On Monday 20 September an extension to the London Underground Northern Line opened. A short one, south of the river, travelling south-west from Kennington to a spot not too far from Battersea Power Station. With the one intermediate station, Nine Elms. This is an area in which a lot of development has been taking place over the last few years, primarily the construction of luxury tower blocks, many of whose flats are probably lying empty much of the time. They are investment opportunities, a safe haven for foreign capital, as much as somewhere to live. No surprise then, that in 2012, Boris Johnson, then London Mayor, described the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea opportunity area as “the greatest transformational story in the world’s greatest city.” Donald Trump didn’t agree. In 2018, he described the location of the new American Embassy as “lousy”, “horrible” and “off location”. Ok, so it’s not exactly Grosvenor Square, but it’ll have a great view of the river, there’s a big Waitrose nearby – and now there’s a tube line!
More established residents of the area include New Covent Garden, the fruit and vegetable wholesale market, and, of course, Battersea Dog’s Home. But the main feature, around which an ecosystem of shops, restaurants and bars is slowly developing, is Battersea Power Station. The power station is one of London’s iconic buildings. Music lovers will remember it featuring on the album cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals”, along with the floating pig. It wasn’t a functioning power station for all that long. Construction began in the 1930s and was interrupted by the second world war. It was completed in 1955, but was decommissioned in two phases, in 1975 and 1983, by which time it was a Grade II listed building. Over the years there were endless plans for alternative uses – including at one point becoming the footballing home of Chelsea FC – but none came to fruition and it remained empty until it was acquired by a Malaysian consortium in 2012. Since then, the structure of the building, which was in poor condition, has been restored and it is being redeveloped internally to house – guess what? – flats, offices and shops. Apple has plans to move in. The nearby waterfront and railway arches have already been revitalised. I can recommend Battersea Brewery under the arches, which serves excellent craft beers and unfiltered lager. We don’t have a pathway all along the river to Vauxhall Bridge yet, but hopefully that will come when the development is completed, which is due in 2022.
The tube extension is a key part of the redevelopment of the area. It’s the first extension of the tube since the Jubilee Line in 1999. We will have the delayed Crossrail 1 – the Elizabeth Line – soon. Next year? That will be our version of the Parisian RER, running west to east. A second line, north to south, has been shelved for the time being, for post-covid financial reasons – and, I’m sure, the Tories’ intention to starve London of future infrastructure funding as part of its “levelling up” programme. We still await signs of the positive elements of that programme – it’s mostly bluster at the moment.
But hey, we’ve got the Northern Line extension, and Battersea Power Station is nearly ready! Here are some photos from Tuesday. As you can see in one of them, I wasn’t the only one snapping away. As you can also see, the photographers were mostly men of a certain age… old geezers with time on their hands.
The internal architecture is very much in the style of the Jubilee Line extension. I like it.
Last, a few shots from the walk down to the waterfront, which takes about 10 minutes.
These last two from the waterfront.