There is a remarkable film, made by Gaumont at its Champion Hill studio and dating from around 1906 which survives in the archives of the British Film Institute. It is a very short drama set on the platform of North Dulwich Station. What the film clearly shows, is how little, if at all, the station has changed over the past hundred years or so. Much of this is to be welcomed, particularly by railway enthusiasts. Indeed, Southern, the railway operating company has carefully restored the grade 2 listed building, the emblems of Alleyn’s College, the London, Brighton and South Coast railway company which first built it, and a shield bearing the date 1866, when it was constructed, are beautifully picked out in heraldic colours.
Amazingly, and giving lone female travellers considerable comfort, the station is manned until late at night with CCTV screens being scanned in the booking office. All of this is laudable. What is not, and is in 2012 totally unacceptable is that there is no disabled access to and from the platforms. Instead, the wheelchair-bound and also, probably, the aged and mothers with buggies are banned from accessing the rail network. Surely this cannot be right. Restaurants, cinemas, sports halls and local councils are obliged to provide toilets for the disabled. Theatres and concert halls provide seats for the disabled. Many buses have been adapted to take wheelchairs.
But how are the disabled living locally, to take advantage of these (state guaranteed) measures if they cannot get to them? Or indeed, how can a disabled visitor reach such Dulwich attractions as its park, picture gallery, velodrome or Southwark Council’s proposed new multi-sports court for the disabled at its ground on Dulwich Common, if they cannot travel here by train?
In the case of North Dulwich Station, the provision of lifts to its platforms is totally feasible and the railway company should be obliged to install them urgently. The case for Sydenham Hill, West Dulwich and East Dulwich stations is just as pertinent and whilst the solutions might be more difficult to achieve, it would be ridiculous to suggest it would be impossible.
Now here’s another pretty state of things, as W.S. Gilbert might have said. Tuition fees charged at King’s College, University of London are as high as any university in the country but it has allowed its former Botany Laboratories in Half Moon Lane to remain largely unused for the past 25 years. Well yes, admittedly Sir James Black OM had use of the first floor for a number years, and considerable refurbishment took place to accommodate him and his team of pharmacologists. But Sir James died in 2010 and had not been working there for some time before that. In any event, the ground floor, basement and other floors were never used after the Botany Department moved to Kensington in 1984.
Presumably King’s continues to pay the Dulwich Estate the rent due on the extensive premises (three large houses were demolished in the 1950’s to build the laboratories) yet there appear to be no plans to utilise the site and King’s seems quite happy to add to its own expenses to maintain the property. Of course this expense is passed on to its students in the form of higher tuition fees.
Surely this state of affairs cannot be permitted to continue. Building space in London and certainly in Dulwich commands a high premium. Can such waste be allowed to continue for another 25 years?