Clapham Junction

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The railway junction at Clapham Junction, facing east
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The footbridge over the fan of tracks leading to sheds and sidings
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Details of roof support columns at Clapham Junction railway station
Electronic Information board on a Clapham Junction platform
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Electronic Information board on a Clapham Junction platform
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Clapham Junction railway station's platforms 2 to 10 at night
The foot tunnel at night under Clapham Junction railway station
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The foot tunnel at night under Clapham Junction railway station
Arding & Hobbs Department Store, now rebranded as Allders, with its landmark cupola
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Arding & Hobbs Department Store, now rebranded as Allders, with its landmark cupola

Clapham Junction is a railway station located on St. John's Hill in the south-west of Battersea in London, England; the area around the station is by now commonly known as Clapham Junction, reflecting the influence of the station upon its locality.

Contents

Clapham Junction Railway Station

Clapham Junction has long laid claim to being the busiest railway station in the United Kingdom, and on 17 June 2005 changed its signage and claim to be the busiest in Europe. Some 2,000 trains pass though it each day, the majority of which stop. It is possible that measured in numbers of trains, it may be the busiest railway station in the world.

All services to Waterloo (except Eurostar services to the continent) and most services to Victoria stations pass through the junction; these include South West Trains, Gatwick Express and Southern services. Services from Clapham Junction also head north along the West London Line, through West Brompton and Kensington (Olympia), on to Willesden Junction and Watford Junction - services (to Willesden Junction) are operated by Silverlink.

The station has 16 active platforms, numbered 2 to 17, and arranged in two groups. Platform 1, the northernmost platform, is no longer used, having no rails; Portacabins have been sited at the north-east end, and a portacabin and power or signalling equipment housings sited at its south-west end. If the planned East London Line extension gets to Clapham Junction, it is possible that platform 1 would be used for the purpose. Platforms 2 to 6 form a northern group orientated in an east-south-easterly direction, whilst platforms 7 to 17 form a southern group orientated in a south-easterly direction and are separated from the northern group by a fan of a dozen or more sidings running into railway sheds to the west of the station.

The station's main entrance is from St. John's Hill, into a foot tunnel some 15 ft (4.6 m) wide running transversely beneath the eastern end of the 17 platforms, and on to a northern exit, which has restricted opening hours. The foot tunnel becomes very crowded during the morning and evening rush hours, and ticket barriers at the end of the tunnel are a particular pinch point.

A covered footbridge connects the platforms at their western end. In contrast with the width of the tunnel, parts of the footbridge are vast, but unfortunately the footbridge does not provide entry to or exit from the station. Demands to reinstate the former footbridge entrance have, to date, fallen on deaf ears, despite the fact that it would alleviate the crowding and provide a potential taxi rank or bus station in what is currently an under-used car park.

In the recent past, in part because of the large number of platforms and trains, the station was somewhat confusing for those unfamiliar with it, who often found it difficult to establish from which platform a particular train would run. In 2003 a reasonably extensive system of electronic train information displays was installed at the station entrance, in the foot tunnel and on platforms. In May 2004, the ticket machines at the station were moved and reduced in number from six to four, only two of which take credit cards, and all of which are prone to frequent breakdown - this prompted a significant number of complaints from customers, leading to reinstallation of the two removed machines in winter 2004. There are seven staffed ticket kiosk windows, but purchasing tickets in the morning rush hour, and from time to time through the day, tends to involve a lengthy delay. In March 2005, work began to alter the layout of the travel centre and to install a set of eight new ticket machines.

Clapham Junction is in the UK used as a simile to describe a very busy place - like Clapham Junction.

History of Clapham Junction

Prior to the railway age, the area was rural and specialised in the growing of lavender used in the production of perfume; the hill to the east of the station is called Lavender Hill. The coach road from London to Guildford passed slightly to the south of the location of the station, passing a public house called The Foulcan at a crossroads in the valley between St. John's and Lavender Hill.

The 19th century saw the rapid development of the railway system in the UK. The first railway to be driven through the area was the London and Southampton Railway, opened in 1838. That railway terminated at Nine Elms, near Vauxhall, about 2 km (1 mile) to the north west of the Clapham Junction site, and made no provision for a station at the site of the (by now renamed) Falcon pub.

A second railway line, running from Nine Elms to Richmond, opened in 1846, a third serving Vauxhall in 1848, and a fourth in 1860. Railways running through the area now served the centre of London, at Victoria Station (London) and Waterloo station; the affluent west of London - places like West Brompton and Earls Court; Watford Junction and connections north; Croydon, Crystal Palace and other parts of South London; Guildford, Richmond and places west; Southampton and places south-west; and Brighton and places south. This being the case, the London and South Western Railway determined to build an interchange station, choosing the Falcon crossroads and the point at which the Richmond & west line separated from the main Brighton and south line.

The station was opened in 1863 as a joint venture of the London & South Western Railway, whose trains served the northern platforms, and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway whose trains served the southern platforms. Additional station buildings were erected in 1874 and 1876.

At the time of the construction of the station, Battersea was mostly associated with industry and poor working people. Clapham, a mile to the east of the site, was a longer-established and entirely more fashionable village and so the railway companies - which sought to attract a middle and upper class clientele - decided to adopt the grander of the two names.

The station precipitated the development of the area around it, with the population rising from 6,000 people in 1840 to 168,000 by 1910. In 1885 Arding and Hobbs Department Store was built, and after a 1909 fire rebuilt to include the landmark cupola. A recent refurbishment has rebranded the store with the parent company Allders name, but some of the original Arding and Hobbs signs have been retained. The cupola is now illuminated at night in a rather fetching shade of blue. The management company of Allders went into liquidation at the start of 2005 and Arding and Hobbs will shortly become part of the Debenhams chain.

The station name, Clapham Junction, is not shared by any junction in the locality of the station. The names of the nearby junctions are:

  • Falcon Jn (at the south end of the station, where the West London Line (WLL) joins the Brighton Slow Lines)
  • Ludgate GW Jn (at the eastern end of the Windsor Line platforms with the WLL and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway)
  • Latchmere Jns (where the three curves join the WLL)
  • West London Jn (the junction where Eurostar empty stock leaves the Windsor Lines at to get onto the WLL)
  • Pouparts Jn (where the low level and high level approaches to Victoria split)

Clapham Rail disaster

In more recent times, Clapham Junction - or a point just slightly south-west of the station - was the scene of an horrific railway accident involving two collisions between three commuter trains on the morning of the 12 December 1988. 35 people died and more than 100 were injured.

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