1968 Station

This station is a typical 1960s construct: two platforms are dominated by an austere six-storey block, situated 30-miles 49-chains from London Bridge, upon the double-track "Arun Valley Line" linking Three Bridges with the West Coastway Line (Brighton to Havant) at Arundel Junction. A station has existed in Crawley since 1848; however, today’s site was brought into use on 28th July 1968 (ref: RCTS' The Railway Observer, September 1968), replacing the town’s first platforms. It was perhaps a fitting addition to the modern image that was by then known as "Crawley New Town", formally designated as such on 9th January 1947 and planned to be a conurbation 5,920 acres in size (ref: Crawley & District Observer, 17th January 1947). It was one of a series of post-war out-of-city town expansions designed to accommodate that part of the capital’s population displaced by bombing and slum clearance. The population of Crawley as of 31st December 1952 was 14,300 (ref: Local Corporation Files via Sussex Daily News, 12th March 1953); as of 1960, this had jumped to 51,700 (ref: Sunday Mirror, 15th January 1961), and by 1968 stood at 65,000 (ref: Coventry Evening Telegraph, 27th March 1968).

Construction of the then new Crawley station commenced in late 1966, 200-yards east of the existing site, and work was expected to last twenty months (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 1967). Two platforms of concrete construction were able to accommodate twelve-vehicle trains from the outset, these of which were linked by a footbridge of the same material. An existing lattice footbridge carrying a public footpath over the western ends of the then new platforms, dating back to at least 1895, was retained. The "up" (Gatwick-bound) platform was equipped with a simple V-shaped metal canopy, about 170-feet in length, whilst on the "down" side was built a 40-foot-long flat-roofed enclosed waiting shelter, partially glazed and backed at its rear by brick.

The six-storey block, situated behind the "up" platform, comprised 47,150 square foot of office space and, at the time of the station’s opening in July 1968, had yet to be occupied (ref: Report of the Commission for the New Towns, H.M. Stationery Office, 1969). On the block's ground floor was situated a modern-style entrance hall, buffet, and shop; additionally, the new site had improved car parking space over its predecessor and was more conveniently situated for the bus station (ref: RCTS' The Railway Observer, September 1968). It was reported that the closing of Crawley’s previous station resulted in declining trade in the area around the town’s level crossing, which was situated on the western side of the old site (ref: Report of the Commission for the New Towns, H.M. Stationery Office, 1969).

A survivor from the old station was a mechanical signal box, situated on the "down" side of the line, adjacent to the town’s level crossing 170-yards west of the 1968 platforms. This cabin was eventually abolished on Saturday, 19th April 1986, when then new colour light signals controlled from Three Bridges were brought into use. The latter also supervised Crawley level crossing using closed circuit television (ref: Branch Line News No. 539, Branch Line Society, 12th June 1986). At this time, the westbound platform at Crawley was signalled for eastbound departures. Whilst the resignalling work mentioned was undertaken on 19th April, it was not until 24th of that month that full commissioning occurred (ref: Branch Line News No. 539, Branch Line Society, 12th June 1986). The former signal box at Crawley remains standing today as a listed building and is looked after by a preservation society.

In September 2017, Network Rail announced that a planning application was to be submitted for a new footbridge, incorporating lifts, at Crawley station (ref: Network Rail Media Centre, 18th September 2017). This was part of the Department for Transport’s "Access for All" scheme, and the funding required for the works at Crawley was then priced at £3.6 million. Work was scheduled to start on 27th January 2020, completion being envisaged for autumn of that year (ref: Network Rail Media Centre, 3rd January 2020). The main span of the new footbridge was lifted into place in summer 2020, immediately east of the office block; its predecessor was removed on Sunday, 29th November of the same year (ref: Network Rail, 30th November 2020). The footbridge project was deemed complete in February 2021, at a cost of £3.9 million (ref: Network Rail Media Centre, 17th February 2021).

In December 2021, work began on a major improvement scheme at Crawley, which included revamping the ticket hall and lengthening the "up" side (Gatwick-bound) platform canopy. The former received new glazing to brighten up the interior, more space was created by relocating ticket barriers, and the toilets were subject to an upgrade. This required the commissioning of a temporary station building for the duration of the works (ref: Network Rail Media Centre, 22nd December 2021), which were deemed complete by January 2023 to the tune of £6 million, funded by a public-private partnership. As part of the scheme, a cafe and retail units appeared, dedicated bicycle parking provided, and a new forecourt laid. The vacant office floors of "Overline House" — as the office block had been named for many years — were planned to be converted for residential use (ref: Network Rail Media Centre, 14th January 2023) .

September 1986

Electro-Diesel No. 73005 is seen on weekend engineering works alongside the "down" platform in this eastward view. Livery aside, it is a very 1960s scene. Evident on the left is the six-storey office block that became known as "Overline House", the ground floor of which is home to the booking hall. The "up" platform was equipped with the V-shaped canopy from the outset, whilst passengers on the "down" side made do with waiting shelters. The footbridge was behind the camera. © David Glasspool Collection