Clapham Junction Railway Station, London, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Clapham Junction Railway Station, London, UK

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I never thought it could happen
With me and the girl from Clapham

'Up The Junction' - Squeeze

Clapham Junction claims to be the busiest station in London, England, The UK, and Europe. It sits at the point where the lines from Victoria to Brighton cross the lines from Waterloo to the South-West. The result of serving two of the busiest London terminals is that a lot of trains either stop at or pass through Clapham Junction.

The first thing to point out that Clapham Junction is not in Clapham, it is in Battersea. However, when the station was built, Battersea did not have the desired reputation, so the station was named after the more genteel suburb of Clapham, which is about a mile down the road. The station has two entrances: the main one, which has a decent selection of shops, is on St John's Hill, near the cross roads with Falcon Road. The other entrance, only open at limited times, is on Grant Road. The area around the station has become known as Clapham Junction.

The station was opened in 1863 to allow people on the London and South Western trains to interchange with trains on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. All trains from Waterloo Mainline1 serve Clapham, except at rush hour when some trains do not stop.

Most Southern Trains services from Victoria also serve the station, the exceptions being the trains via the South London Line towards London Bridge, and the Gatwick Express which does not stop at the Junction. The station also serves trains that use the West London Line towards Kensington Olympia.

The 13.40 to Wurble Departs from Platform Wurble

Clapham Junction has 16 platforms, numbered 2 to 17. They are linked by a relatively-narrow tunnel that also serves the two entrances at either end of the station. A much wider footbridge links all the platforms, but there is no longer a way out to the street from it. Platform one still exists but has no tracks. It is hoped that the East London line will use it when it is extended from its current terminus.

If you are not a regular user of Clapham Junction station, finding out which platform your train leaves from can be tricky - although they are, at least, fairly consistent, so they can become familiar. The main entrance has an electronic display that only shows the destination of the next few trains. There are indicators at the foot of the stairs to each platform saying what the next train is to depart, and a number of signs and timetables in the station saying which platform to go to for each destination. However, many places are served by more than one platform with varying frequency and types of service. Like all railway communication technology, failures of the indicators are not unusual, at which point blind luck is going to be your best hope.

The platforms are effectively split into two sets, 2 to 6 at the south end (for northern - eastern journeys), then 7 to 17 on the north side (for south-west bound trains). A rough guide to platforms follows.

  • Platform 2 - London Overground services to West Brompton, Kensington Olympia, Shepherd's Bush and Willesden Junction (High Level).
  • Platform 3 - South West Trains stopping services to Waterloo.
  • Platform 4 - South West Trains stopping services to Waterloo.
  • Platform 5 - South West Trains suburban services to South West London that run via Putney and Wandsworth Town. Destinations include Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow, Feltham, Staines, Windsor and Reading. Occasional trains towards Kingston also depart from here.
  • Platform 6 - South West Trains suburban services to South West London that run via Putney and Wandsworth Town. Destinations include Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow, Feltham, Staines, Windsor and Reading. Some trains that run towards Shepperton also occasionally depart from here, as do trains towards Kingston.
  • Platform 7 - Occasional South West Trains services to Waterloo.
  • Platform 8 - Very occasional South West Trains services to Waterloo.
  • Platform 9 - South West Trains services to Woking, Guildford, Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton, Salisbury, Yeovil Junction, Exeter. Occasional trains serving Cardiff and Bristol leave from here. These are mainly fast trains.
  • Platform 10 - South West Trains services to Vauxhall and Waterloo.
  • Platform 11 - South West Trains suburban services to Wimbledon, Surbiton, Woking, Guildford, Hampton Court, Shepperton, Kingston, Chessington, Epsom and Dorking.
  • Platform 12 - Southern Trains fast service to Victoria.
  • Platform 13 - Southern Trains services towards the south coast including East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Reigate, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Lewes, Eastbourne, Brighton, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Portsmouth and Newhaven.
  • Platform 14 - Southern Trains services to Battersea Park and Victoria.
  • Platform 15 - Southern Trains suburban services to south London such as Balham, West Croydon, Crystal Palace, Epsom, Epsom Downs, Beckenham Junction.
  • Platform 16 - Southern Train services on the West London line to West Brompton, Kensington Olympia, Wembley Central (occasionally) and Watford Junction. This used to serve through trains towards Rugby, but those trains don’t run anymore.
  • Platform 17 - Southern Train services on the West London line to West Brompton, Kensington Olympia, Wembley Central (occasionally) and Watford Junction. The return trains to Gatwick Airport and Brighton also run through here.

Transport Links

If you can't face getting a train from here, the best bet is to take a bus. Buses from Clapham run to Ladbroke Grove, Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith, Fulham, Earls Court, Kensington, Richmond, Wimbledon, Earlsfield, Colliers Wood, Tooting, Streatham, Wandsworth, Clapham, Brixton, Battersea, Vauxhall, Victoria, Westminster, Aldwych, Waterloo, Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, Peckham and Dulwich.

Clapham Junction is not served by a tube station, however Clapham Common on the Northern Line is only about a mile away.

The Disaster

The 12 December, 1988, saw one of the worst rail tragedies of recent times. A mistake by workmen who were rewiring the whole of the Waterloo approach meant that the signals were incorrect.

Around 800m south-west of Clapham Junction, the driver of the 07.18 Basingstoke to Waterloo noticed a signal jump from green to red and stopped his train to report it. Just as he was cleared to proceed, the driver of the 06.14 train from Poole ran into the back of the stationary train at 65km/h (40mph). The train was running late and the signals had given him the all-clear. The wreckage was then hit by an empty train from Clapham Junction.

A fourth train, which was signalled to proceed, stopped 60 metres away. The crash cost 35 people their lives and over a hundred more were injured. The inquiry found that a supervisor had noticed the faulty wiring but did not want to rock the boat.

The results of the inquiry recommended that all the older rolling stock was replaced and that Automatic Train Protection (ATP) systems were introduced. The Poole train did in fact have a trial version of ATP on it as well as the AWS which failed to work. The ATP was not turned on because the driver was not trained to use it. If British Rail or the train operating companies had implemented the ATP recommendation, then the crashes at Southall in 1997 and Ladbroke Grove in 1999 would not have happened.

Clapham Junction - the Future

Transport for London has produced plans for an orbital rail system around London. This will use mostly existing tracks and Clapham will be a major component.

Currently, the West London Line via Olympia splits and allows some trains to head onto Watford Junction while others terminate at Willesden Junction. The Willesden Junction trains terminate on the same platforms that serve the North London Line which runs from Richmond to Stratford and North Woolwich.

Plans have been suggested to run trains from Clapham along the West London Line and North London Line to Stratford in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. It is suggested that after that they run the Clapham Junction trains along the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, terminating them at Barking. These plans are still just proposals, but firmer plans to increase the capacity of trains using the West London Line have been put forward.

The other stage in the orbital system is the proposed southern extension of the East London Line. The trains would use most of the current South London Line2 and run into Clapham Junction.

There are also plans to give the station a facelift.

And so it's my assumption
I'm really up the junction
1Trains from Waterloo International do not stop, and trains from Waterloo East do not go through the area.2The Southern Trains service from Victoria to London Bridge via Clapham High Street and Denmark Hill.

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