Recently there was an exhibition about the updated proposals to greatly enhance Bank station capacity, a scheme that should be completed in 2021 if all goes according to plan. As a result of those proposals, although it may seem rather perverse, we should take a look at the details of the new Walbrook entrance to Bank station – something which is in the process of being constructed now. The shell of the station entrance and the bare passageways are due for handover from the developer to TfL in the summer of 2014 and the fully-fitted out entrance is due to open by December 2015.
Recent Exhibition on the Bank Capacity Upgrade Consultation
Those of you who cannot wait for our detailed report on the main proposals for Bank station are referred to IanVisits’ report of the exhibition and Walthamstow Writer’s excellent pair of annotated photos here and here. We will use part of the latter one of these to assist with this article.
We have covered the Walbrook entrance before as part of part 1 on the Bank Upgrade over a year ago. Details were sketchy then and the Bank Capacity Upgrade project team seemed to regard the Walbrook entrance as a separate project which was nothing to do with them. Consequently, at that exhibition, they were unable to provide us any more details than the few that were already in the public domain. This time around though it was very different and the new entrance is shown both on the plans released as part of the consultation and also on the main 3D model. In addition they also had an excellent separate model of the Walbrook entrance at the latest exhibition, albeit located away from the other exhibits where it was easy to miss.
The Walbrook entrance to Bank station will be a new entrance constructed as part of an office development, with TfL only paying for the fitting out of a concrete box that is being constructed by the developer. As reported before, it is going to be very close to Cannon Street station and is primarily intended as a dedicated entrance to the Waterloo & City (W&C) Line.
The existing setup at Bank (W&C)
The above detail is an extract taken from one of the information sheets made available as part of the latest consultation on Bank station. It has then been re-orientated so that north is at the top. The two Waterloo & City platforms are on the extreme left, each with their own station tunnel. The location of the buffer stops would only just be inside this 3D representation. Most of the platform would be excluded from this diagram.
Beyond the platforms going in a north-easterly direction are three tunnels. The south-easternmost one on the right is the smallest (least diameter) of the three and is not as obvious as the other two on the model or 3D diagram, for both this reason and also because it eventually goes underneath the middle tunnel.
Down The Drain
We will start with the middle tunnel. This passageway uses the original route to the W&C platforms from the surface and originally consisted of a unpleasantly steep slope. It is generally believed that the nickname for the W&C, the Drain, originally referred to just this tunnel. It was built as a cheaper alternative to putting in lifts and as a consequence the platforms were moved back south-eastwards from their originally planned location and the originally intended platform location was used for sidings.
The sloped walkway as originally built was very unpopular and was soon regraded to have a step placed every few yards to reduce the slope. This might have improved the situation slightly but it does appear that for over sixty years this unpleasant passage was a continual source of complaint. For the purposes of this article we will refer to this tunnel as “the Drain”.
In the early 1960s a replacement was finally provided for the Drain. Or to be more accurate, a more satisfactory alternative was provided. This was, at the time, something very novel called a Trav-O-lator – in effect a moving walkway – but at this location it was installed on an incline. Two were installed. You can read all about them in IanVisits’ excellent article on them. In order to install the travolator or travelators (as they were later generally spelt) the north-westernmost siding tunnel had to be abandoned and tunnelled through.
The travelators almost made the Drain redundant, but not quite. In the morning peak period it was necessary to use both of them in the up direction to enable the arriving passengers to leave the station before the next train arrived. The few passengers who travelled against the main flow had to use the Drain.
Construction of the tunnel to house the travelators was a major civil engineering undertaking in its own right. There is an excellent model at Acton museum of the construction. Recently the travelators were replaced by ones built by a different company. The original Trav-O-lator was a trademarked name associated with a specific company. Because currently quite a few companies offer similar products, it is nowadays considered more correct just to refer to them by the generic term of “moving walkways”.
