Northumberland Park, Tottenham - An Area Fit For The Tube
By Jimmy Mulvihill October 16th, 2012.
Bally Studios recently celebrated 7 years of trading in Tottenham Hale, and as co-founder I have been based in the area for over 8 years. In 2003 I was living in Highbury and Islington with my partner a few minutes walk away from the tube station, paying £798 a month for a 300 sqft one bedroom flat in St Pauls Road. The bedroom, a single, could barely accommodate a double bed. You had to climb over the bed to get to the wardrobe. There was no kitchen, just a small kitchenette in the corner of the sitting room, and the bathroom was windowless. We lived on a busy main A-road where lorries would pass constantly, and had a small unofficial ledge for outside space that had a 5 story drop, with no railings to prevent that drop.
The rent was cheaper than most flats as we were years into a tenancy and at the time we were working as club promoters, so we would spend the whole week working from home, preparing for 2 weekly club nights on Friday and Saturday nights. Despite having some of the best bars in London on our doorstep a limited budget meant we didn’t have the disposable income to frequent them, and we were working on the best days to go out. With heavy heart, and craving more space, we decided to relocate and look further afield.
At the first 3 estate agents we went to see, when we said our priority was “as much square footage for the money as possible”, all 3 of them focused in on Tottenham. Despite having lived in Highbury and Islington for years, we had never even ventured over to Tottenham, less so considered living there. One of the first properties we saw was a 1,050 sq foot 2 bedroom, Victorian property. Front and back garden, right near local bus routes, high ceilings, and, best of all, it was £758 a month, compared to the £798 a month we were paying for a place less than 1/3 of the size, which had no outside space. The property had just been renovated, and was situated in a quiet area, and we jumped at the opportunity to secure it.
Our new home was based in Foyle Rd, a few mins walk away from Northumberland Park Train Station. Over the next few years it became obvious that many other people living in the area had similar reasons for being based there as we had. Young families, priced out of surrounding markets, relocated for the extra space that their budget could accommodate in Tottenham. Parking spaces were plentiful , a refreshing change. Tottenham Marshes was based on our doorstep, and we grew so attached to the area that when it came time to start a business for ourselves, we didn’t hesitate to choose Tottenham as its location.
So when we saw a recent Twitter post by Bruce Castle News, highlighting a question that Joanne McCartney had put to London Mayor Boris Johnson about looking into the possiblity that he “ask TfL to conduct a feasibility study to for extending the Victoria Line to Northumberland Park” it was a subject that both appealed to our emotions, as well as one that, we felt, made sense, economically.
All tube trains currently go to Northumberland Park anyway as this is where they are cleaned. There is a train-wash, like a car wash for tube trains, that can be clearly seen by people driving along Watermead Way. The tracks are already laid, but at present there is no platform and station facilities. Joanne McCartney shared the same hopes as many local residents that Northumberland Park Train Station could be transformed into a tube station. Within minutes of us echoing her sentiments, Justin Hinchcliffe of @TottenhamTories chirped in, that it had been “first proposed by us on 2001”. A quick internet search shows that local Labour MP, David Lammy felt that “the important thing is to deliver an extension on the Victoria Line sometime soon – people desperately need it in what is a deprived part of London.”
So both the Tories and the Labour party, at a local level, seem to be in favour of it. Justin Hinchcliffe of @TottenhamTories tweeted “we should make a united, cross-party push for it”, a sentiment we agreed with. Ken Livingstone, in 2003, was vocal for his support too, and Boris Johnson has backed a regeneration plan that promises ‘up to 10,000 new high quality homes and over 5,000 new jobs’ for Tottenham by 2025, as well as publicly backing Tottenham Hotspurs plans to build a new 61,000 all seater stadium next to their current stadium.
We’ve spoken to many people in the area that are equally vocal with their support and we personally feel that the plan for a Northumberland Park tube station would be of great benefit to the community, and to London as a whole. Support seems be be forthcoming from all areas for the plan, both socially and politically, but as of yet the official line from TFL is “London Underground has already evaluated the business case to extend the Victoria line to Northumberland Park. The outcome (weighing up the benefits, demand and costs) indicated that the investment would not represent value for money and could not be justified when compared alongside other projects which would deliver greater benefits to London”.
