenham Station commuters
So here we go! It’s time for Solum Regeneration to reveal the details and timing of their plans for the station and the flats and shops they’re building. Except that it isn’t going to be quite like that.
According to the blurb from the Council, the focus of the session which is being put on by Network Rail and the South West Trains Alliance (who they?), is on the platform level improvements. In fact, it even makes reference to the £1.6m funding from the Greater London Authority which, among other things, will be used to improve the footbridge over the tracks. The money, whilst welcome, comes not from the developer Solum but from one of Boris’s budget pots. Some have pondered on this very site why additional funding was needed to put basic platform and bridge improvements in place rather than them being part of the developer’s scheme. But what do we humble folk know about how such weighty decisions are taken?
The intention now seems to be to get some basic station improvements through before the 2015 rugby World Cup and leave ‘the big build’ until after the tournament has finished. In fact the details on the El Brute website make clear that this meeting is all about the platform work and not the wider project which means those interested in the detail of Solum’s plans will just have to wait a little longer.
The session is on 29th January from 4.00pm. A presentation is scheduled for 6.30pm. The fun takes place in the Churchill Suite at Twickenham Stadium.
* Richmond Council Press Release
Conjuring up an image of a fat lady singing is probably sexist, sizist and, err, voice-ist but we’re going with it anyway. Why? Because it seems that TRAG’s challenge to El Brute’s approval of the Twickenham station development may have now run its course.
In other words, it’s over and the dulcet tones of a fat lady singing can be heard above the noise of the road, rail and air traffic in Twickenham. Needless to say these tones will soon be drowned out by years of construction work but that’s for another time.
You will recall that TRAG’s appeal against the planning committee’s decision back in 2011 was dismissed in a judicial review and also by the Court of Appeal in May of this year although El Brute did cop some flak about the way the Twickenham Advisory Panel’s report into the scheme had been handled by the committee. Despite the rulings TRAG pushed on and explored the option of taking the case to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t worked out for them. Richmond Council has announced that three Supreme Court judges refused permission for the case to be taken further and ordered TRAG to pay the Council’s costs. A railway-centric joke about reaching the end of the line could be inserted here but could be considered insensitive. We won’t go there. It might provide a platform for further puns.
The public consultation on the Crossrail 2 project comes to an end on Friday 2nd August. The results will be taken into consideration as part of developing the idea further. Well, that’s what they say anyway. You’ve heard of Crossrail, right? It’s the new rail line running east / west across London. Well, Crossrail 2 would become its north /south counterpart. The current ‘early days’ proposals offer two alternatives, a ‘metro option’ (underground from Alexandra Palace to Wimbledon) and a ‘regional option’. This second, longer route builds on the metro option and could include a branch from Cheshunt in the north down through central London to Wimbledon, then round to towns such as Epsom, Surbiton or, you’ve guessed it, Twickenham. It’s suggested that a route such as one from Twickenham via Wimbledon would run on South West Trains suburban lines but would still get you into central London (Victoria, Tottenham Court Road or Euston) more quickly than the conventional ‘train to Waterloo then tube’ approach. It obviously depends where you’re heading, of course, but the idea of a fast and efficient route into London with good connections to more mainline stations is appealing. Is Solum Regeneration’s plan for Twickenham station up to the Crossrail challenge? We simply don’t know but we’d like to think they’ve planned ahead for this kind of thing (?).
The cost of the regional option is estimated at between £12 and £20bn (so let’s call that £30bn then) and trains could be speeding along it by the early 2030s. So dig deep but don’t start changing your season ticket arrangements just yet.
* TFL Crossrail 2
Deadline for comments is 2nd August
TRAG, Twickenham’s leading opponents of Solum’s plans for the station, are looking into options for taking their case to the Supreme Court. After getting knocked back by a Judicial Review and then by the Court of Appeal the group is hoping it could be third time lucky in the courts in their battle over Richmond Council’s approval of the plans back in December 2011. Quoted in the Richmond & Twickenham Times, TRAG spokesman John Watson says, “We are hoping that permission to appeal to the Supreme Court might be granted on the basis that the Court of Appeal overstepped the mark by effectively putting itself in the shoes of the local planning authority in deciding that the TAP report would not have made any difference [to the Planning Committee’s decision].”
