Lea Bridge Station reopens
Lea Bridge Station opened in 1840 as part of a new line up the Lea Valley from Stratford towards Cambridge. Later a handsome entrance, similar in style to North Woolwich Station, was built on the bridge taking the Lea Bridge Road over the railway.
The re-opening of Lea Bridge Station is the outcome of many years of campaigning by community activists. The Chingford Line Users Association wanted the line between Chingford and St James Street, Walthamstow reconnected to the line running through Lea Bridge Station to Stratford, by re-laying track on the curved bank which still survives. That larger scheme has not been approved, but money has been found to re-open Lea Bridge Station, as a way of regenerating the area around it.
Community campaigners are unusual people. A key activist in the early days was Ivor Chapman, the first Chair of the Chingford Line Users Association after it was reborn in 1999. Two others were the knowledgeable and memorable Katy Andrews, and Richard Pout who devised a leaflet on the issue for the Railway Development Society (now called Railfuture) and was an impressive speaker. Ivor, Katy and Richard have all died before the station reopening.
The 1992 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro encouraged sustainable development at the local level through community actions as 'Agenda 21', rather than by top-down edict. In Waltham Forest a Local Agenda 21 Focus Group on Transport and Pollution issues, including Roger Gillham, drafted a report in 1999, with encouragement from Waltham Forest Council members and officers. Lobbying was carried out within local and central government, and from the community including Peter Woodrow, Graham Reeve, Steve Kearns and Roger Torode.
£5 million could become available from the planning permission conditions for Westfield's Stratford City development. With money from Railfuture the Chingford Line Users Association hired transport consultant Jonathan Roberts to set out the case for reopening Lea Bridge Station, laying a third track up the Lea Valley Line for a quarter-hourly service, and for the rail link to Stratford from Walthamstow and Chingford. The case for the station was accepted, though building costs above estimates have had to be met by Waltham Forest Council.
On 15th February this year Stephen Garrett, secretary of the Chingford Line Users Association, died suddenly. Roger Gillham says "the 31 years it has taken to make this station reopen have seemed an age to us campaigners. It is great to know that quite a few stalwarts who were on the last train leaving Lea Bridge station in 1985 will be on the first trains bringing passengers to the reopened station". Graham Larkbey for decades has seen the potential of rail transport when those in control could not, and puts his musical abilities to the service of this cause. He promises to be back at the station on Sunday evening. Roger looks forward to public transport taking to work, friends and entertainment more of the growing population in this thriving north east quadrant of London.
Photo by David Pearson in 1985 of the last train leaving Lea Bridge Station. Graham Larkby is towards the far end of the platform
Leyton & Leytonstone