In just six months the campaign for a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the rear of King's Cross Station gathered 1016 signatures to our petition. We are not expecting great things as a result as it is highly likely the government will wash their hands of any involvement in this planning debarcle – Lord Adonis (Transport Minister responsible for rail) has already said this is a local issue for local people to sort out. We are planning to step up the campaign in 2009 with a series of public events as we feel this is a strategic urban regeneration issue with wider importance than that for Camden alone.
The Station is undergoing a £400 million redevelopment programme. For the most part, this is likely to be of great benefit with the ugly plastic frontage being removed to reveal the original Lewis Cubitt design, a new public square where the main Euston Road entrance stands and a brand new semi-circular concourse diagonally opposite the entrance to St Pancras solving the chronic overcrowding problem that has always dogged the station. In the past couple of weeks the internal Handyside footbridge has been removed, a section of scaffolding towards the south eastern edge of the station has gone showing the transformation of the brickwork from dirty brown to the warm yellow of the London stock bricks, a new parapet handrail and new and revamped internal and external windows.
However, there remains one glaring error in the redesign: total lack of permeability. In the new station there will be one entrance and one exit to King’s Cross. Everyone entering will do so through the new concourse. Everyone leaving will do so through what is now the Euston Road entrance. This flies in the face of best practice in urban design, places station users at greater risk should another disaster strike King’s Cross, shuts out the over 17,000 strong local community and ends the potential for a continuous Angel Islington to Marylebone cycle and pedestrian route avoiding the highly congested A501 ring road which includes Pentonville Road, Euston Road and Marylebone Road.
Network Rail and LB Camden (the planning authority for King’s Cross Station) refuse to implement what would be a straightforward solution despite it having the active support of local businesses including P&O Developments, Regents Quarter Ltd and Gratte Brothers, members of the locally based London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the chair of the Greater London Assembly, Deputy Chair of its Transport Committee and the Head of Transport for London, Green Party principle speakers, one of the two local Labour MPs and both Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidates, the vast majority of local councillors as well as the commuting and residential community for whom this design error will have most impact.
The solution? In the context of the current design, recognising that it would not be practical at this stage to go back to the drawing board, a pedestrian and cycle bridge at the rear of the station. Simple. A bridge stood at this position from 1872 until after the first world war. The foundations for it still exist, a remnant of it can be seen at the junction of Wharfdale Road and York Way – but hurry this north eastern entrance to the station will be closing soon as Network Rail builds a new ‘Platform Y’ to take the longer and more modern trains that will hopefully one day run once the tracks to the north are upgraded.
The cost? Network Rail estimates the cost of such a bridge would be £4 million or 1% of the redevelopment budget and very comfortably within its contingency fund. There are possibly reasons why the bridge is not wanted by Network Rail or Argent – the company developing the railway lands site behind the station, but neither is saying anything on that subject.