Google, you can really make a difference for London cyclists

The notorious King’s Cross gyratory including junctions on the A501 ring road – Euston Rd/Gray’s Inn Rd/ Pancras Rd/York Way – has had more than its fair share of cyclist injury and fatality. Time to stop this, if Google built GooglebridgeKX, a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists completing the link from The Angel to Marylebone it would make a massive difference. Meanwhile, here’s the petition calling on the Mayor to take action. Hint to Google – how about teaming up with Transport for London to design a fab safe bridge from York Way to King’s Boulevard?

Why GooglebridgeKX?

This is the campaign for a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the immediate rear of King’s Cross Station. Until 2012 a Section 106 obligation on Argent (now King’s Cross Central/N1C) required them to allow the bridge to run from what is now the new Google HQ to York Way. The plan was to integrate the bridge into the Google building through a public access area. Google are currently reviewing their plans for the site. We hope they will include the new and exciting GooglebridgeKX.

Click on the slides below to see the case we made for the bridge back in 2008 – or download the Powerpoint presentation by clicking here.

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide4 Slide5 Slide6 Slide7 Slide8 Slide9

Let’s bridge the tracks

The campaign for a crossing over the railway tracks at the immediate rear of King’s Cross Station, replacing the old Battlebridge Road, scored a major success on 14 December 2010 when the Mayor’s Planning and Housing Committee visited the site of both the station and the King’s Cross Central development. As Conservative GLA Member Andrew Boff explained, “We are here as part of an investigation into public access to effectively privatised spaces”.

  Battlebridge Crossing banner
Chair of the Committee, Nicky Gavron described our missing bridge as, “absolutely impossible and needs to be overcome. So many people live on the east side and yet cannot have the access they used to have to the station, to the tube station and the front and they have to go all the way round. There was a bridge in the original planning application but nobody is following through on it. There’s a very easy solution to this but somebody’s got to take responsibility”.

We look forward to seeing the results of the Committee’s visit, watch this space. Meanwhile the Network Rail team behind the station redevelopment will be on hand to answer questions from Monday 17th January to Friday 21st January between 7am and 7pm when a public exhibition will open at King’s Cross Station.

If you would like to ask them to provide the much needed bridge, do go along and put your points to the team. And of course, let us know how you get on and what their response is by emailing us.

King’s Cross Station – community campaign whitewashed out by DfT and Network Rail

King's Cross Station overspend by Network railPhillip Hammond, the new Secretary of State for Transport was whisked to Kings Cross in his first few days in the job to ‘open’ the new Platform Zero on 20 May.  Platform Zero and the Eastern Range offices have become infamous in the area for gross overspending and have featured in the trade press.

The briefing released by DfT and Network Rail apparently provided for the Secretary of State is a hymn of praise for the Kings Cross project and doesn’t mention at all Network Rail’s overspending.  Even though arguably the greatest challenge for the new Transport Secretary and his officials is to bring Network Rails’ expenditure under control.

Also apparently whitewashed out is the long, principled and hard fought community campaign opposed to the way Network Rail chose to develop Platform Zero and their own offices – in particular the loss without replacement of a historic access route for pedestrians, prams, wheelchairs etc into the North of the station forcing a huge detour round the outside of the station.

Tipped off by the construction trade press, ‘Kings Cross job doubles its costs‘ a campaign by this website forced DfT to reveal that Network Rail had overspent by tens of millions on the rebuilding of their own offices and Platform Zero. I also notice that the Kings Cross budget, that used to be hazily stated as £400million has now risen to ’Network Rail’s £500m King’s Cross redevelopment‘.  But I am told by DfT that we can’t know the precise number lest it reduces Network Rail’s leverage with its contractors.

I thought it was odd that the Secretary of State’s first rail ‘visit’ was to a project notorious for over spend – normally you would send a minister to something unambiguously good for their first trip out of the office.

Local activists weren’t invited to the launch we were told there ‘wasn’t enough room’ – on a train platform over 100 metres long – although we were invited to all the Eurostar festivities despite a long running campaign and behaved ourselves.  Smelling a rat, I put in an FOI request for the Secretary of State’s briefing to see what was being said about the overspend on the development and the community campaign. Why would a new Secretary of State agree to his first rail bit of PR be endorsing and overspent project unpopular with the community?

