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New London station bamboozles visiting Beatles fans

LONDON (Reuters) - It has to be the most famous pedestrian crossing in the world, immortalized by the Beatles on the cover of their Abbey Road album in 1969.
/ Source: Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - It has to be the most famous pedestrian crossing in the world, immortalized by the Beatles on the cover of their Abbey Road album in 1969.

Situated just outside the north London EMI studios, the crossing enjoys listed status for its "cultural and historical importance" and draws thousands of tourists every year.

But a growing number of visitors hoping to take photos of themselves recreating the enigmatic, single-file crossing of the famous foursome are finding themselves in a very different part of London - thanks to a railway station.

Since the station was built last year and named after another Abbey Road at least 10 miles away, tourists have been descending on the distinctly less glamorous east London neighborhood of West Ham.

Instead of the leafy mansions and prim tree-lined streets one might expect of one of the most expensive postcodes in Britain, visitors are met with a train depot and a series of industrial parks.

"There are always loads of tourists here," said 68 year old local resident Jack Walker. "They get here, look around, wonder where the crossing is, find out it's on the other side of London, and head back to the station."

Tourist misfortune, however, sometimes makes for much local hilarity.

Rui Araujo, a council patrol officer, recalls watching a young American couple mimicking the group's famous crosswalk pose, apparently unaware that the pock-marked east London zebra-crossing bears little resemblance to the real thing.

Kirpal Singh is not complaining though. His Star Newsagents has seen a daily average of 30-40 additional customers, many of whom buy bus passes or stock up on drinks and chocolate to sustain themselves on the long trek back across the city.

But while a few East London Abbey Road shops have benefited from the mix-up, a number of St John's Wood businesses -- situated in the leafy residential district that is home to Abbey Road Studios -- are failing to see the funny side.

Blaming the confusion and corresponding loss of tourist revenue on the construction of the Docklands Light Railway link (DLR) at East London Abbey Road, they are lobbying Transport for London (TfL) to change the name of the offending station.

"It was a bigger problem over the summer when everybody was already out in east London and using the DLR for the Olympics, but it's still an issue for us, as numbers are down" said Zoe Waterman of the Beatles coffee shop.

Thus far, however, TfL have shown no inclination to change tack.

"It is unfortunate that some visitors sometimes get confused by the odd duplicate place names in our large and varied city... but, this situation is also a reminder that nothing beats some in-depth research," a spokesman said.

Australian tourist Sam Wharton offered a slightly more nuanced take as he photographed the real crossing: "I had no difficulties in finding this place, you've got to be a bit dim to go to the wrong end of London, right?"

For the record, those thinking of visiting the real thing will find St John's Wood tube station a considerably more convenient starting point than Abbey Road.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)