Let us back through – was our route stolen during WW1?

Map 1849Many thanks to Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre on Theobalds Road who spent a great deal of time last week helping to uncover the mysteries of our east/west route across what is now King’s Cross Station. We begin in 1849, before the station existed. Towards the bottom of the picture on the left is the land that would, within the next three years, become the station. Running top to bottom is Suffolk Street, later to be named Battlebridge Road. Frustratingly, maps of this time always ended at the borough boundary which is now called York Way and was then Maiden Lane. The route from Suffolk Street to Maiden Lane can clearly be seen, it is this very route that we want restored to the community. (Click on the map to enlarge it, right click to open it in a new window or to save a copy.) It may seem like a long time ago… but follow the story to see where we end up!

Map 1860With the Great Northern Railway station completed, the map shown from 1860 shows Congreve Street has been replaced by a road bridge across the new railway tracks, but the Suffolk Street route is missing. Goodsway doesn’t yet exist.

Map 1874In 1872 the Great Northern Railway company (GNR) applied to St Pancras Parish Council to build a bridge across the tracks taking what was now named Battlebridge Road across the tracks to York Road – present day York Way. This would restore the east/west route that had existed for centuries and had been missing in the original plan for the station. There was some difficulty getting the bridge built. Some of the land required for the bridge was owned by the Midland Railway company and had to be aquired by GNR. Competition between the two companies resulted in this being a long protracted process. St Pancras Parish Council stepped in. Vestry Minutes dating back to 1872 show councillors pressing GNR to make progress on building the bridge which had not, by then, been started. GNR told the council of their difficulty with Midland Railway and of problems purchasing the iron needed for construction. By 1874 the bridge was complete, as shown on the Ordnance Survey (OS) map on the left.

Map 1914The bridge survived for many years. It appears on the OS map of 1914, below right. By then, the Congreve Street bridge had been removed, just a stub remains, it’s original underpass is shown as a diagonal cross below the basin, next to a signal point. Goodsway still doesn’t exist.

Map 1922The first available post World War 1 map is the OS of 1922. Suddenly Battlebridge Road now stops on the western side of the tracks, the bridge has gone. Goodsway has now been built and joins Battlebridge Road at the far western end. Although the original east/west route has disappeared, Lewis Cubbit’s original design for the station including the current entrance at the junction of Wharfdale Road and York Way remains. This gives some access across the tracks via the Handyside Bridge inside the station.

Bringing us right up to date… the Handyside Bridge is to be demolished in the current station redevelopment. A new ‘Platform Y’ will result in closure of the Wharfdale Road/York Way entrance. For the first time in centuries there will be no east/west route at the mid-point of what is now King’s Cross Station joining the two substantial communities of King’s Cross and Somers Town on either side. And they call this progress…

Canal Museum is on board

London Canal Museum logoThe London Canal Museum which sits on the Regent’s Canal at Battlebridge Basin (entrance in New Wharf Road just off Wharfdale Road) has pledged support to the campaign today saying,

“The future prosperity of the Museum is affected by the access issue”

We are looking forward to working with the Museum in a variety of ways to Open Up King’s Cross Station for all using the north eastern side of the area for its rich business, social and cultural facilities.

If you haven’t visited the Canal Museum yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. See the one remaining original ice pit built by Carlo Gatti in the 1860s to store ice imported from Norway and distributed across the capital from King’s Cross (the pit reminds me of a famous scene from Silence of the Lambs – tell the kids, they’ll love it!). See the Bantam IV tug, a lovely little boat moored just outside the museum. Get one of the best views of Battlebridge Basin which has long been home to a lively narrow boat community, now joined by new residential, leisure and commercial developments on the canal side. A little piece of the many hidden riches of King’s Cross.

Conservatives set to meet Network Rail

Conservatives logoA huge vote of thanks to Stephen Hammond MP, Shadow Transport Minister with responsibility for rail. He says,

“I think it is imperative that access to the station is as easy as possible for as many people as possible.”

He has been in touch with Network Rail and it looks like they’ve given him the same reasoning as they are giving everyone else:

1. Cost of the bridge would be prohibitive
2. A bridge would be of limited benefit to commuters
3. A bridge would not benefit the station or the taxpayer
4. Getting to the Western Concourse via York Way will be safe and easy

In giving these reasons Network Rail states:

“While the access [at Wharfdale Rd/York Way] is seen as a legitimate entrance point it is not a designated right of way and only used by a small proportion of people using the station”

They reiterate the ‘offer’ of a total of £1 million to improve York Way (part of their Section 106 agreement with the planning authority) and state there are several other initiatives in place which will help to make the station a beacon for the community.

