We have previously drawn attention to Farringdon’s colourful and somewhat smelly history. It would appear that whilst the station’s future should be less colourful it may, alas, not be any less aromatic.
Farringdon stands in the valley of the River Fleet and is an area that, since the Middle Ages, has presented sanitary challenges. In 1309, the Mayor and Council of London introduced swinging fines on those who left human excrement in the streets – 40d for a first offence and 80d for a second. These penalties were obviously insufficient, as by 1388, in the Statute of Cambridge, the King decreed that anyone throwing dung, garbage, entrails and other ordure into ditches, ponds, lakes or rivers could be fined up to £20. Even this did not save the River Fleet, which was reduced first to an open sewer and then culverted as an enclosed one.
The area also developed a reputation for drinking and other excess. A tradition, it would appear, that some are determined to continue to this day as John Stevens writing in Islington Today reports.
Commuters have been warned there will be nowhere to spend a penny in the new multi-million pound Crossrail development at Farringdon, despite passenger numbers being expected to rise to 150,000 per day. Crossrail said travellers will have to make do with the two cramped cubicles in the current train station and that there will be no toilets on any of its trains.
The current “free of charge” station lavatories at Farringdon are located at the top of the stairs at Platform 4. During wet weather, they have a tendency to flood and become extremely unsavoury. They are often closed. Might we respectfully suggest that Terry Morgan despatch his spokesperson, forthwith to use these toilets before making any further comment on this matter.
The station is being transformed into what rail bosses say will be “one of the most important transport hubs in central London,” linking Crossrail with the existing Thameslink line, as well as three underground lines.
In the latest plans for the station, Crossrail said the new service will deliver people to their destinations “in greater comfort,” but the lack of loos is expected to cause less than pleasant journeys.
George Allan, Liberal Democrat councillor for Clerkenwell, said: “It is a formula for a great deal of discomfort and distress for future passengers. It is not so much Crossrail as Cross-legged-rail.”
However, there are concerns that the lack of new toilets may encourage late night revellers to urinate in the surrounding streets and could lead to chaos if passengers are stuck at the station because of train delays.
Karen Ward, who works at a design firm in Clerkenwell, said: “What are people supposed to do when there are thousands stranded at the station and the trains stop running? Thameslink is extremely unreliable already.”
Laurie Walters, who lives on Hosier Lane, close to the station, said: “Clubbers are already using the surrounding streets as a urinal, and this will just make it worse. Anyone who has ever tried to squeeze into the current toilets knows how inadequate they are already.”
Islington Council may resort to using its planning powers to force the developers to build more toilets at the station.
“There are several aspects of the development for the refurbishment of the old station and above ground buildings that have not yet been given planning permission in their own right so we could put pressure to say toilets are a requirement,” Mr Allan said.
He added that he is hoping to work with Camden and Westminster Councils to lobby Crossrail bosses to put toilets in its central London stations at Farringdon, Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road.
This is a matter that the Mayor, following the precedent of his medieval predecessors, should undoubtedly poke his nose into. It really is not good enough for Crossrail, TfL and/or Network Rail to shrug and slope their shoulders. As a benchmark piece of new city infrastructure, Crossrail, Thameslink and London Underground should combine together to provide passengers with this essential service at all Crossrail Stations.
There is no excuse – Motorway service areas can and do do this 24 hours a day, 365, and where necessary 366, days per year. The facilities need to be of a size capable of meeting public demand, well lit, warm, clean, secure and welcoming. Worldwide, the better public toilets are often constantly cleaned and supervised. To discourage abuse and defray costs, station toilets at major Network Rail London termini have increasingly moved to an admission charge system. This does from time to time result in intending users frantically seeking suitable change but lack of cash would not have to impact Londoners if they were able to use a ubiquitous contact free payment system.
If only there was some card that enabled people to travel on trains by touching in and out – maybe another historic landmark for Oyster as the first major “Pay per Loo” card awaits.