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Tuesday 11 December 2012 12.33pm
In the 50 odd years I have lived in SE1 (through rougher times than this in the area)I can honestly say that I have heard of 1 person getting robbed in those subwys and that was pre '75.
If the subway by the Bakerloo station was removed there would be an awful lot of people crossing that road,the green man on the lights would have to be extended and traffic would back up,possibly.
Tuesday 11 December 2012 2.37pm
Idea: provide proper foot crossings at street level, then give half the width of the tunnels over to cyclists. Perhaps a one-way bike lane either side, with the middle for pedestrians who prefer that route to ground level. Six-inch-high barriers to prevent straying.

Result: all non-motorists have a choice. The murals remain on view. Connoisseurs of the subtle aromatic melange of pee, puke and bleach can still get their fix. Bike-truck collisions at the roundabout decline. End of age-old gripes?
Tuesday 11 December 2012 3.39pm
Really great to see lots of discussion, pondering, anecdotes, gut feel, humour. So little has been discussed to date. It's been discouraged. Even at a public meeting I was chastised by the consultant Pat Brown for trying to photograph the latest TfL proposals and the animated video TfL had commissioned of their fantasy roundabout (they'd forgotten to animate the traffic). Here are my thoughts to some of what's been said.

“I fear that keeping the subways will give TfL an excuse for never engaging in truly transformative planning at the E&C. “
Agreed, TfL really must engage with transformative planning at the E&C. The plans mooted so far are not of the bold, ambitious and probably expensive scale to be transformative because they don't seek to reduce motor traffic volumes. What’s been mooted so far is a cheap bodge to pacify those desperate for action – the council, developer’s marketers and cycling campaigners who understandably focus on anything they see as pausing motor traffic, even if just for a few seconds and (perhaps not intentionally) at the cost of time and safety for pedestrians. SOS elaborates in this video:

“The reality is that when the new high-rises and buildings on the Estate open in 5-10 years, footfall at E&C will be absolutely huge.”
That’s a good reason to retain extra surface area for pedestrians rather than remove it. Pedestrians will need space, and if road surface area isn’t going to be given up permanently by the cars (TfL will not accept this so far) then let’s retain the extra pedestrian space that is underground.

“Lastly, chances are that improvements to the Tube Station (i.e. escalators at the Northern Line) will probably require a major reworking of the underground space at E&C, which would probably require massive changes to the subways anyway. I don't see the point of rebuilding them if that comes to pass.”
The proposed escalator will lead people from the Northern Line portion of the E&C tube directly into the shopping centre. Whatever line that takes through the ground I cannot see it disrupting any subways. It could however remove a lot of pedestrians from the surface level, thereby giving TfL even more reason not to give over more street space to pedestrians. The escalator would disrupt the market traders by diverting some of their trade. The 2011 TfL map outlining subway destruction would have destroyed the vibrant open air subway market space by taking away the staircase and ramp and raising the margin to surface level. The remaining dead end space would only be accessible from within the shopping centre.

“I can't agree with your comments about Southwark Living Streets though”
All I've met from Southwark Living Streets are nice people: polite, passionate, dedicated, hard working. They are however best at improving areas they live in, places they are very familiar with and can discuss. I’ve attended several Southwark Living Streets meetings, joined them on a walkabout to look at St George’s Circus and have collaborated with their chair’s recent Safer & More Liveable Elephant Document. Outside Southwark I've also led an event with their chapter in Kings Cross and been alongside their ex CE Ben Plowden at a panel discussion at RIBA. So I know their very good intentions. But Southwark is a big place, SLS has very few active members (my impression is about 5 people) to cover it and as a recipient of their circulars, an occasional participant I am actually their most local ‘man’ on the ground by a long way, especially for a pedestrian. Despite this their chair has, since August, repeatedly distorted my contributions to the discussion about improving the Elephant. He does this with gracious, warm charm sometimes face to face in public meetings and sometimes on e-mail. He wants to be seen to be creating consensus when in fact he is presenting an entirely counter argument to my case and uses his status as chair of SLS to press his view. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for months but his recent manipulation of the contribution he sought from me when campaigning for Safer Elephant was the trigger to launch the SOS campaign with my wife (who has also attended Living Streets events) because SLS can unfortunately no longer be relied upon to represent local views at the Elephant. They've been so committed with issues elsewhere - like BHS - they haven't got to know Elephant well. SLS has got so caught up with masterplans they haven't got stuck into the little things Living Streets is best at channeling through their grass roots membership of enthusiasts. They have never audibly called for better signage at the Elephant and Castle. So in this vacuum of attention to the issues here Save Our Subways has drawn a brand new pedestrian map to encourage people to use the subways and point out the errors of the current one, see here: We will do more. Ideas and contributions welcome.

“The subways would be lovely if they did not attract the social problems that they do.”
I agree, and these social problems need to be tackled. It’s an Elephant wide problem. We find poo on our door-step at Perronet House, people of all ages and genders urinate all around the front of Perronet House – I’ve seen mums with kids line up their primary aged children to pee in broad daylight. After the popular secluded corners around Perronet House the subways perhaps currently offer the best alternative toilet at the Elephant because dirt attracts dirt. We need a public toilet. We used to have one. Removing the subways isn’t the way to solve this missing amenity. Just look at this disgraceful fouling by Perronet House (I score it 4/10 on the shockathon):

If the subways were made more inviting with brighter lighting, better signage and a clean then they would be even more popular and drug use and urination would be deterred through the effect of the crowd.