We’ve always said, you could gold plate the whole of York Way but it will never be a safe walking route to anywhere. It will always be busy, polluted and dangerous. It seems odd that a station can be said to be a beacon for a community when its owners have literally turned their backs on us.

Stephen Hammond will be meeting Network Rail next month when he will seek assurances that the company is doing all it can to accommodate the needs of residents on the north-eastern side of the station. Watch this space…

Lib Dems are minding our PQs

LibDem logoA huge vote of thanks goes to Norman Baker MP, Lib Dem Shadow Transport Secretary. He has tabled Parliamentary Questions to the Department of Transport regarding the closure of the north eastern entrance to the station and what considerations for local residents were taken into account when the decision was made. The Lib Dem London Team are very active on this issue, from local councillors, prospective Parliamentary Candidates right through to Greater London Assembly Members. Of particular note, Bridget Fox is keeping the issue alive  on her Guardian blog.

Good neighbours…

The list of neighbourly neighbours is steadily growing. At first, a company that would prefer to remain nameless produced 5,000 colour leaflets to enable us to publicise the public meeting held last month.

Gratte BrothersThen, one of the UK’s largest independently owned building services companies, Gratte Brothers based in Regent’s Wharf, donated five  large scale full colour exhibition panels produced to our design. These were first shown at the public meeting and will be on show at events right through to Christmas.

P&O EstatesAnd now P&O Estates, have kindly contacted us to say:

“We still have an ongoing commitment to the area in the form of Regent Quarter Block D and are concerned over the loss of access / permeability into Kings Cross Station from York Way and as such will also be supportive of the campaign”.

The businesses based here, large and small, will all be badly hit should Network Rail continue to refuse to fund the much needed pedestrian and cycle bridge that would go some way to replacing the original Wharfdale Road entrance to the station that will be lost because they need to build a new, longer platform. We will continue to press Network Rail to take responsibility for their actions and consider the needs of their ‘lineside neighbours’. I wonder… does shutting out an entire community of neighbours from their local transport hub constitute anti-social behaviour?

Thank the Lord

House of Lords website bannerExcellent news from the House of Lords. In response to our plea below, a well known Peer has today offered to make our views known to Network Rail.

Dear Lord …,

… I am sure you will be unable to enter into a lengthy correspondence with us on this, but I would like to raise just three points in response to the information Network Rail have supplied.

First, and almost on an emotional level, our community sees the station as an integral component. Its history has shaped our community for over 156 years and in all that time we have had access using the entry point at Wharfdale Road that is part of the original Cubitt design. I have been privileged to have lived here for 20 years and to have walked though that entrance almost every day. I now find it a bittersweet experience, like many in our community I am a huge fan of this wonderful station. I find it difficult to put into words how deeply saddened I am that we will lose this historically important entrance to our station. I do understand the foresight Network Rail is showing in building the new Platform Y, and so, despite this great sadness, I completely accept the need for this closure.

Secondly, it is partly in response to calls from our community that Network Rail will be removing the horrible plastic façade at the front of the station. We have long wanted to have the original frontage fully revealed and are very pleased and excited that this is to happen. Our community is not nay-saying this much needed redevelopment. Far from it, for the most part we too wholly welcome the changes afoot.

Lastly, we believe that Network Rail is spoiling the ship for a ha-penny’s worth of tar. The redevelopment is an opportunity to increase the capacity of the station, which is vital. It is an opportunity to celebrate key elements of Cubitt’s vision. It should also be an opportunity to acknowledge the importance and impact of the station to the site on which it sits.  It feels like a punch in the gut to end up feeling so very excluded from the station I have loved since I first used it as a fifteen year old travelling to Leeds back in 1979 and have used on a daily basis for the last twenty years. But I am just one individual; the community on the eastern side of the station faces multiple deprivation and high levels of youth crime resulting partly from our young people feeling disaffected and ignored by the changes around them. Islington is notoriously a polarised borough with wealth and poverty existing cheek by jowl. New developments should be attempting to ameliorate the negative aspects of this wherever possible.  The effect of Network Rail’s closure of the Wharfdale Road entrance and its refusal to build a bridge to replace this loss will be to further alienate our community. The loss of this access not only shuts us out of the station, the underground and St Pancras International but also signals a distinction between the existing community and the new King’s Cross Central development that can only exacerbate this polarisation. A bridge would cost less than 1% of Network Rail’s redevelopment budget for King’s Cross. We are not asking for something unattainable.

Sophie Talbot