Monday, 11 December 2017

The Olympic Park in 2017, Part Five: The Stadium, Marshgate Wharf and Pudding Mill

The Olympic Stadium the London Stadium lies on an island between the River Lea and the City Mill River, where premier league football team West Ham now play. It was the centre piece of the games back in 2012 (obviously) and where the Pudding Mill river and Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate could be found before that. Over the other side of the City Mill River is the central spine of this area of the park; this was the main pedestrian route linking the two halves of the park during the 2012 games, now containing playgrounds and pretty greenery, but still a vital route for those of us living West of the park. South of here is the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the South Lawn, all former railway sidings and in the future Marshgate Wharf. Then on the other side of Waterworks River from here sits the Aquatics Centre and what will become Stratford Waterfront but was the Water Polo Arena in 2012 and fridge mountain before Olympic Park construction began. The main railway lines into and out of Stratford, Including the DLR and the crossrail tunnel exits, are south of here with the land between there and Stratford High Street due to become Pudding Mill

Long before the Olympics came along the area around the lower Lea Valley was marshes, these were drained to allow a series of factories to be built and that then became the Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate. I cycled this way shortly after London was announced as the winning bid to host the 2012 games, taking my camera with me

Forman's smoked salmon factory on Marshgate Lane, now situated on Fish Island
Where Forman's stood is now roughly where the goal in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand is

P.A. Finlay & Company LTD, now the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand
A side road containing the Mercedes service centre, now roughly the centre circle of the pitch 
The Pudding Mill River in 2007, a few weeks before this area was sealed off for construction works to begin. The river was filled in and the West stand of the stadium is now situated here

The entrance to Pudding Mill River prior to the Olympics above and the same spot alongside the West stand in 2016 below

Following construction of the Stadium I unfortunately did not manage to obtain tickets for any events during the 2012 games and then it, along with the island it sat on, was closed off for a further four years until West Ham United were ready to move in. During the games the central spine of the southern half of the park was a very busy thoroughfare for pedestrians, below is a picture I took during the Olympics in 2012

and the same spot today

It has mostly been replaced with a large amount of gardens, along with a small playground. It's a pleasant area to both walk and cycle and this is the route I will most often take if I'm visiting Westfield. The main route along the eastern edge is normally fine to cycle through but can get busy on some occasions, especially when it is sunny or on match days

The path along the western edge is far too narrow to mix people walking and cycling most of the time

What a delight it was on the first date that West Ham played at home to finally be able to cycle on the stadium island for the first time since I'd last been here back when it was the Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate ten years earlier.
Despite the pre-match crowds there was far more space available here to allow people to walk and cycle within the same space than there is in the central section alongside. However, I was particularly annoyed the following day to come back to find it all locked up again. The opening of Stadium Island ahead of every home game, and then closing it again shortly afterwards, continued for several months. Finally the gates were permanently pulled down making it possible to cycle along here at all times

During the anniversary games this summer temporary fences were erected on all bridges leading onto Stadium Island and these remain in place at all times as they have concluded it is quicker to search members of the public before they get onto the island, rather than before they get into the stadium. You can still cycle through these barriers on non-match days to use the stadium island as a more direct route but probably cannot on match days. I just hope they don't decide to construct permanent barriers on the stadium bridges that restrict people cycling from using it.

I took a ride around the stadium on the build up to West Hams first home game of last season and the cycle parking alongside where sweetwater will be was well used

By the time I got back round to it after circumventing the stadium it was completely over used with 3-4 bikes using every stand and others locked up to the fence alongside.

This is clearly going to be the most well used cycle parking location, it being the closest to the stadium on the same side as the canal towpath and main route from Victoria Park, a route many will choose to cycle here. Within days a sign had been erected onto the fence alongside

The usual ignorant attitude from the LLDC. I have never seen a single bike use this facility at any other time apart from when there is an event on in the stadium when it is always full.Why on earth would you park your bike here at any other time? There is nothing here! There is acres of space for the cycle parking to be increased to provide cycle parking for those who choose to cycle to events at the stadium.

The cycle parking on the South side of the stadium, alongside the loop road is also well used, as it is located right alongside the Greenway, which provides a traffic free route all the way from West Ham and beyond.

Here is the cycle parking during a match next to the South Lawn, south of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, quite a distance from the stadium, or indeed anything of interest at all. Ideally this cycle parking should be relocated closer to the stadium, ideally where it is over subscribed on the other side!

