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Tube station closed to head off dispute

London Underground (LU) closed a key tube station for eight months for an escalator replacement because it would rather antagonise its passengers than a developer, one MP claimed this week.

Shepherd’s Bush station was closed in February until December for refurbishment works chiefly comprising the installation of a new escalator (NCE 7 February).

After viewing documents made available under the Freedom of Information Act, Labour MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush Andy Slaughter told NCE that LU could have kept the station open during the works, but opted to close it to ensure completion before the opening of a shopping mall development by Australian firm Westfield.

"Effectively, LU decided that the needs of thousands of potential customers for the Westfield development were more important than the 20,000 actual commuters who used the station daily," said Slaughter.

The Freedom of Information documents, also seen by NCE, show that at a contract and asset management meeting held by London Underground in December 2007, the option of installing a “high-capacity staircase” as part of below ground works would have enabled the station to retain two-way operation during the escalator replacement.

Other options considered were to have the station as exit only, but all these were dismissed in favour of complete closure following a number concerns regarding the risk of overruns on the escalator programme.

Among the risks identified by LU, the late completion of works impacting on the opening of Westfield’s retail development was first. Weighing up the pros and cons of station closure, LU identified that such a situation could lead to an 'adversarial Westfield' and this was a "significantly worse" risk than the "adverse reaction of stakeholders and customers".

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