Yet here are the facts – at present, Northumberland Park station is a National Rail train station on the Stansted Express route. Despite it only having 1 or 2 trains per hour, depending on the time of day, annual passenger numbers have grown from 73,310 in 2004–05, to 125,000 in 2006/07, to 162,000 in 2008/2009, and in 2009/2010, the last year we have figures for, 176,000 used the station, an all-time high. (Edit: Since this article was written in October 2012, the figures have soared to 416,000 in 2012-2013, to 521,000 in 2013-2014). Popularity of the station has grown 150% in just 6 years, (Edit – and 710% in 9 years) despite there being no significant change in the service. That’s not to say it is 150% of what it was, it has GROWN that amount. In 2012 it is 250% what it was in 2005 (and 810% in 2014) So that seems to contradict the official line that development “could not be justified” due to lack of demand. There’s over 8 times the amount of people using it compared to 9 years ago, at what stage will that demand be sufficient?
Northuberland Park is also a 5 mins stroll away from Tottenham Hotspurs Football ground, much nearer than the current 20 minute walk that it is from Seven Sisters station. Tottenham Hotspurs are planning on opening a new 61,000 stadium in less than 2 years. Each year, on average, there are 26 home games. (19 in the league, on average 7 in the Europa League, League Cup, FA Cup, depending of their performance in these competitions and if they are drawn at home or not. Catch them on a good year, and you’ll see up to 32 games.) Using Arsenal FC’s transport statistics (which I think is fair, considering the 2 teams are based only 1 stop apart at present, from Finsbury Park to Seven Sisters), “70% of football fans rely on other transportation means, other than private cars”. So that is up to 39,000 fans who could use the train station every game. We’re business owners so we are routinely cautious when it comes to projecting numbers, so lets say that there are only 25,000 people who would use public transport instead (which would represent only 45% of fans, as opposed to 70%). That would still equate to 650,000 fans per year who could potentially use the station from Tottenham games alone.
Add to that the 176,000 that were already using it (521,000 as of 2013), as a train station that has an hourly/half hourly service, and you already have 800,000 annual passengers, (with well over 1.17 million in 2013). South Kenton on the Bakerloo Line only has 960,000 annual passengers. North Ealing 940,000, Grange Hill, Chigwell, Chesham and Theydon Bois have between 460,000 and 740,000 a year. Roding Valley has 240,000 a year and still gets the funding to stay open. So even discounting the fact that many people don’t currently use it now because of the irregular service, and discounting the fact that usage for the station has been growing dramatically as it is, you still have a number of well over a million. Surely that is demand enough? Factor in the new houses that will be built, and even a slight increase in the uses from the extra services and you are well on the way to 2 million people a year, a fraction of the 15 Million people a year who use the already overcrowded Tottenham Hale Station nearby. (Note, now 19 million people, as of 2019)
There are already massive amounts of work in place to regenerate the Tottenham Hale gyratory. Tfl themselves have said, “The current one-way system has high volumes of traffic.” But currently the only way that fans can get from the Tottenham ground to the tube station, and that local residents of Northumberland park can get to the tube also, is by putting this current road system under even more pressure. You only have to spend a few days getting off of the tube at Seven Sisters and see the amount of people using the 341 and 476 bus routes which take you to Northumberland Park to see how many people need to travel to the area that already use the tube. More transport options, and a new tube station, would mean less buses on the road and less traffic.
This is not even taking into account that the tracks are already in place!! The trains are already going there every day as it is. All you would need is a platform or two and a station concourse. No tunnels need to be dug and no tracks need to be laid. Of course, work would need to be done to re-route certain parts of the tracks, but compared to other more flagship projects that have recently taken place, such as the East London Line, Crossrail and the Jubillee Line extension, the work would be nominal.
If budget is a concern then there is the option to run it as a shuttle service from Seven Sisters, in the exact same way that the Northern Line’s Mill Hill East branch is currently run. Tube passengers could interchange at Seven Sisters from the platform that currently serves Walthamstow Central and change to the “Nothumberland Park Platform”, which is based approximately 20 metres away, on the same level. The same train could just keep going back and forth along the same line, and even taking into account the driver walking from one end of of the train to the other when changing direction, it could still be more than possible to run a “4 train an hour service” in Non-peak times, and a direct service in peak times. This would only need 1 platform to be built, further reducing the cost. The station could be run like this and if passenger numbers are high then the second platform could be built later.
There is already increasing demand at Tottenham hale tube station, and it was named in a recent report into train/tube stations that are most susceptible to reaching capacity soon. Many people currently use the station as an interchange between the Victoria line and Stansted Express. Northumberland Park is already on the Stansted Express. Open it as a tube station, and you have another interchange that can be used by some of the 4 million annual commuters who use the National Rail/Stansted Express station at Tottenham Hale. Assuming that 2 million passengers are using Tottenham Hale in each direction, (half go one way, half go the other way) if 20% of the passengers who interchange at Tottenham Hale station for northbound travel were to change at Northumberland Park instead, that’s another 400,000 passengers a year who could benefit directly from a Northumberland Park tube station. By now we’re on the way to 3 million passengers. Even if it was only used at peak hours, it would take the burden off of Tottenham Hale alone and would be preferable for many people as it would be a step free interchange, with the tube and train station at Northumberland park being at the same level. By providing secure cycle parking facilities, people from areas not served by the tube could be within cycling distance of it.
