■ 21:31 (UTC±00:00 +DST), 15 MAY 2016 | GBR ONBOARD A METROPOLITAN LINE TRAIN, LONDON
«Da isch ja mega, sehr geil!»
My favourite from the many Schmirinskis skits (of Swiss TV fame) was one involving one of these hors-la-loi skiing down an unauthorised path. When the illegal skiier was being “dealt with”, he was put on a “trick rucksack” containing an explosive! Fully unaware he was going to be blown into pieces, he was actually permitted (as in, rather: “pre-arranged”) into continuing down the closed-off piste. After having cleared some distance, he let out a string of Alpine yodel-ish exclamations ending in «Da isch ja mega, sehr geil!», which literally means How cool is that!? in English…
And within seconds, the device was detonated and from the skiier we could only see a plume of — white smoke…
But instead of blowing things into pieces, something very much different happened to East London today. Lea Bridge station came (back) to life in one — 31 years after it closed down. (For those of us born after 1985 however, it’d be the inaugural opening.)
«Da isch ja mega, sehr geil!» was my first reaction, for not only was it my first-ever station opening (outside of Ji’nan West station of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR), but it was my first on non-Swiss, non-Chinese soil. I took the opportunity to take a fair number of pictures — mostly souvenir snaps, too.
My train to Lea Bridge departed at 20:08 from Ponders End (actually it departed a minute late). We pulled into Lea Bridge at 20:20:38 (that’s from my iPhone records), and I pushed the Door open button and the whole crowd erupted into wild cheer. There was a rider onboard who played a couple of songs on the guitar, celebrating 31 years since the station was last served. We actually came in about two and a half minutes behind schedule, as the train made an unexpected halt between Tottenham Hale and Lea Bridge, and some onboard were worried the train wouldn’t serve Lea Bridge at all (since the on-board displays hadn’t been updated yet, in spite of those at stations showing Lea Bridge as expected), but we finally pulled in.
The station was a rather simple two-platform solution, with doors opening on the left hand side. Platform 1 led to the exit on Argall Way (E10), and upon leaving the station, a completely random driver pulled by and asked us if it the station was opened or not. “It’s open, definitely!” was the answer I gave. He drove away positively surprised.
The station’s access point over the bridge remained shut, however, so certainly for today, riders could only get in by way of Argall Way (pardon the unintended pun!). The other shortcomings were in the way of missing stickers on the Oyster card readers, and a lack of functionality on the ticket machines to add value to Oyster cards. Nevertheless, this was quite an opening. Even a firm 30 minutes after the station opened, train enthusiasts still were at the station, happily snapping away. (I wish the Beijing Subway grew a brain here, too!)
The fonts they used remained very Swiss: Frutiger (and at times, Univers) for the posters (mainly), and Helvetica on station signs. Now I might only need to have pulled out my Swiss ID card on a bar of Swiss chocolate, and it’d be a makeshift 27th canton… of sorts, maybe! I also loved how everything was new (as did everyone else). For wheelchair users, there was also a barrier-free solution, although it was more a maze than anything (but it beats a single stair — by leaps and bounds!). Finally, they had a rather complete set of travel info posters, plus a complete station timetable ready.
I decided that taking the bus connections were too random — none seemed to head into Stratford — so I decided to continue my trip by train. We had a rather old Class 317 carry us back, but I liked the fact that I got a little more legroom — as the seating at the back was more transverse and metro-like.
With 2 trains in each direction per hour, it looks like this station will be well-served in future. The only thing I’ll not have to look forward to starting tomorrow will be the Metropolitan line works late at night, when they take direct trains from Wembley Park to Aldgate out of service. Then, I’ll have to use the Circle or Hammersmith & City lines to Baker Street, followed by the Jubilee to Wembley Park, then the Met back. However, if I played my connection cards right, I wouldn’t have to execute a Xizhimen-ish Interchange Long March… ■ ■ ■