This morning I decided to stand at the other end of the platform at Vauxhall (because I’m a bit mad that way, me). I noticed two men working away at some construction or other – one of them chipping at the tarmac on the platform with a chisel and a lump hammer, the other one leaning on his shovel and making the odd helpful remark. Intrigued I looked closer and deduced from the neatly shrink-wrapped packages beside them that they were putting up one of the despised bus-shelter type shelters on the platform, just behind the stairs.
Hooray, right? Wrong. True, I’ve complained about the lack of shelters on stations in the past – but that was for Kew Bridge, which is exposed to the elements, whereas Vauxhall station already has a roof – one of those Victorian cast-iron and wooden canopies that covers the entire platform and shelters everyone in reasonable comfort from the rain. It also has a nice, moderately spacious and, more importantly, heated, waiting room with the added bonus of built-in entertainment after some bright spark removed the helpful signs saying ‘push’ and ‘pull’ on the doors (I’m easily amused). Having two blokes spend several days painfully chipping away at the tarmac so they can install a further tiny little glass and steel bus stop underneath a perfectly good roof is just insane and I can think of no good reason for this waste of money. I can think of any number of bad reasons, however. I hope it’s just that some manager somewhere made it a target that there would be bus-stop style shelters on every platform and nobody thought to add the words ‘where necessary’ on the end. Or maybe it’s that every individual station got money in the budget to put up bus-stop shelters and it’s now year end and use it or lose it time. But then there’s the possibility that having installed these expensive, fragile and largely pointless shelters, they will take down the real roof and let us fight it out for the ten square metres of dry space that remain. And then sell the videos on eBay.
It’s too late now, I suppose, but here’s a radical idea. Why not not install shelters in already sheltered spots and use the money saved to put up new canopy roofs on all of the stations that need them? They’re far more attractive, less breakable and will make life better for larger numbers of people. I can’t believe they’d be that much more expensive. Come on SouthWest Trains, you know it makes sense. Oh, sorry, I forgot. That’s why you won’t be doing it.