The London and South Coast Railway’s terminus at London Bridge station has long been something of a Cinderella station. The main problem is that relatively few people are familiar with it. Most passengers who use London Bridge only remember the through platforms to the north where conditions can be really dreadful. Redevelopment here is sorely needed. The London Bridge terminus lacks glamour in that the trains only go to relatively humble destinations in the South East. There never was a Golden Arrow or Night Ferry to Paris as at Victoria, or a Cornish Riviera Express to Penzance departing from Paddington.
Once granted, World Heritage Site status is not guaranteed in perpetuity and can be removed if unsympathetic redevelopment takes place. In 2004 UNESCO declared the Elbe Valley at Dresden a World Heritage Site. A twelve-mile stretch of landscape, this included the city centre and baroque palaces, churches, opera house, museums. However, after first being placed on list of endangered sites in 2006, the historic area of the city lost its title in June 2009 for the wilful breach of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. This was due to the construction - the WaldschliiBchenbrucke - a conspicuous composite-steel four-lane motorway bridge across the valley less than two kilometres from the historic city centre.
Dresden is only the second World Heritage Site ever to be removed from the register. UNESCO made clear in 2006 that the bridge would destroy the cultural landscape if building went ahead. Legal moves by Dresden City Council to prevent the bridge from being constructed were unsuccessful.
All this may mean that in London the continued redevelopment of the London Bridge area would be inhibited and the station itself left in rather a dreadful mess following implementation of the low-rise low-cost scheme presently proposed for it. Surely this was just an interim proposal to cover the period until sufficient funds become available to build an appropriate new station? The simple wavy-roof platform covers presently envisaged are hardly great architecture and certainly not imposing. London Bridge station looks like being further demeaned. It should be borne in mind that curved glass panels are extremely difficult to keep clean. This maintenance problem was soon discovered at Waterloo Eurostar station, opened in November 1994.
On a sunny day a visit to the LBSCR terminus in the quiet of the afternoon can be recommended. It is easy to appreciate the merits and shortcomings of the building then. Presently, this part of the station might be a little underused but the routing of twin Thameslink tracks through the northern part would rectify this and, if the terminus could ever be redeveloped a la Liverpool Street, a wonderful station worthy of a great new business quarter to rival Broadgate might be achieved.
Published Association for Industrial Archaeology www.industrial-archaeology.org