Tens of thousands of local people, hundreds of local businesses and increasing numbers of visitors from the north and across Europe remain at the mercy of the lethal poor design and dangerous emissions health hazard that is the King’s Cross gyratory– a one way system including Euston Road, York Way, Wharfdale Road, Caledonian Road, Pentonville Road, King’s Cross Bridge and Gray’s Inn Road. Complete lack of access across the immediate rear of King’s Cross Station forces pedestrian and cycle traffic to mingle with buses, heavy goods vehicles, cars and vans adding to their distress, discomfort and high risk of accident.
This campaign is calling for a pedestrian and cycle bridge, one that has been promised by developers and authorities for many years. This promise is being reneged on. As time slips by, the planning deadline for the bridge, 2012, creeps closer. Unless construction of the bridge starts by 2012 it will be forever lost. The bridge is an essential element of any solution to the King’s Cross gyratory nightmare. Other elements include:
- a complete overhaul of the one-way system, particularly removing one-way traffic from the entire length of York Way;
- improvements to traffic flow to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over traffic;
- removal of sheep pens at crossings;
- increased crossing times for pedestrians;
- crossings and pedestrian traffic flows that take disabled people and families into account; and
- safer cycle lanes.
In the hands of a strategic authority with a clear remit governing development of the gyratory even this long list of improvements should be possible. But King’s Cross has no such strategic body. It isn’t just the complex road layout that gives us sleepless nights, it’s the incomprehensible list of planners, developers and traffic management bodies commissioning an ever increasing number of studies, surveys, reports and strategies.
A senior transport planner at Islington Council explains:
“The borough boundary between Camden and Islington runs through the middle of York Way, Pentonville Road and King’s Cross Road. Pentonville Road, Euston Road and King’s Cross Road are part of the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) and thus maintained by Transport for London. For borough boundary roads that are not part of the TLRN there is a maintenance agreement between the two boroughs: one of the two boroughs maintains the road. In this instance York Way is maintained by Camden Council. Wharfdale Road and Caledonian Road are local roads that fall fully in Islington, and are therefore maintained by Islington.”
Important to note that despite being responsible for maintaining the York Way section of the gyratory, Camden has no voters on this side of the station; as a result it is not directly democratically accountable for its actions there.
On top of this, Network Rail, St Pancras International and Argent King’s Cross as key developers in the area are all having a massive influence in the way traffic of all kinds moves about. Both Argent and Network Rail have publicly supported pedestrian and cycle friendly initiatives such as the Battlebridge Crossing the local community is calling for. But Network Rail refuses to fund the bridge and behind closed doors Argent’s view is very different to the one they espouse in public.
At a recent meeting of the Camden Square Neighbourhood Association, Argent boss Roger Madelin was asked about the footbridge and he made it clear there was zero support from Argent. This maybe because any access at the Wharfdale Road level would mess up their plans to have a continuous row of high rise offices buildings all along the south west aspect of the track. Madelin indicated that by looking at the case for the bridge Islington Council were indulging a folly, wasting tax payers money on re-investigating the business case for the bridge because it would be of no benefit to the users/residents of the “think Canary Wharf” King’s Cross Central redevelopment.
Meanwhile, community activists asked Islington Council to produce a document mapping all of the studies into traffic issues currently taking place in and around King’s Cross. The result makes spaghetti junction look sane:
There are calls for a new strategic look at King’s Cross, seen to be more important now that private investment is tailing off and the London Development Agency’s programme from King’s Cross to Finsbury Park has ended. Cllr Paul Convery explains:
“There is some enthusiasm for this from the bodies involved. I have also asked senior officials within Islington to start thinking about a new vehicle to renew the drive for an integrated economic, social and environmental approach to King’s Cross”.
It is this strategic body taking a sustainable stance that is missing. Without it King’s Cross will remain a hotch potch of bad traffic management design. Unfortunately the need for this is urgent and the ability of Camden and Islington Councils, Transport for London, the Greater London Assembly and the Mayor’s Office to move fast and in a similar direction is questionable. King’s Cross needs taking in hand and it needs that right now.