Meanwhile if you decide to cycle here using Transport for Londons cycle hire scheme then that is not possible as it is suspended for every game as there are not enough docking spaces to meet demand.

A lot of people drive to the stadium and have no trouble doing so with the A12 providing a direct and fast route from Essex. Waterden Road is backed up hours before every home game as drivers queue to park in the 4,500 capacity Westfield car park. Or they can park in the "state of the art" 850 multi-storey Stratford International train station car park and there is also the huge multi-storey car park next to Here East as well of course. However my trip round the stadium on the first day of the season last year I discovered drivers going to great lengths to be able to park their car for free

Cars parked at the back of the stadium (this area has since been fenced off)

Fish Island, in particular, suffers badly from this with every available bit of space taken up by parked cars on match days

The queues to exit Fish Island at the end of every game are ridiculous, yet the LLDC and Sadiq Khan want to build even more through roads for cars here! I also see crowds of people in West Ham tops walking back through the residential streets of Hackney, as parking for the games spreads out far from the stadium into neighbouring boroughs.

"Deal of the Century" was how West Hams move to the Olympic stadium was described, as the club pay £2.5m per year in rent (for contrast their yearly wage bill to players per year is £95m). London taxpayers footed the bill both to build and then to convert the stadium and continue to pay £20m per year (or £55,000 per day) to subsidise the losses the stadium makes. There has been all kinds of allegations of corruption with regards to this deal but clearly something has gone badly wrong and I predict this is not the last we'll hear of it.

Above: Marshgate Lane in late 2007 with demolition of the trading estate underway, taken from the Greenway bridge above. Below: the same view from the bridge today

Why such a huge space for a simple T junction with single carriageway roads on all approaches?
These days Marshgate Lane runs from Loop road under the Greenway to Pudding Mill Lane, close to it's junction with Stratford High Street. The Loop road runs to Carpenters Road from the right of this picture via a new bridge over the Waterworks River, built in 2009/10. Although closed to motor vehicles at present whilst the secondary school Booby Moore Academy is constructed it will reopen, with it's narrow lanes and inadequate cycle lanes

Marshgate Road runs under the Greenway but it did used to be  closed to motor vehicles with Pudding Mill Lane being the main road continuing onto Stratford High Street

Marshgate Lane in 2007 and 2017
In 2007 Marshgate Lane was fenced off under the bridge, with Pudding Mill Lane the main road from the Industrial Estate to Stratford High Street, behind the fence in the picture above. In 2017 Marshgate Lane is open to motor traffic and has been lowered. Pudding Mill Lane has been raised and is now open to pedestrians and cyclists only as a shared path (although there is no indication of this cycling route from the road on either side) 

The same road ten years apart
There have been an awful lot of changes to this area in the past ten years and the easiest way for me to explain those changes is via Google Earth

Pudding Mill prior to construction of the Olympic Park in 2007. Marshgate Lane is the blue dotted line, open to traffic as far as the Greenway bridge. Pudding Mill Lane in red is the main road from Stratford High Street to Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate. Barbers Road is in Black, a minor road with various businesses located on it. Pudding Mill Lane DLR station is highlighted in yellow

Pudding Mill in 2010, at the height of Olympic Park construction works. This is one of the main entrances to the park for construction vehicles and Olympic Park admin offices are also based here.  Marshgate Lane has been removed entirely, save for a small section at Pudding Mill Lane. Pudding Mill Lane remains open but is a dead end at Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. Barbers Road is still there but all the businesses gone and Pudding Mill Lane station remains open with a footpath leading to the Greenway. It is now a busy station used by many construction workers.
Pudding Mill in 2012, during the Olympics. It is now one of the routes for vehicles into the park and the various tents are where the Army search vehicles before they enter the park. The top end of Marshgate Lane has returned, as has Pudding Mill Lane, both routes into and out of the park via a one way system. Barbers Road has been reconstructed slightly further south. Pudding Mill Lane DLR is highlighted in yellow, it remained open up until just before the Olympics began. South of it the future DLR station is under construction (in orange), along with viaducts the tracks will sit on, as part of crossrail works.

Pudding Mill in 2013, a year after the Olympics. Both Pudding Mill Lane and Marshgate Lane end and are closed to traffic, although the top half of Marshgate Lane exists as a route into the park for construction vehicles from the large car park / work site area. Barbers Lane has now been removed entirely as the new DLR station construction takes place where it used to be. The older DLR station is still open and pedestrians (and cyclists) can access it from the Greenway via a series of long boarded footpaths through the construction site. I used to travel this route often with my daughter to head to Mudchute Farm, with various workmen employed purely to safely assist cyclists and pedestrian across the former Marshgate Lane by halting any construction traffic

Pudding Mill in 2015 with the New DLR station open. Marshgate Lane is now open to motor traffic as a through route into the park for the first time in many years with the former Pudding Mill Lane now a shared walk / cycle route under the Greenway. 