And so there we have it. Solum Regeneration’s plans for Twickenham station will go ahead after all. Well, we say ‘after all’ but there’s no sense of surprise here at twickerati HQ in the light of today’s Court announcement chucking out TRAG’s appeal against the scheme’s approval. None.
A station. In Twickenham
When El Brute (that’s ‘LBRuT’ to the uninitiated) approved the plans in December 2011 amid rowdy scenes at York House, that moment marked the end of any serious opportunity to get the development changed. Local Twickenham agitators, TRAG, have battled hard to get the Council’s decision reversed, first through a judicial review and then by taking their case to the Court of Appeal but today’s ruling surely marks the end of the line for opposition to the scheme. Or rather, it marks the end of the line for any credible means of getting the development changed.
Lord True is delighted. Can you picture his smiling face? In the Richmond Council Press Release the Blue Baron, the Duke of York [House], the Dear Leader says: “I welcome the Court’s decision today and I hope that we can finally lay this matter to rest and move forward with creating a train station that is fit for purpose”. In fact we agree with most of that. Despite all the shenanigans and the flaws in the Solum plan, it is time to move on.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over… again. The Battle for Twickenham Station took another turn yesterday when the Court of Appeal gave TRAG permission to appeal December’s High Court decision in favour of El Brute’s approval of the Solum scheme. According to the TRAG website, “Lord Justice Sullivan declared that he believes one of the grounds within our overall appeal argument “has a real prospect of success””. He does, does he?
The flaws in the Solum scheme are well documented. TRAG (aka Twickenham Residents Action Group) hate the whole thing. Others, including this actual very website, think it has a few good aspects but that it also misses quite a few tricks in terms of functionality and design. A bit of a missed oppotunity to build something really great for Twickenham, if you will. Some like it. And, let’s face it, some aren’t bothered as long as the new station ends up being better than the current one.
So will TRAG actually appeal and pursue their quest for a low rise alternative to Solum’s mish-mash of modern blocks and faux-Georgian terrace? They’d bloody love to. But they need money and lawyers don’t come cheap. If they do raise the funds and they do appeal and they do then win, there’s still a bit of a way to go. TRAG will probably need to show there’s sufficient current support for their low-rise vision given that the Council’s original planning approval was well over a year ago. El Brute will then need to twist Solum’s arm to ‘encourage’ them to revamp their scheme in line with the Council’s own planning framework. Maybe Solum will then launch an appeal? Who knows? Oh, and the RFU will probably want to have some kind of influence, what with the Rugby World Cup coming up in 2015 etc, etc. It could all happen but it does feel like a long way off at the moment.
So, is it time to move on and just get this thing built, or is it time to fight on? You live around here, you decide.
The Richmond & Twickenham Times is reporting that TRAG, the Twickenham Residents’ Action Group, are seeking permission to appeal the judicial review decision on Solum Regeneration’s Twickenham station plan. You will recall that the latest twist in this long running saga was in December when the court ruled El Brute’s approval of Solum’s plan to be lawful. TRAG were not impressed. They are still hoping for their low rise ‘Plan B’ alternative to become the template for the redevelopment of the site and have now applied to the Court of Appeal for the right to challenge the outcome of the judicial review.
Any appeal, if it goes ahead, would add further delay to the development although obsessing about completing work in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup should not be the deciding factor in a station that Twickenham will live with for the next 30 or 40 years. Will TRAG succeed? It feels like a long shot, a very long shot when looking at the powers lined up against them and the costs involved but they may be set to have a go nevertheless.
As they’ll say in the film of this one day, “For you, TRAG, zee war is not yet over!”
* Richmond & Twickenham Times
As if one judicial review wasn’t enough for Richmond Council, there’s only a-bloody-nother one coming along straight afterwards! It’s a bit like trains isn’t it? Funny dat, because this week will see El Brute back in court where its approval of Solum’s Twickenham station development plans will be subjected to the scrutiny of a judge.