The Connecting passageway with the rest of the station
On the right hand side there is still the original tunnel that for many years housed a siding. When the DLR Bank extension was built this tunnel was extended and joined to the rest of the labyrinth that is Bank station in order to provide passenger access from the W&C to the DLR. At the same time it also improved interchange with the W&C and both the Central and the Northern Line platforms. By providing this direct connection it was no longer necessary for passengers to go up to ticket hall level and go back down again.
When walking along this tunnel one can deduce exactly how far it originally extended as the original builders buried the tunnelling shield used to construct it at the end. This shield was rediscovered during the DLR works and is now painted in bright red whilst a small plaque nearby explains its significance.
The New Entrance and Exit to Walbrook from the Platforms
As can be clearly seen from the plan, and even more clearly from an extract of Walthamstow Writer’s second photo (above), the Walbrook entrance will connect to the W&C platforms just beyond the buffer stops of the south-eastern platform. This will therefore provide an alternative for W&C passengers to enable them to exit the station without having to intermingle with other passengers. It should also help reduce any congestion that there may be at the foot of the moving walkways. Whilst it would make no difference to interchanging passengers, those passengers who are exiting to the street will have a greater choice. The can either continue to use the moving walkways (or much less likely head for the DLR tunnel) or use the new Walbrook entrance.
The model exhibited at the recent exhibition indicates that this entrance is not going to be some cramped alternative shoehorned into a new development. It looks pleasantly spacious and will provide escalators, lifts and a separate staircase to the platforms. This seems to be in contrast to the relatively small new Bank entrance on the north side of Cannon Street which is proposed as part of the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade.
It is not known if anywhere else on London Underground provides all of lifts, escalators and a fixed staircase (other than within the escalator shaft or as an old spiral emergency staircase). It is probably the first time a tube station entrance has been built with both escalators and separate publicly-accessible stairs (not in the escalator shaft). One possible reason for the fixed stairs is that, as with the moving walkways, the intention is to run both escalators upwards in the morning peak and the stairs are needed in case there are passengers wishing to travel in the reverse direction.
The ticket hall seems surprisingly large. Less surprising is the apparent absence of a ticket office. With London Underground anxious to phase out ticket offices (in their traditional form) where possible, it made sense not to build it in the first place.
The entrance and exit onto the now-pedestrianised street has clearly been located as far south as possible. This would seem logical in order not to effectively duplicate existing entrances. One consequence of this, as pointed out in an earlier article, is that it is surprisingly close to Cannon Street station. Interchange between Cannon Street (LU) and Bank is not currently recognised as an Out of Station Interconnection (OSI) for ticketing and Oyster purposes but it would seem that logically it should be once the Walbrook entrance is opened.
The Walbrook entrance will be part of Bank station and most readers know that, internally in London Underground, Bank and Monument are treated as a single station. This is partly down to fire regulations which require the interconnected passages to be under unified control. The control room for Bank/Monument is actually located at Monument station and in the event of an incident at the Walbrook entrance or even on the W&C platforms, the quickest way for the station supervisor to get from the control room to the incident will be at street level and in doing so he will practically pass Cannon Street Underground Station entrance.
What is not known publicly is the opening hours of this future entrance. There would appear to be very little point in it being open when the W&C is closed. The train service on the W&C starts slightly later than other tube lines Monday to Saturday but closes at roughly the same times as other lines. It remains closed on Sunday unless engineering works cause the Northern Line to be suspended in the central area in which case it is opened to reduce the inconvenience to passengers. Expect the W&C to run on Sundays on a regular basis for a few months in 2020 if the main proposals for the Bank Capacity Upgrade are approved.
The opening of the Walbrook entrance will certainly be a minor event compared to the completion of the main passenger upgrade despite being fairly substantial in its own right – one new entrance, four new escalators and two new lifts. It will also probably do little to relieve the rest of Bank station. It should, however, provide some relief to the passageways under the Bank junction itself and also be a welcome foretaste of what we hope is to come.