2017 is up and running, we’re one month in and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Is this going to be the year when work on Twickenham station finally gets underway?’ You think that but you know, deep down in your heart of hearts that there’s a fair chance it could end up being next year, or the year after, or maybe never. Twickenham Station? Twickenham Stationary more like!
A warm welcome to Twickenham
Word on the street seems to be that Solum Regeneration, the company behind the big development, is planning to finally get things moving in April. It seems so long ago since their overly large mish mash of styles received approval from El Brute’s Planning Wonks. It is a long time ago. Solum has dabbled with the idea of progress but it’s been kicked back on several occasions for whatever reasons. It seems that things have proved a little more complicated than originally envisaged. Add to that part-owner Kier Property selling its share of the Solum joint venture with Network Rail to Capital & Counties Properties Plc and maybe explains part of the dither-fest of the last few years. It might do but Kier are still committed to the Twickenham scheme with C&C moving some of the others forward. So far, so nothing.
A station. In Twickenham
The reality seems to be that Solum and the RFU can’t get themselves organised to agree the dates at which the station work can get underway. There’s rugby (and money) at stake don’t you know. The ‘possession’ dates planned so far for 2017 begin on April 9th and are dotted across the year but some already clash with rugby or NFL games which could see them move yet again. And this is only for ‘enabling works’ such as setting up the temporary ticket office in the car park, moving cables and hoarding off works areas. Mary’s Terrace residents can expect a ring side seat for all this work and it’s not even the big stuff. The message seems to be don’t hold your breath because April 9th could easily become June or September and so on. We’ll just have to see who wins this tedious ‘tug of station love’ between the RFU, Network Rail and Solum.
Here’s what you would have won
Meanwhile the ‘community cultural hub’ slap bang opposite the station which has been something of a mystery in terms of purpose and management will now be run by St Mary’s University.
Obviously to attract students there it’s going to require them to walk past about a dozen pubs and a couple of kebab shops first which could present a significant challenge but having St Mary’s involved might bring some fresh thinking to central Twickenham. The building will comprises a 300 seat theatre space, six multi-purpose studio rooms and a large conservatory area. So, what’s actually going to happen there then? St Mary’s say we can expect a cafe that will be open to the public, theatre, film, comedy and music nights and the inevitable conference and venue hire options. Full details have yet to be finalised but it would be good to see the building getting regular use with events that appeal to the whole community and not just becoming a satellite student union building or a bland conference facility. Managed in the right way it could bring something new to the town. Let’s hope so.
A hub. In the community.
* Network Rail – Kier sells its stake in Solum (old news)
* St Mary’s University to run community building
Bridge House from… the bridge.
If, like us, you thought Bridge House, the nondescript office block opposite Twickenham station, was en route to becoming flats then think again. Word has reached twickerati HQ (yes, we do very occasionally get told things here) that the building on London Road is set to become the new headquarters of Haymarket Media. As you will know, Haymarket’s riverside base at Teddington Studios is set to be turned into an upmarket residential development, the plans for which were approved last year. Although it will keep its Berners Street office as a central London hub, Bridge House will become the company’s new HQ. The company has previously said that it is also intends to have some staff based at the planned ‘REEC’ education campus in Egerton Road in Twickenham. Bridge House might not be the most impressive looking home for a modern media company but its central Twickenham location right opposite the station makes it attractive.
Given that Bridge House has been languishing in an unloved state for some time now, this move looks like a good result for Haymarket and a good result for Twickenham.
Bridge House on London Road – to become home to Haymarket Media?
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
The stone cutters and angle grinders are out, cranes have roamed the site like mechanical dinosaurs and men in garish orange overalls have been measuring, hitting and cutting anything that they can lay their hands on. It’s brutal out there. Yep, work on Twickenham station has shifted up a gear and is accelerating faster than the overcrowded 07.53 to Waterloo. There’s a new footbridge between the platforms – currently not open for use – and the bridge running from Mary’s Terrace to Cole Park Road is also out of action – shrouded in covers… and mystery.
The major part of the redevelopment of the site is going to take place after the Rugby World Cup next year which, let’s face it, is almost certainly what would have happened judicial review or no judicial review. However, some of the platform & station related improvement work should be complete by the time the event kicks off. The footbridges, step-free access, better lighting, resurfaced platforms are all set to be finished by May of next year.
Work at Twickenham station
Oh, and if you want to comment on this item please do so. And “oh” again, if you want to get into a mahoosive station-related political debate about who said what, when and why then you can use one of the existing election threads for that.
* Network Rail
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
We’re lovin’ this photo of an early autumn sunrise over Twickenham station. It was taken last week by Shereen Victoria Lee and posted on Twitter but we think it looks pretty good on here too. It’s her copyright, obvs.
Sunrise, Twickenham [courtesy & copyright of @shereenvlee]
And you can follow @ShereenVLee on Twitter here.
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.
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.