Acton Main Line & West Ealing opened

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Most will be aware these stations either side of Ealing Broadway were completed very recently, Acton Main Line a couple of weeks ago whilst West Ealing has been open for just four days! The stations have an architectural interest to a certain extent even though they’re, well, rather bland too. Most of the stations en route to Reading are being modernised with the same sort of styling, sort of boxy, metalised, panelled, structures, which means there’s only going to be variation where the site requires it and West Ealing certainly falls into that category. The footbridges at each station are all of the same boxy design with slight variations depending on how the whole site fits together. They’re okay but they’re not terribly exciting, being more functional than anything else.

The problem at both Acton Main Line and West Ealing is previously a small and modern station building was afforded within the old stations’ building’s footprints – and these modern structures were seen as ample for the purpose at the time. Nevertheless there was very little land available for expansion. With both Crossrail and the need for full accessibility the new station buildings at both these locations have had to be built on entirely new sites, compared to say Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes & Harlington, which are being built on the sites of the old station buildings with the new buildings’ footprint being considerably enlarged.

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How the new West Ealing station looks from the westbound paltform.

West Ealing seems to be the most interesting of all the stations so far at the London end of the line (but of course not anything like the modern Reading station which is stupendous.) That has come about because the fact the new buildings have been built with a frontage onto Manor Road means they are sort of halfway between the London bound platform and the footbridge leading to the Heathrow/Reading direction platform. The result has been a station with a somewhat rare feature, namely an intermediate level and a balcony overlooking the main ticket hall. There are stairs and of course the obligatory lift for those who may require this. Whilst the design is similar to the other stations it still has an individual touch because again there’s that intermediate level with stairs leading off the ticket hall both downward and upward.

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The main part of the new station and its footbridge as seen from the westbound platform. The station building clearly has an extra level of detail on its platform face, given that this facilitates how the intermediate level ticket hall meets the outside roadway on the level.

Although West Ealing opened just four days ago (this being the afternoon of 25th March 2021) part of the station was completed in 2020 this being the country end of platform four (London direction) and platform five (the brand new Greenford bay platform) complete with modern canopies. The canopy now extends up right to the new station buildings.

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The interiors of the new footbridges, corridors, lobbies, are all the same kind of design. Functional but otherwise architecturally dull.

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Looking down from the balcony to the ticket hall and barriers at West Ealing station.

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General view of the main exterior on Manor Road with its BR double arrow and TFL Rail purple roundel. These are a nice touch. The purple scheme is of course for the Elizabeth Line now likely four years late by the time it starts services through West Ealing.

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Poster announcing the completion of West Ealing station.

The above is not absolutely correct that the station has been completed. It has been completed in overall terms, however there’s still works being done at the London end of the station and also around platforms four and five. Some electrical work appeared to be ongoing on the day I visited the station.

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View looking at the ticket barriers and the ample hall that exists beyond. It’ll be a somewhat unusual station on the western side of Crossrail’s operations. The stairs can be seen leading up to the footbridge level, which also affords a balcony of sorts overlooking the ticket hall. Toilets can be seen to the right. These will be provided at each of the Elizabeth Line stations, given that the Class 345s do not have such facilities.

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The modern interior of the station. This part of the design is at least rather pleasing because it differs somewhat from the standardised design elements by having an open plan with a mix of stonework, glass screens, satin effect steel pillars, a smarter style of stair handrail compared to the rest of the station and also some wood panelling. Its not a completely new look though for this sort of styling reminds me of that used in a number of 1960s office structures built in London.

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One surprise at West Ealing is the use of a classical roundel! The floor area of the ticket hall features this red/blue roundel (with yellow rather than white text however.) There’s been other instances of ‘Crossrail/Elizabeth Line’ stations using the underground roundel and purists would argue the use of these were not really appropriate because Crossrail/Elizabeth Line isn’t even a tube line.

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West Ealing station has a smart accessible lift lobby by decree of the unusual layout that has been used here. The lift is rare on TfL’s surface stations that it goes down (for platforms four and five) as well as up (for the footbridge and platform three.)

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I like how the new signs for the Greenford branch have been presented in plain format when practically all the other station signs are presented in the Crossrail/Elizabeth Line/TfL format, eg purple underlining etc.

The station’s three platforms are numbered three, four and five. There hasn’t been a platform one or two for quite a few decades now. I think platform one was possibly removed in sections after the disastrous rail crash that occurred in 1973. Platform two at least survived until the second West Ealing rail crash occurred in 1989 and then it was progressively removed. Platform four was on the London side of the bridge and it was deemed prodigious to move this to its present position once the others had been removed. Platform five is relatively recent, having been introduced in 2016 to enable Greenford services to terminate here instead of running to Paddington as had been previous. Platform four and five didn’t have a canopy until 2020 when these acquired one during the first stage of the new station’s construction.

What of the old station? I imagine the building, being considerably modern and of a somewhat fair size, as well as having a rather prime location, could well be given over to other use such as a small shop.

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The old station entrance on Argyle Road. Note the signs directing people to the new station!

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The former ticket office within the old West Ealing station building.

Acton Main Line’s new station opened just over a week before West Ealing, the date being March 16th 2021. Acton Main Line’s new station is practically right next to the old station buildings but the entrance is a few metres further down Horn Lane. However because of that and the way the site is arranged, the lifts and footbridge are about half way along the platform and then there’s a really long footbridge that extends over all the main tracks in order to reach the south side of the site. A gently sloping corridor then takes the layout alongside the main fast lines to the ticket hall itself. In terms of facility Acton Main Line is rather more basic even though it is furnished with a ticket office too. One of the interesting aspects of the substantial footbridge at Acton ML is it gives a good view of the adjacent DB Cargo freight yard which also serves as a terminal for the Foster Yeoman/Mendip Rail stone aggregate traffic from the quarries in the West Country, and seeing this station is a popular haunt with enthusiasts, no doubt when things get more back to normal people will be finding the new vantage location a boon as well as the traditional platform viewpoints.

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Acton Main Line station with its new look.

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Interesting view of the new footbridge and lift towers at Acton Main Line station.

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The gently sloping corridor which effects a small elevation change between the ticket area and the main footbridge to the platforms.

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The ticket office and the ticket barriers. The overall size is rather small compared to West Ealing however Acton ML’s ticket office is bigger than West Ealing’s! Its rather strange since the station has never really seen any huge patronage – thus the upgrade is essentially a luxury! One can see the stone walling which is also evident at on the platform at West Ealing. Its not a fantastic style of wall but at least it does give a flavour of sorts.

The curious thing about these ticket offices is that they probably wont be needed except possibly at certain times of the day (eg the morning rush hour – if that sort of thing ever comes back.) The buildings were evidently designed at a time which was before a shift ensued in how ticket provision would be facilitated – as well the present events (eg coronavirus) which might even lead to far fewer people using the station. Currently both Acton ML and West Ealing only offer tickets from machines. The classic ticket office is no doubt on the way out – apps and online purchases will be the main means of acquiring a ticket in future thus the ticket barriers are the far more important element at these new stations.

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The new station frontage in Horn Lane – surprisingly devoid of any TfL/purple symbols however… The old building can be seen to the right.

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A small public plaza is being constructed at the west side of the station buildings. These steps when finished will give access to the station.

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The old ticket office building with its external counter. This was more than ample for the low level of passenger use at Acton Main Line.

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