King’s Cross the inaccessible station

Footbridge_over_tracks_composite So Network Rail’s feasibility study into replacing the northeastern entrance to the station (by Wharfdale Road) with a footbridge (like the one our community wants, pictured) is complete. What a surprise, their consultants recommend that it is not feasible. Now we all really need to make a big noise… So, get your emails and pens going.

Here’s the letter Network Rail have sent to some residents on York Way Download network_rail_letter.pdf

Please, please email Network Rail and Network Rail’s Major Programme Director. Copy in your MP, local councillors, the chair of TfL’s Transport Committee, as well as the local and regional press and anyone else you can think of that might listen.

Here’s my response:

Dear Alistair,

I have just read the letter from Andy Mitchell, Major Programme Director at Network Rail stating that they will close the northeastern entrance to King’s Cross station never to replace it. I am appalled for several reasons:

1. Ignoring the local community
Network Rail committed to engaging with the King’s Cross community during redevelopment works by keeping us informed and by holding quarterly meetings with station stakeholders. They have reneged on both commitments. A letter giving the news that there is to be no replacement for the original northeastern entrance to the station was sent to a very limited number of local residents, not to the community as a whole. I was only sent a copy of the letter because I have previously written to Network Rail about this issue. No further meetings have taken place with the community since an initial meeting on 21 November 2007. Meetings with the community should have been scheduled by Network Rail in February and May of this year, Network Rail has failed to do this. Network Rail stated they would engage with LB Islington and it’s residents as, in most cases, we will be more directly affected by the redevelopment than will LB Camden residents. Again, Network Rail has failed to do this and continues in this failure as reflected by the letter dated 10 June.

2. Excluding the community
The King’s Cross community is generally proud of its local stations. Not only are we regular station users, but the rich history of King’s Cross and St Pancras is part of our history. We often appear to be a unusual community by others, for example our nearest big shops are in the stations – it is in the station where I pick up by prescriptions, buy a birthday card and so on. The local community has always borne the brunt of station development and redevelopment. For myself, I have lived here for twenty years during which time the stations and immediate areas have always been undergoing redevelopment whether in planning or construction stages. This will be be so for at least another twenty years, by which time I will be in my mid 60s – a lifetime. By closing the northeastern entrance to King’s Cross a brick curtain cutting through our community will be completely sealed. Pedestrians will have to walk three times as far as they currently do to reach the entrances of either station. We will be effectively excluded from being an integral part of our community and will become peripheral to it.

3. Limiting the options
At the LB Camden Planning Committee meeting that gave approval to the current plan for redevelopment despite very strong community protest, Network Rail stated that one option to be considered in the feasibility study would be a footbridge from the existing northeastern entrance to or close to the new concourse. Network Rail failed to instruct its consultants, ARUP, to do this.

4. A deficient feasibility study
The feasibility study carried out by ARUP has failed to consult with the King’s Cross community. This is a glaring omission on either Network Rail’s part in specifying the parameters for the study, or by ARUP in carrying out a limited study. I have not yet seen the report but would be fairly sure even so, that this will have resulted in an incomplete piece of work that any definition of good practice would label poor quality and require correcting.

5. The expected outcome
Throughout the planning application process, and during Network Rail’s very limited contact with the King’s Cross community, Network Rail has stated that there will be no northeastern entrance and that the community should be satisfied with £1 million to be spent by them and LB Camden on improvements to York Way. The King’s Cross community has continually stated that improvements to York Way will absolutely not make up for the loss of access from the northeastern end of the station. It is of no surprise to King’s Cross residents that the outcome of the inadequate feasibility study is exactly what Network Rail wanted in the first place. The additional £1/4 million does not solve the problem. That no study has taken place independent of Network Rail results in this report being highly questionable. No consultancy of whatever size could be expected to produce a report for an organisation the size of Network Rail that would fly in the face of their client’s wishes – it just does not happen.

6. A derisory alternative
No LB Camden residents live in the area of York Way that falls within the King’s cross community. LB Camden has never adequately managed this section of the road, understandably as they have no voters to cater for here. Even now there are at least seven potentially dangerous pedestrian crossings on this section of York Way; at least two desire lines from the immediate station area to the eastern side of York Way urgently requiring pedestrian crossings that have not been provided; pavements that are of inadequate width for anyone, let alone wheelchair users and those with pushchairs and children; further desire lines just to the north for pedestrian travel to schools, housing estates, parks, shops and a range of other amenities that need crossings; and last but not least, a major bus depot sited on the roadside of York Way that cannot be moved. Additional complications arise for LB Camden in managing York Way for the benefit of the LB Islington residents that use it: the King’s Cross gyratory system is overseen by Transport for London (TfL). TfL have to approve alterations to road layout and this has proven to be a lengthy process. Having lived here for twenty years I am tired by the number of feasibility studies, traffic counts, reports and so on that we have seen, the latest being a ‘walkability’ review carried out by Living Streets for TfL on the seven major rail stations in London, including King’s Cross/St Pancras. To date, TfL have not released the report and the King’s cross community is left none the wiser as to its recommendations or whether any of them will see the light of day. Again, unsurprising that the King’s Cross community is left high and dry because a major road is managed by two large organisations who apparently find communication problematic. To now add Network Rail into the mix will only exacerbate the situation. Leaving LB Islington out of the mix, even though this would further complicate matters for planners and developers, results in the community having no voice in the layout of York Way despite being the very people who use it.

7. A PR disaster
Network Rail has a PR problem, we all know that and see it regularly in the media. It is therefore almost unbelievable that they would not go out of their way to ensure a good PR job on a major flagship project that will impact on a community of residents as well as other domestic and international station users. Yet this is what Network Rail has done. Throughout this process they have chosen a path that sets them against the King’s Cross community and this can only do further harm to their reputation.

Sophie Talbot
King’s Cross Community Projects

About Sophie Talbot

Sophie runs a small business designing websites for small businesses and community groups. She also manages King's Cross Community Projects
This entry was posted in #googlebridgeKX, Kings Cross Station Refurbishment. Bookmark the permalink.

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