Putney Station is one of the busiest suburban commuter stations in London, with 18 trains per hour passing through it at off-peak times alone. More than 11 million people used the station in 2012-13, making it busier than the stations of several large cities.
The station opened when the Nine Elms to Richmond line came into service on 27 July 1846, and was rebuilt in 1885-6 when the tracks were quadrupled. 130 years later, Spencer Rail began work on an £8 million improvement programme in October 2012. The redevelopment, scheduled for completion by Spring 2014, is being funded under the Department for Transport’s Access for All initiative.
Since the start of the project, Spencer Rail has been working on site to install three new lifts, expand the concourse area, build new ticket gates and install new toilets. Now, as the project nears completion, Spencer Rail has carried out one of the most significant parts of the project. A temporary footbridge with staircases, which was installed to maintain access to all platforms throughout the works, was removed three weeks ahead of schedule.
After serving passengers for 55 weeks, the bridge was removed early despite delays at the start of the project due to access problems. Project director Neil Stuart said: “This was without doubt an immense achievement and a crucial milestone on the way to a vastly improved Putney Station.
“Construction access to the station was restricted by surrounding residential properties and the volume of passengers using the station is high, which presented our rail team with a logistical headache. The team therefore installed the bridge manually, without the use of any large machinery.
“The Putney project is one of the most logistically challenging Access for All schemes that we have faced but we are now well on course to complete the works in the coming weeks.
“We have worked on a number of Access for All programmes across the country and this is another project we will be able to look back on fondly. However, there are still some works to complete before we leave the site and the team will be working hard to ensure we do not run over our deadline.”
Disassembling the bridge
Work began to deconstruct the bridge at 02:00 on Sunday 23 February and was completed in time for the Monday morning rush hour.
Alex McDermott, senior project manager at Spencer Rail, said: “It is the end of an era at Putney Station.
“As those who know the station will be only too well aware, this was not the location for a set-piece spectacular, where the construction team brings in a huge crane and local residents gaze in wonder as the span is lifted away in a matter of minutes.
“Putney Station is surrounded by private property so bringing in large plant is out of the question. The routine, now familiar to this team is hard, manual effort – and lots of it.”
The teams, which included more than 70 people, arrived on site ready to start at 02:00 but were delayed due to having no access to the track at that time. However, temporary scaffolding was erected on the first pair of tracks at 06:00 and the first span was down and tracks clear by 08:30, putting work back on schedule.
The teams worked through the day to take down the second span and most of the staircases, with passenger walking routes being diverted to the new stairs. Platforms were repaved and new lights were also fitted as part of the work.
New lifts and staircases
The primary objective of the works is to provide step-free access from the ticket office and concourse to the platforms at Putney Station for all passengers, in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. A secondary benefit of the scheme will be the increased concourse area, which will alleviate congestion at the gate-line.
As part of the work, a dispersal bridge has been installed which spans all tracks and includes three new lift shafts and staircases. A 16-person lift now goes to each platform – platforms two and three will share the same lift. In addition, there are alterations to communications and passenger information systems and extensive new lighting, and there will be two new public toilets and one for staff.
The concourse now has a masonry and glazed façade and all structures are covered by metal profiled sheet roofing. It will be increased in size
by removing the existing rear wall (the east face) and extending the floor space by approximately 14 metres to the rear of the building. This will make room for the gate-line to be moved away from the front entrance, thereby improving passenger flow at busy periods.
There have been significant alterations at platform level as well. On Platform 1, the old platform canopy was demolished in order to make room for the new staircase.
The existing platform building and canopy on Platforms 2 and 3 were partially demolished as part of the works, as were the existing staircase and rooms beneath on Platform 4. The new lift motor room has been located under the new staircase.
What’s left to do?
With the project team working towards a completion date of 16 May, Spencer Rail is now putting the finishing touches to the station. There is still a lot to do, including the completion of floor and wall finishes (mainly tiling) and the roof cladding. The lifts have to be commissioned, as do the new lighting, toilets and CCTV. The previous customer information screens and PA system has to be reinstated.
Structurally, arches between the ticket office and the concourse will be opened up by removing several piers and the temporary access ramp will be removed so that the canopies and platform surfaces can be made good.
With the new bridge open and the temporary one removed, life is getting back to normal for travellers from Putney. All the work has been carried out without any additional closures other than those already planned for the whole line so, apart from having to use a temporary footbridge and make a few detours, passengers haven’t been unduly inconvenienced. Step-free access will be fully in place by the middle of May and the team from Spencer Rail will be satisfied with a job well done.