Local residents have long campaigned for improvement of the dangerous junctions at the York Way, Pentonville, Grays Inn Road intersection. In February 2008 a number of us took part in a walkabout with TfL-commissioned contractors TRL limited and Living Streets for a report into the Kings Cross street environment.
Some months later residents received informal feedback that TfL wasn’t going to publish the report. In October 2008 I used FOI to force publication of the report for this website. The report was damning of the entire street environment in Kings Cross. Sober engineer speak was interspersed with phrases like ‘highly dangerous’.
The TfL-managed York Way, Pentonville Road junction complex was especially heavily criticised.
In respect of this junction the report noted that:
‘road markings are faded and the crossing space is no longer clear’ (p32)
‘it is notable just how aggressive vehicles are at this point’
‘auditors felt that casualties were inevitable…auditors felt that vehicle speeds should be reduced..the carriageway surface was uneven’
‘the key crossing location at the southern end of York way should be redesigned’ (p100)
The report called for ‘proper traffic calming measures’ and ‘enforcing/revising speed limits’ (pages 65-66)
..reduce traffic speeds around the junction by installing traffic calming measures (p72)
If I had not FOI’d the report I suspect it would never have seen the light of day. One would reasonably expect an organisation with an effective safety culture receiving a report like this to take prompt and decisive action. Yet today three years later, the junction is 99% the same. TfL spent taxpayers money on a broad yet detailed report (over 100 pages) on Kings Cross, an area that TfL knew had a prima facie road safety problem. In any bureaucracy a report like this would receive wide circulation. Within TfL’s management structures many must have been aware of and read the report including the phrase ‘casualties were inevitable’.
Yet corporately TfL took a decision not to act upon the report’s recommendations promptly – in the three years since the report was written the entire Kings Cross street environment could have been transformed. Many of the issues raised in the report are basic maintenance. Whilst the Kings Cross gyratory isn’t straightforward it’s only a bit of civil engineering – in the elapsed time since the report an entire Olympic complex has been built out East.
Now someone else is dead. A young woman cyclist on her second day of term at CSM was brutally mown down by a lorry at the York Way,Pentonville Road junction complex. This excellent un-nerving post by Olaf Storbeck over at Cycling Intelligence covers it from a cyclist perspective, The Guardian also covers it. TfL is well used to cyclists being killed at its badly designed junctions. As a cyclist I am well used to dicing with death on them. What’s unusual here is that TfL has had for over three years a report it commissioned condemning the junction concerned upon which it has failed to act. There was organisation failure inside TfL. The Camden New Journal in a good piece of work reveals that the TfL 'Kings Cross Junction Improvement Programme' has been delayed.
How can we hold TfL accountable for this?
The Kings Cross community has campaigned at length to have this junction improved. The situation is complex – roads in both Camden and Islington, mainly Camden controlled by TfL – Tfl is responsible for the entire gyratory. The Mayor is in charge of TfL so we need to lobby our London Assembly Member Jeanette Arnold to lobby the Mayor. But i don’t hold out much hope of that – our community work has been ignored for too long.
Work by Camden on the West of York Way buts up badly with any changes to the junction. Cllr Convery (Islington) says in correspondence with Sean on York Way:
'I have badgered TfL to give us a clearer timeline on implementing the TfL junction scheme. It’s getting really urgent now … I am quite startled by how busy the junction has become with pedestrians spilling-off the pavement at peak times. One further problem is meshing Camden’s York Way pavement widening scheme and the TfL junction scheme. The missing “join” between Camden’s pavement widening and the TfL pavement is absolutely dreadful. It’s interesting that the widening has had a desired effect and many more people using the west side of York Way … but walking southwards they get funnelled into a terrible jam at the bus stops. It’s quite dangerous too.'
I’d welcome suggestions from readers as to what we could do. TfL’s bureaucracy has failed to prioritise resolving a ‘highly dangerous’ situation. There seems to me to be negligence here in not taking timely substantive action upon a crystal clear report TfL had itself commissioned. I suspect that TfL has a charge of corporate manslaughter to answer.
The 2007 ‘Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act’ says:
An organisation ..is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised
(a)causes a person's death, and (b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased….An organisation is guilty of an offence …only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach referred to’
‘a breach of a duty of care by an organisation is a “gross” breach if the conduct alleged to amount to a breach of that duty falls far below what can reasonably be expected of the organisation in the circumstances’
A “relevant duty of care”, in relation to an organisation, means any of the following duties owed by it under the law of negligence—
…..the carrying on by the organisation of any construction or maintenance operations,..
“construction or maintenance operations” means operations of any of the following descriptions..construction, installation, alteration, extension, improvement, repair, maintenance, decoration, cleaning, demolition or dismantling of…any building or structure…anything else that forms, or is to form, part of the land’
So I am going to find a way to ensure that the Coroner in this case is informed of the existence of the 2008 report and write to the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service who is responsible for prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter Act. If anyone has any legal advice support or contacts to offer (pro bono) they would be gratefully received. If anyone is reading this at CSM, the Guardian or other major local employers please pitch in with your resources.
Picture credit: Daniel's Counter