Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect

Paddington station's unusual walkway – retrospect

There has been so many visits to the Paddington station walkway page I decided to do this second bit. Its a sort of discussion/retrospect thingy – filling a few gaps – or maybe confuse people a bit more 🙂

As I have said its a shame this walkway was never documented because it had a good vantage point of the station, there was a great view right into the train shed and one could look down and see the taxis negotiate the narrow tight bends of the access road. One person pointed out in the comments it was a way for people to escape the station precincts and enjoy a walk along the canal, whilst for me it was a good shortcut from the canal to the station.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
Looking up from the platforms in 2003, part of the former walkway can be seen.

I suppose its one of those things taken for granted, never really appreciated until its actually closed and people think, oh shit, wish I’d taken pics! The walkway had quite a heavy footfall yet it seems no one took pictures of it 🙁

Even now its difficult for me to remember how it all fitted together exactly… you see, they cut a bit off, another bit there, closed that bit off and one thinks, well, where did they all go exactly? The only reason I got interested in it was even though it had lain derelict for a number of years, bits of it began to disappear and this prompted me to record what was left of it.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
The former taxi approach road in 2003. Work underway to make it more pedestrian friendly.

Its rather like Liverpool Street station which also had lots of walkways between the platforms (though nothing unique like Paddington’s.) Or describing how Broad Street was accessed by flight of stairs up from street level and admiring the then (1980s) almost derelict station with its grand overall roof (yes I wish I had taken pics of all that too – fortunately I captured the station’s frontage as it was about to be demolished.)

Trying to explain these to people who have not known or experienced these quirks of our transport systems is quite difficult. Does anyone remember the Metropolitan Line’s other platform (no.3)  at Liverpool Street? Or the fact passengers could use the Royal Mail access road & sorting area from Liverpool Street main line station directly onto the Circle, Hammersmith & Met platforms. I mean, until about 1988 us passengers really could walk down this road tunnel to get to the underground! Today’s Health & Safety regime just would not allow it!

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
The temporary pedestrian route in 2003 from the station to Bishops Bridge. Part of the clinical separation I’ve just mentioned.

These older arrangements (Paddington walkway, Liverpool Street service tunnel) clearly entailed a good bit of trust between infrastructure workers (rail or mail staff) and railway passengers. Nowadays passengers are treated clinically, and totally separated from the processes that work to keep the transport network moving. Passengers are even called customers as a means of ensuring one’s level of awareness is tied to permissive use of the transport network – and nothing more….

In those days passengers could see and appreciate the amount of work that actually went into making the whole shebang work, and were even able to watch and learn (that’s how so many schoolboys wanted to become engine drivers or signalmen!) People could of course see how trains shunted, re-arranged, the loading, unloading of parcels, freight, how the signals worked and the staff communicated. It was a way to understand, and perhaps more important, appreciate the amount of work and organisation needed to keep everyone happy and everything moving as efficiently as possible.

No doubt British Railways were most happy to make one of their rooftop walkways across the canopies of Paddington station available for public use and it shows the level of trust that still existed then. Anything like it would be unthinkable now.

To most of us these days train drivers are faceless people who press a few buttons, pull a lever, and the trains magically move. We dont have any idea of the amount of work or organisation that still is needed to keep the trains moving. We dont even have any notion of the learning processes staff must go through in order to be competent at managing these huge pieces of transport infrastructure.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
The new Paddington station canal side entrance in its first week of opening. The lift wasnt even finished!

Its also difficult for train or station staff to properly explain to the passenger, commuter or customer how it all works, or what the issues are when things go wrong. On another level, the railway staff, loose out too. Where they once had first sight or immediate knowledge of problems and knew what to do there and then, they too are affected because the line controllers and train managers are now many miles away, hundreds even, and it must be somewhat difficult  to reconcile one’s actual experiences with what those remote guys know/see via computer terminals and CCTV.

I’m not saying its bad, its progress and has improved passenger/train safety enormously, as well as delivering a clean and well maintained system commuters can feel confident with.

The basic tenet is that the Paddington walkway, as I have already indicated, had the element of that old trusted and established order. It was the old way of doing things that even allowed such a walkway to exist. There wasnt one like it anywhere else in the British Isles.

The following pictures I took this week to try and illustrate how the old order went, where the ticket office was, the walkway etc. Its just a means of recording what can still be sighted, and matched with what it once looked, perhaps even jogging others’ memories about the walkway.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
The present extent of the footbridge. It used to continue to the Hammersmith & City platforms.