"you'll always have that stench no matter how they spruce them up".
I disagree. The cleaning schedule in the subway, as Hellsbells has observed, is dire. Which is of no surprise as Southwark are responsible for their cleanliness*. Like much of the public realm, it’s pretty much fallen off Southwark Council’s radar. There appears to be no will for their maintenance, hence many broken light bulbs. This condems them to an image problem and potentially dereliction.

[*Here in Perronet House (a Southwark Council property) their housing department can’t provide a cleaning schedule for communal areas despite months of conversations with our T&RA treasurer. Their cleaner does his best but is massively stretched. We now do burst of it ourselves using CGS money to pay for the materials – we’re “Grime Busters”. This isn’t so viable in the subways though #RiotCleanUp has offered to help with a bit of mopping there.]

@Boroman “Idea: provide proper foot crossings at street level, then give half the width of the tunnels over to cyclists. Perhaps a one-way bike lane either side, with the middle for pedestrians who prefer that route to ground level. Six-inch-high barriers to prevent straying. Result: all non-motorists have a choice. The murals remain on view. Connoisseurs of the subtle aromatic melange of pee, puke and bleach can still get their fix. Bike-truck collisions at the roundabout decline. End of age-old gripes?”
Well that’s an original proposal! Perhaps catering for demand that’s not there. So far I’ve not come across cyclists seeking underground highways, nor any kind of appreciation of the aromas. Though may be they are out there. There’s a Facebook page for people who love New York in the 1970s when it was filthy and full of crime! I won’t be starting an equivalent page for E&C!

If anyone has been won over to save the subways please sign up here:

Thank you for reading this far.
Tuesday 11 December 2012 3.58pm

Reason given:Road safety.
Monday 17 December 2012 7.05pm
Since the subways on the southern roundabout have been removed, pedestrians crossing from St Mary's Gardens to the shopping centre have to wait ages until the traffic is stopped. With the subways, pedestrians could get across when they wanted, not when TfL deign to give a few seconds of crossing time. Boris is on record of not wanting to slow traffic down, so the poor pedestrians get the rough end of the stick - the lowest in the food chain.
Monday 17 December 2012 7.48pm
Agreed, jonnyboy122. Wherever there's a choice between crossing at the lights and crossing by subway, the subway is quicker. Have you ever tried crossing the Euston Road at King's Cross station? About three streams of traffic and three phases of lights to wait for - use the subway. The problem with the Elephant subways is that they don't lead to a single underground booking office serving both Northern and Bakerloo lines. I realise the Bakerloo line station is an ancient monument, but who on earth decided to build the modern Northern line booking office at street level when nearly everyone using it will approach via the subways?
Must admit I never notice the 'stench' - perhaps the routes I use - down the ramp from Newington Causeway and under the New Kent Road straight into the shopping centre, or across to the Bakerloo others line station - are more salubrious than some.
Monday 17 December 2012 8.32pm
There's quite a tale about why we have to enter the Bakerloo line at surface level. Stephen Humphrey, the local historian who is writing a book about E&C told me "The first proposed subways were intended for the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway in 1900. The ticket hall was planned to be beneath the main junction and it was going to be reached by subways from all the corners. They were never built, because in one of the numerous Acts of Parliament for the railway, in 1904, Southwark Borough Council managed to get a clause inserted to stop such an idea." Had the new station been under the road junction then transferring to the northern line today would have also been more direct.

So if the council hadn't stopped this happening 108 years ago then Elephant and Castle's underground and subway would have been much more like at Piccadilly Circus, where the ticket office and connections between two lines are beneath the road junction and pedestrian subways radiate from it to the five roads that converge there. Elephant and Castle's transport infrastructure and perhaps even the surrounding area could have become like Piccadilly Circus... but it didn't. Remember that, because our current council leader loves comparisons with North of the river. Only last week Cllr Peter John was saying on this website that he wanted to RETURN the E&C to being the Piccadilly Circus of the south. Well Cllr, it never was like that and that was partly your predecessors fault!

So let's not be fooled by the council or anyone for that matter that removing space for pedestrians will make it more like Piccadilly Circus. There, like so many other improved junctions in London for pedestrians and cyclists, some roads have been taken out of use altogether and given over to pedestrians and none of the plentiful subways have been filled in. It is also within a congestion charging zone. E&C is on the border and TfL have no plans to reduce traffic volumes.

...So forcing pedestrians onto the street level forces us to be second class citizens, our faces stuck standing on the roadside waiting for traffic to trundle past, unless we chance our luck, as understandably impatient regular users tend to at the southern junction already. Accidents will happen... but not of this kind if the subways were improved not destroyed.

Please spread the word and sign up. Thanks so much.
Monday 17 December 2012 10.05pm
I would expand the subways, and divert all motor vehicle traffic down there.

The surface could then be reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
Wednesday 19 December 2012 6.08pm

Thursday 20 December 7pm (that's tomorrow)
Free guided tour of subway murals with the artist David Bratby

Saturday 2 February 3pm
Subway Spruce Up. Be a Guerrilla Grime Buster. We're sponging down the murals and tiles and celebrating afterwards. Materials and refreshments provided

More info here:
Wednesday 19 December 2012 6.50pm
Hmmm...that history is very interesting! I could tolerate retaining the subways -- assuming ground-level pedestrian crossings (e.g. Bricklayer's Arms) were also provided at ground level -- if there was to be that kind of central underground ticket office in the middle of the roundabout. So, hmmm, I partially retract my prior statements, Perronetonian, but only on the grounds we get something like you describe ;)
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