Closed TfL station gets makeover

Closed TfL station gets makeover

Hot on the heels of the news that Kentish Town would remain closed until September 2024 at least, comes some other revelations! But first the extended closure of the station wasn’t due to any sort of niceties such as deciding to put lifts in or any other endeavour to improve the station’s accessibility in view of the protests in the run up to the station’s closure that consideration should be give to enhancing accessibility for those with disabilities. Rather it was something else…

Transport for London (TfL) said that other essential repairs during the upgrade is prolonging its closure. This includes deep cleaning, painting, installing a new floor and wall tiling, as well as new signage but no compensation scheme is in place for surrounding businesses. (BBC News).

Well it seems some have listened to TfL’s outpourings as to the whys for the station’s extended closure – and most sympathetically they have extended an extra helping hand towards part of that effort! The bright idea that the station’s walls could be improved with a mere lick of paint comes as possibly no surprise. Why re tile when paint will do the job? Surely its much quicker too?

It seems an exceedingly great effort at providing assistance to the cash-strapped organisation was made – except this wasn’t what one would even describe as goodwill! Two things in TfL’s endeavours to improve Kentish Town station – deep cleaning and wall retiling – will no doubt be part of the greater effort needed in the future in order to enhance the station – but the way it has happened was not ever in the way anyone would have thought it would…

If one hasn’t guessed what on earth’s happened, well its graffiti! Yet another deep level tube station – seemingly impervious to the ongoings above ground, has followed Oxford Circus in becoming a tube station that’s received a full make over by unknown artists. The southbound platform was tagged from end to end with graffiti. As one person informed me, the gross misdeed occurred on 17th February 2024.

Video I took of the closed Kentish Town station during a pass through on the train. I also took the photographs shown below.

The first issue is of course, how did they do this? In other words how did they even get into a tube station that is closed, has no tube services, and shouldn’t even be accessible to anyone except the workers authorised to undertake the substantial work on the station’s escalators. Evidently at first hurdle, there’s a massive security breach involved. Secondly, there’s a question of mass trespass on the railway, and especially at a location that shouldn’t have even had this. Thirdly, again, there’s no doubt going to be a cost involved in sorting this.

The perpetrators involved cheekily wrote tags that said ‘not for us!’ In other words the station signs said ‘closed’ and they tagged that onto this. TBH I don’t even know what any of the graffiti was meant to denote but at least they left messages that showed they didn’t care one bit about the security of the tube. They even defaced the historic Kentish Town station names – those big lovely letters set in tiling that are a feature at a number of tube stations.

Kentish Town station closed but ‘not for us’ as the graffiti perpetrators claimed.

Yes I know it must be far more easy to gain access to the tube system, especially with all these TV shows and Youtube videos. Secrets of the London Underground, Hidden London Hangouts, and a ginormous number of Youtube urbex videos to be had. Each and every one of those in turn creates a considerable blue print of the tube system which could be used for nefarious purposes. Are these in fact responsible – especially a couple of Hidden London Hangouts that might have had cause to bring about this unfortunate state of affairs?

For those like me these authorised programmes and videos as history, a means of understanding how the tube system was built – and certainly Secrets of the London Underground and Hidden London Hangouts provide clues from which certain elements of the London Underground’s history can be deducted – even answering historical questions that have proved quite difficult to peruse. But the one thing that has to be asked as of now is – are these programmes more trouble than they’re worth? If these programmes were for example embargoed and no presenters were ever allowed into the system, would that help with security? Its difficult to say because there’s still the urbex ones (which are not authorised or legit in any way or form) and not only that there’s numerous London Underground cab ride videos and so on.

The other question of course is Google. These last few months Google has been, well, taking a camera about the system in order to show the various platforms, escalators, ticket halls, passageways, entrances, exist, etc. Those endeavours aren’t yet to be seen on the Internet giant’s pages but they certainly will be at some time in the near future. Will this also contribute to the already fragile situation?

The historic station name detail: ‘Kentish’ can still be largely seen however ‘Town’ has been totally painted over.

