Some day in the future, there’ll be poorly-printed logic puzzles looking like this. “You’ve done a hard day’s work, and you’ve caught the train to Lewisham because, as usual, there’s no bleedin’ train to where you want to go? You need to get out of Lewisham station quickly, to catch the bus so you can have a pint, or go home for your tea. How can you get out quickly?”
Answer? You can’t. Lewisham station has to be one of the most poorly-designed on the network, a perfect summary of the “we last changed anything in 1977 and our shareholders like it that way – have you thought about using a car?” attitude which holds south-east London’s rail network in the dark ages, which our politicians are – in general – too cowardly to take on.
For a start, don’t even think about trying to leave the platform! One platform has one, tiny exit through a doorway that can’t be more than five feet wide – absolutely useless when 300 people are trying to get off the 7pm to Hayes. And that exit is right at the back of the train, too – perhaps they could build another exit, straight onto the bus station? Oh no, that’d mean people dodging fares they can’t be bothered to collect.
On the other platform, there’s the guessing game – will the exit for Tesco, Maggie’s Cafe and the buses to Greenwich be open? Answer: Don’t be silly, that’d be useful. Southeastern Railway doesn’t do “useful”. Not inside London, anyway.
Once that’s navigated… there’s the little doors at the front to squeeze through, and then there’s the horror of the bus/DLR interchage below. It’s made worse right now by building works which seem to have been going on forever, and which do not appear to have yielded any tangible results. Want a bus to Catford? Sorry pal, you’ve just walked the wrong way and you’ve got to walk all the way back around, in the face of a tide of 300 people who’ve just left the train to Hayes. Start walking for a 380 to Blackheath, then see an 89 and decide to get that? Forget it, there’s a fence in the way. And what do you mean the pavement’s too small? Nobody ever leaves the station more than two abreast, eh?
The whole thing is a total mess, a testament to how badly off we are compared with north London and proof that the uselessness of our train companies runs far deeper than their heads-in-sand attitude to Oyster cards (next year, they say). And the bus station – well, obviously it’s designed for the convenience of buses and not passengers, eh?
Maybe one day, we’ll get it, and Lewisham will be rebuilt and redesigned to afford a swift and painless getaway, and people will be able to use Oyster cards and it’ll be a doddle. I’ll probably have just got hold of my Freedom Pass by then, but hey, we can all dream.