A previously neglected Waltham Forest thoroughfare is being transformed
Lea Bridge Road is getting a new train station, segregated cycle lanes, junctions, housing, and possibly even a new ice rink.
As one of the most important routes in the borough, it links Hackney in the west with Whipps Cross Hospital in the east. For the last 31 years one thing Lea Bridge Road has not had is a train station. But next month, this will change.
Reopening Lea Bridge Station has been in discussion for a decade. Work on the £12million project finally began last year, and is now scheduled to finish in May. Once open it will provide direct services to Stratford and Tottenham Hale. Trains operated by Abellio Greater Anglia already run between these stations, but haven’t stopped at Lea Bridge since 1985.
At a recent Waltham Forest Council meeting, leader Chris Robbins thanked Network Rail for making the project happen. “Because of the windfall from the Olympics we were able to put it forward as a major venture for the borough,” he said.
“It went through a few wobblies but we expect it to open in May. I wish to thank Network Rail for bringing it in on time and on budget.”
The new station is expected to serve 352,000 passengers a year by 2031. The building, with a second entrance on Argall Way, will house two new platforms, footbridge, lifts, shelters, and cycle storage.
After being presented with an award from Cllr Robbins, Katherine Scott from Network Rail said: “Lea Bridge Station will provide thousands of residents much better connectivity. We can’t wait to see the first trains.”
The council’s £30million ‘Mini Holland’ cycling programme has brought another big chunk of investment into the area. Lea Bridge Road is used by up to 30,000 vehicles and 1,500 cyclists every day, and 241 injuries were recorded between 2009 and 2013. Plans to make the road safer – dubbed ‘A Street For Everyone’ – is described as a ‘flagship’ Mini Holland scheme.
Work has now begun on removing Whipps Cross roundabout and replacing it with a signalled T-junction. Controversy was stoked by the removal of trees in the centre of it, with a petition signed by 590 people, but the council insists 40 percent of trees there were dead or dying and there’d be a net increase of 28 trees after work finished.
Other Mini Holland plans for Lea Bridge Road include full-length segregated cycle lanes in both directions; blended ‘Copenhagen style’ crossings; new bus stops, street lighting and signage; and new junctions with Orient Way, Markhouse Road, Bakers Arms, and Leyton Green Road.
As Lea Bridge Road’s transformation accelerates, developers have taken notice. Housebuilder Hill has lodged an application for 300 homes in buildings up to 18 storeys tall, but several businesses that occupy the warehouses on the site currently would be forced to leave. Among them is charity furniture shop Remar UK. Its manager Allan Joy told the Echo: “We have been here about eight years, it’s a good location and it will be difficult to find somewhere else.”
The development site is adjacent to the new train station and Hill claims the scheme would “make a significant contribution to the regeneration of the area and the creation of a new neighbourhood around Lea Bridge Station”. Although not finalised, affordable housing provision could be as little as 20 percent.
Slightly further down the road is Lee Valley Ice Centre, home to National Ice Hockey League team Lee Valley Lions. Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) claims the facility needs upgrading and four sites for a new ice rink are being considered, but its preference is to build a larger rink on the same site.
Save Lea Marshes, which campaigns to protect Lea Valley’s open space, is concerned at the impact on the area of both a new ice rink and three tower blocks. The group lodged an objection against Hill’s plans and says regarding the ice rink: “Whichever way LVRPA jump, we will lose open green space.”
As Lea Bridge Road gets ready to benefit from a raft of new infrastructure, the attention drawn to the area by developers and land owners could throw up many more challenges for the people who already live and work here.