TFL assessment of the viability of the station is also missing a very obvious point: that the main reason there is no demand at present is because there is no tube station there! Therefore, there is less of a culture of local residents using the tube. Before the o2 arena was built in North Grenwich there was not much of a demand for concerts there, only because there was no venue! By building the infrastructure, the supply will create a demand for the product, as “Say’s law” dictates, which was advocated by Economist John Maynard Keynes amongst others. And this is only counting people who would directly use the station for the local area and as a train interchange, and not counting the possibility of it being used as a bus interchange for surrounding areas. Within a couple of miles of the prospective site are areas that are currently not served by the Tube, such as Chingford, Edmonton, Enfield, Ponders End, Brimsdown and many others. It could be utilised as a vital interconnection between bus routes and tube stations, in the same way that Edgware, Stanmore and Walthamstow stations currently are.
The arguments for Northumberland Park Tube station are strong. Even from a safety point of view, currently the whole of the Victoria line is underground, with it being the only tube line that has no open air sections. Heaven forbid if there was an incidents even approaching the magnitude of the 7/7 attacks, it would act as a vital way for emergency services to access the Victoria Line, or for people to be evacuated quickly from it. Property within the area is much cheaper, and there is also sufficient land in the area in the form of industrial estates that have been for sale - and unsold - for years that could be used for new housing, and a tube station would provide a transport hub for any such developments. TFL and the Mayor of London are vocally backing the Nine Elm development which is being proposed in the exact same way in that a new area of London could be created by a new tube station. Northumberland park could have a similar effect, at a fraction of the cost. Tottenham is also in much more need of regeneration than Battersea.
Even if it is just run as a shuttle service during off peak hours, to save money, and run as a direct service into central London or the peak hours of 7:30am – 9:30am and 4:30pm – 6:30pm, we hope that the scheme is given the opportunity it deserves. As a direct result of moving into the area, we founded a local business, which has resulted in 8 residents of Tottenham being employed. A small effect? Maybe. But imagine that multiplied by many more times. Better transport links would mean more people moving into the area, and the knock on effect can only be positive for local businesses. It could mean better bus and train interconnections, and an area of London synonymous with poverty can be given hope.
If that worked well then it could extended to Angel Road, and towards the £1.3Billion project with 5,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs that is currently at the planning stage in the area. If 1,000 of these people were to use it per day to commute into London that would be another 500,000 journey a year, with each passenger making two journeys a day, 5 days a week for 50 weeks. It would also give the message that the government feels that Tottenham is an area worthy of investment. How do the government think that people feel when they hear Tfl say the area is not worthy of investment and that “other projects (would) would deliver greater benefits to London?”. If the London Riots of last year showed us anything, it is that we should not be concentrating our efforts on the areas of London that would solely generate more income, rather that we should be investing in areas such as this. MP’s are in cross party support. Residents would benefit, as would local businesses.
On 7th August 2011, the UK was shocked by the riots in Tottenham, and the image of Allied carpets burning well into the night was a catalyst that created more rioting over the next week. I remember watching it myself. I had, a couple of months earlier, moved onto the property ladder and I was having a house party that night to celebrate purchasing my first home. Party guests who understood my affiliation with Tottenham brought the matter to my attention, and about 20-30 of us, with glasses of wine and beer in hand, watched the footage of the riots on TV with great sadness, until about 3am. When everyone had left, I stayed up until 8am watching the footage.
I went into work the next day at 11am, witnessing first hand the widespread looting that was still happening that morning at the Tottenham Hale retail park. The image of Allied carpets ablaze that night was my enduring image of the London riots, and it resonated with me stronger than most. When we were soundproofing the studios on it’s first day of trading in 2005 I bought a job lot of carpet that was frayed at the edges for 50% off from that very store. It as symbolic for me – that on the night I was celebrating stepping onto the property ladder, the very building that put me on the way was burning to the ground.
The empty shell of this building lies 850 yards from Northumberland Park Train station. What a fine legacy it would be if Northumberland park were to have it’s own Tube station. How are people meant to feel proud about their own community when Transport For London openly state that it is not worthy of investment, while other more financially affluent areas are given mass funding? The government is not meant to be investing in areas that are already financially strong money, that is what the private sector is for. By investing now it will help to revitalize an area, and hopefully prevent some of the scenes we saw last year. This area helped me to create financial stability for myself. I am sure it can do the same for others.