Its known that Hidden London Hangouts very recently did a considerable show on the Camden Town junctions, showing how these interlaced with each other and how the various routes dived under or over one another. A fascinating programme nevertheless its not even new information for a start – but it was fabulous to see the actual works in the flesh, because those like me (and others of course) we’d never get to see what it was really like in those tunnels – even though some of us probably ride those very tunnels every day.

The information on the Camden Town junctions has been known since the 1920s. Its no secret. Indeed the famous cutaways of the 1920s and 1930s featuring the tunnels, stations, and junctions on the tube system revealed so much more than the unassuming tube passenger could ever see. Evidently until now there has never been this sort of threat to the tube system – and that is worrisome. The down side of all this is indeed the security of the system. One must no doubt ask whether TfL were caught out again? In other words, a location that wasn’t being used for any passenger services could have been somehow plausibly seen as less of a risk? And whilst TfL’s backs were turned the other way some unknowns took advantage of that lack in security to do this damage at Kentish Town station.

Retrospectively, as part of that recent Hidden London Hangouts show, the presenters did an extended walk to South Kentish Town and this gave viewers an alternative perspective to the earlier episode that was done at South Kentish Town itself. One could easily say well, this and the other no doubt were what enabled the graffiti attackers to get to Kentish Town tube station and do their damage. On the other hand they might have come from Tufnell Park or Archway station for all we know. Even more perversely, they might have a set of keys that lets them in anywhere on the system.

The entrances to both of the platforms were barricaded by these steel and wire mesh constructions.

One thing is clear. The platforms at Kentish Town were clearly barricaded so no-one could access the platforms from the surface buildings there. This means that access had to be along the tube tracks from either direction. I would suspect the closed South Kentish Town station was in fact the point of access although this reasoning could be wrong and they had in fact approached the station from elsewhere.

Its like the episode at Oxford Circus which was the scene of a comprehensive attack a few years ago over the Xmas holiday. Where did they come from? Green Park? Warren Street? Piccadilly Circus? Regents Park? In that event the perpetrators scrawled on one of the tunnel portals ‘Way Out’. Indeed the question is they know. One graffiti artist claimed in one newspaper interview he had far more knowledge of the tube system than London Underground itself and that is a sobering thought. In the event it doesn’t really matter where they came from. I mean they could have simply hid in a station until an opportune moment in order to traipse down the tunnels and do their deed. What REALLY matters is how they even got into the system in the first place – and what is being done to prevent such instances from happening again.

Some of the graffiti that could be seen along the station platform.

Surely TfL should be learning from these instances and upping the security or making sure such matters cannot be undertaken ever again? I mean, back in July 2020 Banksy himself very cleverly showed how lax the security on the tube was when he undertook that attempt to spray in the interior of a S7 tube train conveying a message about COVID – and when the media tried to find out exactly what levels of security there was in place via Freedom of Information requests (the BBC for example), TfL refused to dispense such information because they said it would compromise security on the system.

Another example of the graffiti seen at Kentish Town tube station.

Look at it this way. Oxford Circus in 2020, King’s Cross last summer and now Kentish Town. That’s too many instances. Yes we know graffiti artists get into every nook and cranny about the system, not just the tube but main line railways too – and some places, well they are very hard to keep secure especially when people can clamber over a wall and maybe slither down a pipe or a ladder to deface the tunnels or brick lined cuttings. But for them to go even further and deface entire tube stations that are deep down, well that’s even more worrisome.

Surely TfL ought to be on top of this matter? They say they’re cash strapped but money can be found to freeze fares, to splurge millions on new London Overground names, introduce a new transport network called SuperLoop and a host of other sundries. All of that isn’t a problem if its enhancing the experience of using the tube and attracting more custom (and revenue no doubt) but if they can’t get the question of security straightened then they should not be throwing money at this other stuff. Its something called priorities – and I’m sure many will be asking after this latest incident, – has TfL even got its priorities the right way round? TBH I’m not sure TfL does have its priorities right – especially after this other recent bout of money splurge and when it comes to a critical need for better security – that even for the tube trains themselves which needs urgent attention.