The current entrance to the Hammersmith & Circle lines has a new entrance by the Grand Union Canal which also affords access to the main line station. This was opened in 2013. A short bit of the old footbridge still fits in, somewhat messily, in order for people to access the suburban platforms. Although its not really a better arrangement its needed because otherwise passengers would be faced with a very long diversion.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
Looking the other way, the area on the right was once part of the ticket office.

The advantage of the new arrangement is that the taxis, tube and station access routes all have a better focal point, and its more convivial these days. I have some misgivings re the taxi rank which I briefly discuss later.

With the old arrangement the footbridge itself extended right across the suburban and tube platforms and provided direct access from the main station to the south.

Alternatively if people wanted to gain the suburban platforms or the Hammersmith & City from Bishops Bridge Road, this is where the rooftop walkway came in it was the direct access without having to go all the way round into the main station at Eastbourne Terrace and then almost right back at where one had been.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
Part of the foundations for the ticket barriers can still be seen in the floor. It was straight ahead for the main station, or a sharp turn left to gain access onto the walkway.

The old arrangement was hodge podge, it was chaotic. Despite major improvements in the 1930s to facilitate better access from Bishops Bridge Road, something happens, some sort of safety issue forces the walkway to be opened in order to maintain the access from Bishops Bridge Road. Perhaps the station buildings fronting that road were deemed not safe enough or some other reason – the incredibly steep stairs down to the platforms?

When that happened the ticket office on Bishops Bridge Road had to be relocated. The only place it cold go was on the footbridge leading across Platforms 11 to 14 and the Hammersmith lines.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect

The walkway began on the immediate right via a doorway which led onto steps climbing up to the upper level. The doors ahead indicate the old service lift down to the platforms.

The ticket office also served as an excess fares point for both tube and suburban lines, and survived in part until about six, maybe five years ago just before the new canalside entrance came into use. In the last year or so it was technically open access before the new arrangements came onto stream.

When people came off the Hammersmith or suburban platforms, they either passed the ticket office and directly through the barriers (or use the ticket office if excess fares had to be paid) before accessing the remainder of Paddington main line station. Once they had passed the barriers a turn left led through a doorway and onto the walkway itself, going straight on led directly into the mainline station itself.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
Remains of the old taxi ramp & part of the 1934 Bishops Bridge Station ticket office above the Hammersmith platforms,  2008.

The works to improve Paddington station began right at the end of the 20th Century. As I have said before it was probably about 1999, possibly earlier even, the walkway was taken out of use, as was the taxi approach road. Taxis were now redirected completely to the rank at Eastbourne Terrace, and passengers from Bishops Bridge Road were instead directed along the taxi approach road.

Paddington station has in fact endured ongoing work that will have lasted practically twenty years when Crossrail finally opens. The several phases of work begun in 1999, which included improvements to the Lawn area, were followed by the replacement of Bishops Bridge, renovation of much of the Brunel overall roof, then the changes to the canal side area to improve access, the new east side taxi areas, and then even more improvements to the Lawn area, and then Crossrail got tagged onto all of this!

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
Queues of taxis off Bishops Bridge. Sometimes these extend back to the A5 (Edgware Road.)

One downside of the new improvement are the taxis. Previously Paddington had three sets of taxi approach roads/ranks. The concentration of all these into one approach and rank on the east side of the station, approached from the new Bishops Bridge, is the lengthy taxi queues sometimes going all the way back to the A40/A5 junction. That’s quite a way off! These queues never happened under the old system. I think provision should have been made for a second approach/exit route via Praed St/London St, however with the way things are going (the new Paddington Cube & pedestrianisation) its just not going to be happen so we are left with a somewhat inefficient system.

Hyde Park Now-Paddington station's unusual walkway - retrospect
The old hydraulic buffers at Platforms 11-12.

As a result all these works there’s so little left of the old Paddington station from GWR or even the sunnier days of British Railways. The only remnant in terms of railway operation from, say the days when Maybach engines ruled the Great Western main line, are these hydraulic buffer stops on platforms eleven and twelve – a rarity as far as London termini go. How much longer will these survive?

Just to say, if anyone has any experiences of the old walkway (or other aspects of Paddington station even – the staff, the trains themselves – the Westerns, Warships, Castles, Kings, etc) please leave a comment thanks 🙂