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1965 to 1979

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the history of Leyton and Leytonstone

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Widespread ownership of a car made a new lifestyle possible, in which ‘middling’ people lived almost exclusively in their own home, their workplace, supermarkets and in their car moving between these, reducing their contact with other people and particularly with the poor.  Leyton was not suited to this new life.  Its housing mainly predated the car, which could often only be parked in the street.  There was little scope for new roads to reduce the congestion from the higher number of vehicles.

Leytonstone High Road was one of the main routes between London and East Anglia.  Traffic levels rose, notably road-borne freight.  The reaction of the highway authorities was to erect barriers at the northern end forcing pedestrians to cross the High Road on a footbridge.  This created an unpleasant environment, encouraging those to leave the area who could, and blighting what had been a fairly up-market shopping centre.

There was no equivalent in Leyton to the complete redevelopment of one side of Stratford Broadway within a gyratory traffic system, and an indoor shopping centre at the centre.

The car seemed the future, and the neglect of public transport facilities presumably reflected a belief their use would diminish to a low level.  For example, most of the grand platform canopies and covered footbridges and stairways on the railway line to Barking were demolished in the 1960s and replaced with small, plain, open-fronted shelters of brick and concrete which would not have been regarded as acceptable for a country bus shelter.  

In 1981 the western end of the railway line from Barking in the east was changed from Kentish Town to Gospel Oak on the North London line between North Woolwich and Richmond, and the frequency was increased from hourly to half-hourly 1.

From the abolition of the GLC in March 1986 expenditure on public transport in London was reduced even further, resulting in very shabby trains and buses, a system to be used only out of necessity.  Leyton as an area with particularly little local employment suffered badly.

1  ‘St Pancras to Barking’ by J E Connor, page X of the 2005 edition