A curious little story erupted while I was away, with a proposal to rename Maze Hill station “East Greenwich”. Commenters on the greenwich.co.uk website generally didn’t seem too keen on the idea. While I can see why local traders might not be too happy with a slightly cryptic name for their railway station, I also think it should stay as it is.
I’d imagine, to be honest, that people who are confused by a train station not having a place name in its title would still get lost anyway, purely because it’s not on the Tube network. (I say this after trying to guide some pals to The Pilot Inn on Saturday night, who had to travel there by 108 bus from north of the river and duly, and inexplicably, ended up at the Holiday Inn roundabout in an awful tizz.)
Maze Hill’s also the local station for a great chunk of Blackheath, it’s referred to in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, and a large part of east Greenwich is also served by Westcombe Park station down the line. Another suggestion, to call it “Greenwich Park”, could also risk confusion – for much of the park is closer to Greenwich station. (A long-buried branch line to a station called Greenwich Park lies underneath the Hotel Ibis and behind Royal Hill.)
Maybe the only way around it would be to rename Greenwich as “West Greenwich” and then Maze Hill as “East Greenwich”, but then that’s getting complicated. Station renamings tend to leave a funny taste in the mouth anyway – older south Londoners still greet mention of “Surrey Quays” with a long, withering stare. Perhaps one way to boost things could be to shift the zone 2/3 boundary from Greenwich to Maze Hill to encourage onward travel and align it with North Greenwich Tube station. That’s a whole new can of worms, although that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be investigated.
What does intrigue me, though, is how the east side of Greenwich is starting to get an identity of its own. I grew up there, and “east Greenwich” was only ever used to emphasise its (then) ungentrified nature, compared with posher west Greenwich, or in reference to the old gas works. Otherwise, it was all just “Greenwich”, whether you were nearer Farmdale Road or Langdale Road.
Now with a traders’ association representing local businesses, and plans for a “cultural corridor” for 2012, together with continuing redevelopment along the Peninsula, there’s plenty of laudable efforts to make the east side sing as loudly as the west side, together with efforts by groups like Stream Arts to commemorate the history and communities of the area. If these efforts continue, then slowly, but surely, the east will carry on rising. And then everyone will know where Maze Hill station leads to.