Pudding Mill in 2017. Marshgate Lane is open. Pudding Mill Lane is also back open but terminates at the new Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. Barbers Road has been rebuilt south of its original position. Where the former DLR station was is now the tunnel exits for crossrail.

Barbers Road in 2008, as captured by the Google Streetview car, with the entrance to Pudding Mill Lane DLR on the right. This is where the Southbound platform of Pudding Mill Lane DLR station now sits. 

Barbers Road under construction in early 2017, taken from one of the fenced off pedestrian routes into the new Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. It had been part of the worksite so reconstructed from scratch

The completed Barbers Road, taken from the DLR station. Clearly no space for protected cycle tracks here! 
When the new Pudding Mill Lane opened access was via various walkways through the construction site surrounding it. The cycle parking was located inside the station itself, at the bottom of the stairs to the platforms and it was quite fun to cycle into the station, past the ticket machines, to use it

The New Pudding Mill Lane DLR station bicycle parking, with the old DLR station visible in the background, via Diamond Geezer on flickr 
Earlier this year, as Barbers Road reopened a new large square was also opened in front of the station

With the bicycle parking also relocated from the station to the far end of the square

Which is pretty inconvenient. A shame it could not have been relocated closer to the station and, with all the space available, more parking added.

Cycle parking at a train station in Zoetermeer. See this location on google street view 
Once the crossrail tunnel exits were built then a new walking and cycling route was built under them and the other spans of the railways here.

It is very wide and links up nicely with the route on top of what was Pudding Mill Lane under the greenway but is again a shared path and no way to access it from the road

A shame that a cycle track and separate footway were not constructed, to reduce the risk of conflict

A walking and cycling tunnel under train tracks in Rotterdam, via the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain 
This cycle track could have continued under the Greenway and alongside the Loop Road, connecting Hackney Wick and Fish Island with the protected cycle tracks of cycle superhighway 2, along Stratford High Street

The Loop Road in 2012 and 2017
Another missed opportunity to create a safe and continuous cycle route that future generations who live in the area could use to get to the new schools being built.

Then there is the reconstruction of Pudding Mill Lane this year, which is terrible. A road with wide junctions designed for high speed motor traffic and pedestrians have to go out of their way to be able to cross it

Another blank slate, another missed opportunity.

Back in the Olympic Park and whilst the Aquatics Centre is not fun to cycle to via Carpenters Road

Most will cycle along the river on the other side and there is ample bicycle parking, which is always well used by families going for a swim

Although there is also bike parking located in the car park alongside, which is never used. It would make sense to relocate it to the location above, where there is plenty of room to do so. The route along the water is well used by people of all ages on bikes

This has been the location of the urban beach for the last three summers

Where the LLDC again provided no bicycle parking at the entrance and put up anti cycling signs for no reason whatsoever

But one day this will be Stratford Waterfront with residential buildings, V&A East, Sadler's Wells east and  active and UAL's London College of Fashion, promising a waterfront of calm spaces, providing s a direct connection to the river where there will be shops, bars and restaurants alongside staff, student and public entrances to the buildings. Which sounds nice, I just hope that a proper cycle route is also constructed on what will always be a very busy route to the swimming pool.

Could something such as this be constructed?

And there ends my tour of the Olympic Park in 2017. It has some fantastic features; the swimming pool is excellent and I use it often. Copper Box is also a great venue and has allowed my daughter to spend time at sports clubs during the school holidays. The parklands areas of the park are excellent and a really nice place to relax. It is excellent to access as a driver as well, with plenty of roads and more to come. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for cycling on the parks roadways which is mostly unpleasant. However it is possible to fix this; Sweetwater has not yet been built. East Wick has not yet been built. Stratford Waterfront has not yet been built. Pudding Mill has not yet been built. There is a real opportunity to create some fantastic cycle route in these new neighbourhoods over the coming years and, eventually, sort out some of the poor ones built in recent years, to create a truly liveable neighbourhood.

Previous Posts:
Part one - East Wick
Part two - East Village and Chobham Manor
Part Three: Westfield Stratford City
Part Four: Sweetwater and Fish Island