The documents released under FOI - appear to be the entire briefing  supplied by DfT and Network Rail officials to the Secretary of State – DfT does not say that any documents were withheld under FOI exemptions.

Briefing on an event is intended to give a Minister the full picture warts and all so that they can decide whether to go or not and to inform them of any pitfalls – policy or reputational. The briefing documents DfT have released omit to mention overspend and also omit the strong grass roots campaigns against the development.  This is particularly poor given the new government’s emphasis on spending control and the big society – citizens in control of their neighbourhood.

We know that DfT officials involved in station refurbishment programmes are painfully aware of the issues around Platform Zero and the Eastern Range – because they have agonised in pulling together FOI requests setting it out, which I appealed for internal review at senior level.

My sources tell me that Network Rail still gets hot under the collar when the Kings Cross affair is mentioned – they certainly haven’t forgotten the fiasco that their lack of community engagement caused.

I don’t have a bone to pick with Philip Hammond but there is something strange in how his officials and Network Rail apparently don’t mention in his briefing the severe financial overspend and community unhappiness about the Eastern Range and Platform Zero.  Instead they send him there to endorse the project.

So I am sending a copy of this article to Robert Devereux, the Permanent Secretary at DfT, who is in charge of the officials for his comments.  If anyone else involved in the project has any further documents or information I’d be happy to publish them here.

Thanks to Will Perrin for this article, see the original here.

Highspeed 1 says NO!

HS1July 23 2009

To Highspeed 1, St Pancras:

 

I am involved with a locally based campaign covering King’s Cross and Somers Town calling for provision of a pedestrian and cyclist bridge across the rear of the tracks immediately outside the King’s Cross Station building. There was a bridge at exactly that point until the 1920s when it was an extension of Battlebridge Road joining with the junction with York Way and Wharfdale Road. Once it was removed, pedestrians retained access to King’s Cross St Pancras via an entrance at the same junction. This was closed earlier this year. The local business, commuting and residential communities that regularly use the stations are calling for a new, smaller bridge to replace our lost entrance.

 

Such a bridge would have great benefits to High Speed 1, linking St Pancras directly to south Islington, making use of both the international and domestic parts of the station much more accessible for tens of thousands of people.

 

The bridge campaign has the support of all the major political parties at local and regional levels. It was supposed to have been the subject of a feasibility study carried out by Arup on behalf of Network Rail; the requirement of a Section 106 condition to the original planning application. Unfortunately that feasibility study looked at other options, not the bridge that was being called for. Nonetheless LB Camden planning officers allowed the incorrect Arup study to fulfil Network Rail’s S106 commitment, hence planning was fully approved without any north eastern access to King’s Cross St Pancras.

 

Full details about the campaign and the reasons behind it can be seen on our website at  [www.kingscrossaccess.com]. Following a highly successful public meeting held last summer, we maybe holding a further public meeting later this year. Part of the aim of that meeting would be to look at potential schemes drafted on a pro bono basis for the campaign by a locally based company. High Speed 1 will of course be invited should such a meeting take place.

 

I understand that High Speed 1 may feel that such a bridge would be beneficial. If that is the case, it would be very helpful to know if we could publicise that support as it would strengthen the case we are currently making. We would of course welcome any comments on the bridge campaign that High Speed 1 may wish to make.
30 July 2009
From Highspeed 1:

 

Thank you for your email updating us on the topic of access to/through King’s Cross station from York Way. Whilst we were aware of some of the issues as the King’s Cross Station design emerged and gained consent, any additional access that may be possible at King’s Cross will not have a significant beneficial impact on St. Pancras International. Given that we already have excellent accessibility for our customers, we are surprised to learn that someone may have thought that we would need additional facilities.
Throughout the construction of High Speed 1 and the refurbishment and extension of St Pancras we have always worked very closely with the community, however we do not feel that we can add any value to or gain anything from this debate and as railway operators ourselves we see this as a practical matter for the facility owner, Network Rail, and any interested parties.
30 July 2009
Draft response not yet sent…
Thankyou so much for your prompt and well considered reply. You clearly have a thorough understanding of all the points made in my email and I do appreciate your detailed response to each of them. It is always heartening to see that issues such as this one are taken so seriously by all concerned; local democracy is, as ever, thriving when companies such as yours and Network Rail lead the way by actively engaging with the various communities of interest on whose daily lives your services and infrastructure have such a fundamental impact.
NOT!

