What Do We Want? A Cover Up!

When do we want it? Well, soon as possible, ideally.

This is something we briefly discussed last time the University plans for Stockwell Street came up for consultation. Even then I couldn’t see a downside save for the logistical nightmare it would be, but now a group (I suspect small, so far, but I could be wrong) of local residents have decided to actually press for it happening.

It’s simple enough on paper. To cover-over the whopping great railway line that’s been cutting Greenwich in half since mid-Victorian times, and use it as a public space. This is currently dead zone at street level – and let’s face it, it’s hardly a good-looking part of town. It’s not even a haven for wildlife, unless you count the local rodent population. 

Covering it over (as it is already on the road) is technically do-able, and would provide a wide through-passage between parts of the town that could do with it, giving us perhaps an extra park or maybe even the possibility of getting our Village Antiques Market back, but there are other, more aesthetic reasons for doing it. We’d get a lovely view of St Alfege’s for starters, and the new University buildings might not look quite so in-yer-face if they were surrounded by some sympathetic lighting, soft planting and the odd kiosk. 

Apart from logistics I can’t see a single problem with this idea. But can anyone else?

So – what’s holding it back? Well, certainly not the university. I talked with the guys from there first time the consultation came around and they’re all for it. But frankly, it only impinges on the edges of their land, so although the spirit may be willing there, the soil could be weak. I know they’d be behind such a project in theory though, and I also wonder if they might stump up some  readies too. Certainly worth an ask. 

The other side, I am led to believe, belongs to Greenwich Inc. They might be a little less happy – but surely it would give greater access to various outlets of their empire, so I would hope that they could be persuaded too. As for Nick Raynsford – well, I’d expect him to support it as it would give his chums in construction extra work. 

No – the real fly in the ointment is the railways. I get very confused about who owns which bit of railway lines – the bit being discussed here, of course, is the fresh air above the rails – but a combination of Network Rail and Southeastern could be a mighty foe, unless properly wooed. 

Getting the guys from the council onboard is the first task. They have all been sent material, though as you can see it’s in a basic stage just now. I can’t see that they’d particularly object (after all it would give extra footfall to their beloved pedestrianisation scheme), but if it involves shelling out folding cash they’ll probably drag their heels without lots of public support. I wonder if we’ve used up all our central grant-ery allocation in the Island Gardens scheme?

If you think this would be a good idea, an email to various local political people who could help here is what the group (dunno what they call themselves) suggest. 

Nick Raynsford raynsfordn@parliament.uk (MP)
Chris Roberts chris.roberts@greenwich.gov.uk
Maureen O’Mara Maureen.O’Mara@greenwich.gov.uk
David Grant david.grant@greenwich.gov.uk
Matthew Pennycook matthew.pennycook@greenwich.gov.uk
Mary Ney (chief exec greenwich council) mary.ney@greenwich.gov.uk

If you do send an email, perhaps you could copy-in the co-ordinator of the group so they can keep you up to date with progress…


the attachments to this post:

plan covered rail 3
plan covered rail 3

plan covered rail 2
plan covered rail 2

plan covered rail 1
plan covered rail 1

plan covered rail 4
plan covered rail 4

12 Comments to “What Do We Want? A Cover Up!”

  1. David Brown says:

    I think this is a great idea. It would just open up a big piece of land in the centre of greenwich village and give so much more (badly needed) pedestrian space. The positioning is ideal being between the station, the park, the university, and cutty sark. I really hope the council consider it.

  2. Benedict says:

    Looks like a great idea, perhaps they could have some sort of Civil Engineering competion for least instrusive/invasive solution…..perhaps…..

  3. thisisengland says:

    Great idea for a change. But I hadn’t realised just how ugly the new complex will be, it looks like a max security prison.

  4. scared of chives says:

    Thumbs up!

  5. Great idea. There’s long been a similarly rumbling project to cover the line in Blackheath, next to the post office. Again, the question is who would pay for it and why. Network Rail owns the land in both cases (Southeastern just has a franchise to run the trains) but, if there are no buildings on top of the lid, would earn no rent.

  6. tom says:

    It is a nice idea. However, I think the question of who pays for the tunnel to be constructed and maintained needs to be answered. Building the tunnel would not be simple and I am sure local support would quickly disapear if Greenwich lost its rail-link for any length of time. The following BBC article shows what can go wrong:

  7. Richard says:

    A similar proposal was recently suggested to the University. One issue, however, is the demand for access to the railway by Southeastern and Network Rail. The side area (small walk area between the track and the new building) beside the University has been agreed to be opened to the public provided Network Rail or Southeastern can move one of their larger lorries along it to reach the track when ever they want to. At least that is what I have been told. It may be that they will object to a complete covering.

  8. Ebspig says:

    Long-ago-and-far-away, there was a suggestion to make a by-pass road over the railway cutting – which would, of course, make the pedestrianisation of Nelson Road more of a possibility…

  9. JA says:

    The 2.4 million for a gyratory could be used to help fund this (it’s money from TfL for street/road improvements), alongside section 106 payments from big developments along Greenwich High Road that could bring in a million. A study should be undertaken to work out the cost.

    It would involve ambition and dedication from the council though, and I have my doubts there. Having experience throughout the country and London with other authorities I could see others doing something exciting like this, but with Greenwich Council? No, unless people fight for it.

  10. Piratespatch says:

    Tom, what Tunnel!

    It comes out of one tunnel into fresh air before going into the next tunnel under the park!
    No need for a new tunnel….just to cover up the existing bit of open line….which is done up and down the country over rivers and other railways every year.

    Pedestrianization of Nelson Road…..wouldnt that be a dream!

    As for money, Fat Frank the Yank has taken enough out of Greenwich…ask him to put some back in!

    Is a great idea though.

  11. Jack says:

    The university has been pushing for this ever since they started the whole consultation process, and are very keen supporters of covering up the line, but the biggest issue is Network Rail: they are incredibly difficult to get any sort of agreement with.

    From talking to the university people a number of times I suspect they would be happy to contribute to / pay for the short section to be covered, as they know it would add value to their property, and they are pushing hard to get talks with Network Rail. It just seems that NR drag their heels on everything.

  12. Z Todd says:

    I think it’s genius. The council’s existing plans for pedestrianisation are stuck because TfL won’t support the gyratory part. If the council doesn’t come up with a workable idea soon, the funding for the pedestrianisation will be withdrawn – we think that this scheme would be a worth recipient of town-centre investment.