New Cross

The SE&CR never had the sound financial footing enjoyed by its LB&SCR and LSWR neighbours, and as a result was unable to finance any substantial network electrification scheme, despite promotions to the contrary. Such was left to the Southern Railway, which was quick to electrify ex-SE&CR suburban lines. An electric suburban timetable came into use between Charing Cross, Cannon Street, and Orpington via Chislehurst, on 28th February 1926, followed on 6th June of the same year by commencement of scheduled electric services to Dartford via all three North Kent routes. These works included intensive re-signalling of ex-SER London termini and the London Bridge approaches; four-aspect colour light signals were commissioned at Borough Market Junction, and Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations on 27th June 1926. Semaphore signals remained in use beyond Borough Market Junction until 1928, when London Bridge and the approaches were converted to colour light operation as part of the modernisation of the Central Section lines. Three-aspect colour lights were used for Central Section lines, four-aspect for Eastern Section lines, all of which were controlled from a 312-lever power frame at London Bridge. The latter was also complemented on Eastern Section metals by a new 35-lever power frame inserted into the existing signal box at Borough Market Junction. The new signalling came into use on 17th June 1928, stretching as far as Spa Road on the ex-SE&CR lines. Finally, in the following year, colour-aspect lights reached New Cross. The signalling at the southern end of the station was the first to change: four-aspect colour lights fanned out from New Cross on three routes, the system being extended to Blackheath, Hither Green, and Ladywell. Within the same scheme, the revived Lewisham to Nunhead section of the Greenwich Park branch also received colour lights. A pair of new mechanical lever signal cabins, built to the SR’s then standardised design (still in evidence at Ramsgate), came into use at St Johns and Parks Bridge Junction. The latter was the divergence of the ‘’Ladywell Loop’’ from the Tonbridge Cut-Off Line, and on 30th June 1929 the two new cabins replaced no less than seven existing signal boxes. Re-signalling of the northern end of New Cross station, up to Spa Road, followed shortly, and included the junction with the ELL. Similar to the southwards re-signalling, this saw the abolition of seven signal boxes, including the SER cabin at New Cross and two cabins beside ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ ELL connections. Control of the area passed to an 85-lever power frame at North Kent East Junction (where Lewisham and Greenwich routes converge), and the new signalling came into use on 1st December 1929.

It would appear that the 1929 re-signalling scheme also brought with it platform rationalisation. The western-most platform (‘’up’’ side) was abolished and its staircase from the ‘’high-level’’ station building removed. In addition, the ‘’down’’ local line, which had been used for reversible running since 1st October 1884, lost its second platform face. This led to the rather makeshift solution of erecting a timber barricade along the eastern side of the ‘’down’’ island platform, leaving the station with five platform faces, numbered from east to west. Extensive modifications were made to the platform canopies in the following decade: the attractive clover-patterned valances of the SER were replaced with plain timber equivalents, and canopies on both islands assumed the SR’s distinctive ‘’W’’-shaped cross section. By this time the station had also been a recipient of electric lighting, supported upon the SR’s distinctive Swan Neck lampposts – the wrought-iron struts were still, however, of SE&CR origin. Since 1923, the station had been know as plain ‘’New Cross’’, its Central Section neighbour having become ‘’New Cross Gate’’.

Under British Railways, alterations at this station were extensive. Initial changes occurred in about 1954, which saw the truncation of the station’s longest canopy, which covered platforms 1 (the ELL bay) and 2. At this time, concrete bracket lampposts were erected on all platforms – a distinctive prefabricated product from Exmouth Junction concrete works – which, like their predecessors, were equipped with electric lighting. In 1968, the ELL became a standalone track at New Cross, when physical connections with both ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ sides of British Rail metals were removed – they had previously been declared redundant on 16th April 1966. Then, in September 1973, major works were begun as part of a £23,500,000 scheme to rebuild the bomb damaged London Bridge and re-signal the lines in the area from a central panel. These started at New Cross with the demolition of the ‘’down’’ island, which permitted a new double-track formation to be laid where there was once just the single ‘’down’’ local. The ‘’up’’ island platform was similarly obliterated, to accommodate a third through line on the western side of the layout. A completely new island, with a 155-foot-long V-shaped canopy, was built using prefabricated concrete components upon the former site of the previous ‘’down’’ island, slightly re-aligned to the west to accommodate the new double-track formation of the ‘’slow’’ lines. Track layout revisions necessitated the complete rebuilding of the road bridge which, sadly, required the demolition of the SER station building. The ‘’down’’ platform surface, which accommodated the ELL bay, avoided destruction and even retained its SR timber canopy. It was here that new wooden station structures were erected to replace the ‘’high-level’’ building. The station joined Waterloo Eastern (as it was then known) on the list of sites which had platforms designated by letters, rather than numbers. Hitherto, platforms at New Cross were numbered 1 to 5 from east to west, the ELL bay being designated No. 1. There are two main schools of thought as to why the system was switched to letters: firstly, it avoided confusion with nearby New Cross Gate (had there been misunderstandings prior to this?); secondly, it avoided passengers becoming muddled with the old platform numbering arrangement. New Cross was unusual on South Eastern Division lines given that, when facing in the London direction, platforms were numbered from right to left, rather than left to right. The revised layout saw that platforms were lettered A to D from left to right, when looking towards the capital. The eastern face of the new island had come into use on 4th August 1975, but until the works were fully complete, was still designated No. 3. A temporary footbridge at the northern end of the new island and the existing platforms 1 and 2 was erected, a subway being built between surfaces in the interim. Colour light signalling at New Cross was operated from the Eastern Panel of the then new London Bridge Signalling Centre from 18th January 1976.

Improvements were forthcoming in 1985. These included the provision of a new station building on the ‘’down’’ side, of brown brick and glass construction, to replace the wooden structures of 1975. A new and enlarged canopy, to the same style as the V-shaped example on the island, was erected over platforms C and D (formerly Nos. 2 and 1 respectively). It is in this form that the station has remained to date, although comprehensive engineering works of the ELL have witnessed the temporary closure of bay platform D and the suspension of services along this route. Closure of the line occurred on 22nd December 2007, and rebuilding works have included complete re-signalling of the route to comply with Network Rail standards. This is to allow extension of the ELL route map – thus, services on this line will be able to go beyond New Cross Gate, to Crystal Palace and West Croydon. On South Eastern Division metals, ELL trains will still go no further than New Cross, but passengers will nevertheless benefit from new rolling stock.

New Cross: Network Rail

Track layout of the rebuilt station in 2006, showing new platform arrangement. Drawn by David Glasspool

18th June 2007

The scene is much changed since the photograph from 1972, with platforms D and C being the only remnants of the previous station (formerly numbered 1 and 2 respectively). On the left is the East London Line bay, which has no physical connection with the rails on the right. © David Glasspool

18th June 2007

Looking north from the road bridge, we see the "fast" lines on the left, which occupy the former site of the "up" island platform. On the right, the 1985 extension of the ELL platform canopy is obvious. © David Glasspool

18th June 2007

"A" Stock is seen approaching the bay platform with a service from Whitechapel. In view is a short section of railings which have for long separated main line and East London Line platform surfaces. © David Glasspool