On 12 February 2017, Custom House Station closed for redevelopment, prior to the opening of the new Elizabeth line in December 2018.
But where does that leave the local businesses which set up shop near a normally busy station which will now remain closed for nearly two years?
Businesses like the Nisa discount store, the newsagent’s and the local Starbucks: their footfall is bound to have gone down now that commuters are having to walk to other Docklands Light Railway stations such as Prince Regent and Royal Victoria.
Nisa store owner Nilesh said: “It’s had a massive impact on our business. I’d say we’re down around 12-15% each week. We are open from 8am-6pm and there have been a few occasions where we’ve had to send staff home around 4pm and shut early.” He added “we used to be really busy between 4pm and 6pm with people coming home from work, but now there’s nothing to do.”
I also spoke with a shop assistant at the newsagent on Freemason’s Road, who preferred to remain anonymous. He said: “two people have already lost their jobs because four people working is too much. We’re losing £600 – £1000 a week. Saturdays and Sundays are OK, but during the week – no one.” He concluded that “the whole street will struggle”
It’s not just the locals who are struggling. Another victim of the Custom House closure is the local branch of the Starbucks franchise. Manager Andy noted that the outlet has taken a huge hit since the station closed. He went on to say that, “staff hours are being cut and I know they have bills and rent to pay. One girl travels from Essex, so when we have to send people home we try to send those who are local.” He explained that before the closure “on a busy day we’d take around £5k, but now some days we’re lucky if we take £1.2k.”
Profits are down, wastage is up, costs are up – who knows how many of these businesses will last until a bigger, better station re-opens in time for 2019?
In response, Transport for London stated that: “With all due respect TFL does not have any obligations to keep any particular station open in order to benefit surrounding or local business”, adding that “the area around Custom House station is being developed in anticipation of an additional 5,500 customers who are expected to interchange in the morning peak when Elizabeth line services operate from the new station in December 2018.”
Passing trade may well increase after the station is re-opened, but that is cold comfort to the local businesses who are struggling now.