Chaos and complexity rules for traffic in King’s Cross

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:
Studies in King's Cross
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.

A sad day approaches…

Eastern entrance closesAs the scaffolding on the eastern side of King’s Cross Station is taken down, the day the north eastern exit closes comes ever closer.

It won’t be too long now… The Eastern Range is looking wonderful – new fittings, paintwork and spruced up brickwork revealing the warm golden glow of London stock bricks. Now we need to really press all the powers that be – the Government, Transport for London and the Greater London Assembly, Network Rail, LB Camden and LB Islington to get together to find the funds to replace our long-lost bridge at the junction of York Way and Wharfdale Road to replace the current entrance there. LB Islington are doing all they can (see Tribune article below), now what about everyone else?  Closure notice eastern entrance-500wi
Contact us if you can give any time, experience or expertise to the campaign to open up King’s Cross Station.
Islington Tribune 30 January 2009
Islington Tribune 30 January 2009-500wi

Campaign to meet in March

With spring on the horizon, local campaigners are getting set to plan out the strategy to create a walking and cycling route from the Angel to Marylebone, all away from the dangerously high emission zone of the A501 ring road. To do this, we need to get the powers that be to build a bridge across the tracks at the rear of King’s Cross Station.

Walking/cycling route Angel to Marylebone

If you have any time, expertise or experience you can give to the campaign, do contact us. If you can make our meeting early evening 3rd March all the better (contact us for details). If we don’t see you there, hope to hear from you soon!

Urgent – walking/cycling gets the heave ho at KX Central

King's Cross CentralBehind King’s Cross Station one of the biggest regeneration programmes in Europe is underway: King’s Cross Central, developer: Argent. Argent’s planning application for the new Sainsbury’s HQ is with LB Camden and the committee meeting to consider the application takes place at Camden Town Hall this Thursday – very sorry for the short notice, entirely my fault.

One big problem with this unimaginative building is the complete lack of thought that has been given to pedestrians and cyclists – this seems to be a recurring theme in and around King’s Cross. You can help raise awareness about this by putting in a very short comment to Camden saying the pavements need to be wider and more thought needs to be given generally to pedestrians and cyclists using the new streets surrounding Sainsbury’s HQ.
A template response can be found on the King’s Cross Development Forum website. Feel free to use this as the basis for your own response – just jiggle it into your own words and submit it online here with a copy to the Development Forum.

Network Rail in communications debarcle – again!

To Alastair Metcalfe
Network Rail
27 December 2008
Thankyou for circulating the letter last week regarding works to remove the Handyside Bridge at King’s Cross Station. One small point, I live in a block of flats. I realise for many commuters, including those working for Network Rail, the concept of living in an inner city block of flats is likely to be somewhat foreign, however it would be very helpful if next time a letter is circulated to give warning of disruptions resulting from works it is circulated to each flat. I was fortunate enough to pick up the single letter delivered to our entire block which was addressed to ‘The Occupier’. I then pinned the letter up on the wall so that everyone could see it – however it could so easily have been opened by any other tenant who may not have been so community spirited in ensuring that all occupiers got to see the contents.
I wonder if ypu might be able to find out whether Ian Fry ever intends to reply to my letter to him dated 7 October 2008 (a copy of which can be seen at This is the second time a letter sent to Ian has taken several months to elicit even an acknowledgement. I have before asked whether Network Rail’s espoused policy of community engagement is a one way street, with Network Rail telling us what is going to happen rather than asking our views or responding to points we make. This latest example of one-way communication seems to confirm my worst fears. If there is anything you can do to help get a response to my letter which raises critical points about Network Rail’s propensity to double-speak I would be very grateful indeed.
Sophie Talbot

Phil Jeffries

Phil JeffriesAs a direct result of Phil Jeffries campaign work, King’s Cross is a better place than it would have been without him.

Further, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link is a better design than it would have been without him.
And those are just two examples of the difference he made to our community.

Phil died of cancer last week and all involved in this campaign I’m sure would want to mark his passing. A full obituary will appear on our parent site on Sunday. Anyone wishing to share their memories of Phil and good wishes for his partner Diana, please leave your comments on that site.

Meanwhile, Phils obituary has been published on King’s Cross Development Forum’s site and on King’s Cross Railway Lands Group site.

He will be very, very sorely missed both by those close to him and by those, like me, who have benefited from his work from a distance. Our thoughts are with Diana…

If I was a rich man….

A friend of mine recently posed this question as she was working on some exercises based on Fiddler on the Roof at drama school. It got me thinking….

Fiddler on the RoofOne thing I’d love to do is to buy the entire Zone A plot of King’s Cross Central, then chair a partnership with Argent, Network Rail, LB Camden and LB Islington to turn the lot – Zone A plus a wide bridge across the tracks at the back of King’s Cross Station (like Exchange Square at Liverpool St Station), into a huge public open space complete with waterfall, kids play areas, youth hang out zones, permanent memorials to Lisa Pontecorvo and Phil Jeffries, space for a bit of street theatre, viewing platform for train enthusiasts, space for Camley Street to raise awareness about local urban wildlife, really attractive and grabbing signage to Somers Town and South Caledonian Road, little plaques explaining local history and showing where buildings like Culross used to be and why they were important, and much, much more.


Now that really would be a community gain!!!