It is not all lost for Kings Cross. Sadiq Khan has announced that the TFL controlled bits of the gyratory will become a 20 Miles Speed Zone by October 2022, and some of the junctions around Kings Cross will receive further development by 2024.
However, the big plans to change the entirety of the gyratory, which has seen record pollution levels over the years and cycle fatalities, have been axed, apparently due to the lack of finance based on the pandemic (see below).
We think the plans should be brought back as the long term vision instead.
The Kings Cross community first highlighted the need for change in the early 2000s. A first consultation, however, led to nothing. It was and still is one of the most polluted and noisiest areas of London in its entirety. Most maps on pollution had streets like Swinton Street, Acton Street, Grays Inn Road and Kings Cross Road in the darkest, worst affected colours (see below).
In other words, residents who mostly live in housing association flats, with little choice to recourse, suffered illegal pollution levels for decades, even if some positive improvements came through the introduction of stronger emission standards.
After much campaigning in the 2010s, a plan commissioned under Boris Johnson as London mayor that had significant improvements went through the full consultation stage in 2016. Residents expected it to be implemented soon thereafter (see below for the details).
But it was just before election time. Johnson would not stand, and so the author wrote to Sadiq Khan if he would upkeep the promised to the area. He agreed (see below).
But then came HS2, and the community was told that plans were on hold because lorries for the redevelopment of HS2 needed some roads for parking. But in the last five years, Kings Cross has not seen a single HS2 lorry parked. It was a hold up for nothing that now appears to have cost Kings Cross its promised redevelopment.
This is because the mayor has just told Anne Clarke, the GLA representative for Camden Who asked a question on my request), that he and his team had shelved the plans. Earlier it was noticed that suddenly the plans had disappeared from TFL’s website all over sudden, without consultation or announcement.
The 20 Mile speed reduction promise came about because, I had asked Khan, if as a temporary measure up until the plans were implemented, we could also have a 20 miles Zone because of the area that suffered from frequent speeding for years. It was thought of as being in line with some speed reductions implemented during the pandemic elsewhere.
He agreed (see https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2020/3452) but needed another reminder this year, and now needs until October 2022 to put up a few speed reduction signs, something that happened in lockdown within 12 weeks. It appears that this is all he is prepared to do now, a few road signs on the edge of the road, subject to finance.
By the way, despite the changes we were waiting for, we did not get a single pandemic related change along the gyratory streets. They were implemented by a different team, I was told, that was not the one dealing with the list of priority areas, which was on furlough.
Khan always used careful language in his responses. It was always “subject to funding.” I have therefore asked Anne Clarke to request what the cost analysis was here. 1. How much more would it have cost to implement the full plan? How does it compare with the current plans of just doing the junctions and implementing a lowering of the speed limit? 2. What are the areas now left out for improvements (we think Acton Street, Swinton Street, Kings Cross Road, possibly Caledonian Road and Pentonville Road),.
It appears that Covid-19 is now the best excuse to axe infrastructure plans, regardless of how long they were in the waiting lane. For Kings Cross, this is a bitter pill to swallow after such a long time, and years ago, people even told me that they started campaigning in the 1970s when huge HGV lorries parked here. So it certainly goes back a long time.
The 2016 plans should be seen as the long term vision that TFL works towards. Shelving it is too harsh a decision to make. The vision should remain, even if money is not there at the moment. Camden and TFL have implemented some of the changes that connect to it already, such as a cycle connection from Kings Cross Road / Farringdon Street to Euston Road via Judd Street and cycle lanes on Grays Inn Road.
We are also London, and we are London that had to live with the biggest inner-city pollution. We deserve better. Give us back our hope, Sadiq!
See also Article in Construction News https://premierconstructionnews.com/2016/09/08/changes-kings-cross-gyratory/