2009 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the London Underground depot at Upminster. Situated at the most Eastern extremity of the network, this is where the District Line trains are stabled overnight. There are also workshops for routine maintenance and more complicated repair jobs.
On Friday morning I joined local councillor Clarence Barrett and local residents for a visit to the depot, to hear about their plans for the next 50 years.
S Stock Trains and the District Line Upgrade
The new trains are already in operation on the Metropolitan Line, and will be introduced on the District Line in the run up to 2014. The 191 trains will have better CCTV coverage, more standing space and a lower floor to reduce the step up from the platform and make boarding easier. Most importantly they will all be seven cars long, reducing overcrowding. A new signalling system will enable more trains to run, improving the frequency and reliability of the service.
More and bigger trains mean that the depot will have to be enlarged. At Upminster this can be achieved within the existing site, with extra sidings being added on the north side of the site. Work will begin in the summer and should be completed by March 2012.
For the homes backing on to this part of the depot, there will be disturbance whilst the work is taking place and the clearance of an overgrown area will leave them with uninterrupted views of trains and the maintenance shed at the bottom of their gardens. Whilst the residents accept that the project will benefit the whole of London, so it must go ahead, we all want to mitigate the impact and preserve this pleasant middle class neighbourhood.
So the visit focused on ways to preserve some of the more mature trees that have grown up along the boundary, whilst planting new trees which will - in time - grow to fill up any gaps.
Unfortunately the railway are engaged in what could be described as a war with idiots who try to break in and daub graffiti on the trains. Not only does this cost London Underground thousands of pounds every year to clean up, it also places the graffiti morons themselves at risk. Moving trains and live rails are dangerous and tragedies do happen.
So a 2.8m steel fence with narrow mesh that cannot be climbed and a roll of razor wire along the top is now needed along the boundary of the depot. This needs to be set back from any trees and needs to be still higher where sheds and outbuildings in the gardens could be used to climb over. The fence will be a further intrusion on the scene and the best that can be done is to paint it green so that it doesn't stand out too much.
The overgrown area has become a have for wildlife, including nesting birds, squirrels and even a couple of urban foxes. Adders are reputed to live there - I wore strong boots and knee length socks, just in case - and a survey is being carried out to ascertain numbers. An adjacent area will be left overgrown and the animals encouraged to move there before work begins.