Although it goes without saying I wish I was down in Kent for other reasons I did take an hour's time out this morning to take a look at the new Rochester Station, which has only been open a couple of weeks.
For those of you who have never been to the old one - opened in 1892 - I can inform you that it was THE coldest station in the UK, exposed to biting easterlies blowing in off the Thames Estuary. The entrance was depressing and the passageway and staircases downright Victorian, well they were I suppose. So it was with a sense of anticipation I parked up in the old market place where I used to watch the trains go by as a boy, and saw the rather imposing new glass building that has been built around 500 yards from the old station.
|The new Rochester Station|
First impressions were not favourable when I walked inside. It seemed darker, greyer and more depressing than the old one, and the words "Jubilee Line Extension" coarsed through my mind. However, it turned out that half of Rochester had been knocked out by a power cut, and the station was surviving on emergency lighting, no departure screens, ticket barriers or anything else electric apsrt from the lifts to and from the platforms. So maybe it's not as dark and dank as it looked today - I will return and find out!
|Inside the new entrance hall|
So I ventured onto Platform 1 to see if waiting facilities were anymore pleasant than the old station. In short yes and no. There is no waiting room which is a shame, but the shelters are far sturdier and weatherproof than the usual fare these days. How vandal proof they are remains to be seen.
|The new shelters on PLatform 1|
The new station is situated around 500 yards up from the old station. Standing at the far end of Platform 1 you can just see the end of the platforms of the old station.
|Looking back towards the old Rochester station|
The first train I saw at the new station wasn't actually a type you ever see in service there. Class 376 Electrostars operate the suburban services between Gravesend/Dartford/Sevenoaks and Hayes into London, but are occasionally stored and maintained at Gillingham, just down the line a few miles. One was passing through ECS as I arrived on the platform.
|376002 passing through|
The old Station had 4 platforms but could only accommodate a maximum of 10 coach trains. At present the new station only has 2 platforms, which can easily take a 12 coach train, but there is also a third platform, which as you can see isn't open yet.
|Thou shalt not enter platform 3 yet|
Eventually Platofrm 3 will be a through platform, but when it opens it will initially be a bay platform. The reason for that is rather important. Rochester signal box is in the way, and until the signalling is upgraded still controls things in the area. In a couple of years it will be demolished and the line through platform 3 will be completed.
|Rochester signal box, which will be decommissioned in a couple of years|
There is a lot of development planned for the area between the station and the River Medway. It is hoped the new station will encourage more business to the area, and will be a major selling point for new residential developments. The new location is also closer to the historic part of Rochester, which is also seen a potential lure for tourists to the city.
|Networker 465190 London bound|
Of course another plus point for Rochester is it's part of the HS1 network, and that means not only is it a mere 35 mins from St Pancras, but on a dark, grey, Sunday morning it also means Javelins. And Javelins are good to take photos of.
|Javelin clas 395009|
I have just a couple of criticisms of the new station. Firtly there are not that many station signs on the platforms. Secondly, especially on the Up platform the shelters are too far down the platform for short trains, and anyone sheltering from the elements will face a sprint back up the platform for a 4 coach train. Finally I have mentioned that the power cut resulted in the destination screens being blank. Nowhere on the station are there timetable posters and I find that strange and wrong, not to mention darned inconvenient. Something Southeastern should look into I feel. But other than that the new station is a big improvement on the old one, as long as it is properly maintained and protected.
I have spent many happy hours in my life in Rochester Cathedral, and in and around the Castle. I also happen to rather like the Javelins, and those who are complaining about Siemens winning contracts for GWR clearly haven't been on a Javelin. I can't wait to see the superior spec. However always on the look out for a decent pic I'll settle for this one, showing the Javelin against the historic backdrop of Rochester. I hope the new station is a success.
|Rochester Cathedral, Castle and a Javelin!|