The case for Battlebridge Crossing

We are hoping this article will form the basis of a report to a highly influential local committee next week:
There has always been an east/west walking route from Wharfdale Road, across York Way to what was Battlebridge Road and beyond. Once King’s Cross Station was built the original road bridge, which was part of Battlebridge Road, crossed the tracks over the platforms joining York Way where a small number of buildings now sits at the Wharfdale Road entrance. The remains of the cobbled street here can still be seen. This bridge was lost to the area sometime between 1914 and 1922.
1874 crop
Figure 1. Battlebridge Road in 1874.

 

The foundations for the bridge are very unlikely to have been removed, making a replacement bridge a relatively simple engineering task. The community campaign is calling for a pedestrian and cycle bridge (referred to below as a footbridge) following exactly the route of the original road bridge and with no access, gated or otherwise, onto platforms.

 

This route would take pedestrians and cyclists close to and from the entrances to King’s Cross and St Pancras, a choice of tube station entrances (lessening congestion at the Euston Road tube entrance) and would provide the remainder of the east west walking and cycling route that could exist from the Angel all the way to Marylebone Station avoiding Pentonville, Euston and Marylebone Roads.
The community has called this bridge “Battlebridge Crossing”.

 

Bridge without text
Figure 2. Impression of Battlebridge Crossing.
Since 1922 the east west route was served by the Wharfdale Road entrance and the internal Handyside Bridge.

 

In February 2008 LB Camden gave planning permission for the current redevelopment of King’s Cross Station on condition that a feasibility study would be carried out into provision of a footbridge across the rear of the tracks to replace the Wharfdale Road/York Way entrance which will be lost as a consequence of constructing a new Platform Y.

 

At this point Network Rail estimated that 3,400 people use the Wharfdale Road/York Way entrance each day. This figure will have increased substantially following the opening of King’s Place, home to the London Sinfonietta, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Pangolin Gallery and The Guardian/Observer. It will further increase in line with current estimates for population growth in the area.

 

During the February meeting councillors stated they required the study to be as wide ranging as possible and to consult with the local community. Network Rail appointed Arup to carry out the study. Unfortunately the study was limited to bridges that included gated entrances onto some or all platforms and did not include any community consultation.

 

LB Camden appointed Colin Buchanan, a well known transport and urban design consultancy, to assess whether the Arup study fulfilled its requirements. Despite many concerns about the specification and content of the study being raised by various groups, Buchanan’s concluded that the Arup study did comply with the Camden condition.

 

As a result of Buchanan’s finding Network Rail was then obliged to release £1 million to LB Camden for environmental improvements to York Way.

 

The local community has always made clear that no matter what improvements are made to either York Way or Goodsway – much needed though they are, structural and immovable elements of the streetscape result in these routes being inappropriate for heavy pedestrian or cycle use. Such elements include the canyon effect including the sheer amount of traffic on the York Way side of the King’s Cross Gyratory, the bus depot on York Way, the camber on Goodsway, the taxi priority for the transport hub, the building site effect of King’s Cross Central likely to be present for at least the next twenty years, and the walking/cycling journey times to and from the transport hub.

 

Meanwhile a bewildering number of studies is taking place into movement and open spaces in King’s Cross. These will add to the very large body of evidence already existing from the number of such studies undertaken over many years. A notable such study is the ‘Walkability Audit’ carried out for TfL by Living Streets.

 

Another new study has been announced by LB Islington. This will assess the business case for Battlebridge Crossing.

 

The community campaign for Battlebridge Crossing has concentrated on finding a means of getting Network Rail to accept that they should fund and build the bridge as a matter of some urgency. Network Rail are benefiting from construction of Platform Y which will increase revenue. This benefit arises from removal of public amenities: the Wharfdale Road entrance and Handyside internal footbridge. The community’s case is therefore that Network Rail should replace these amenities.

 

The urgency for construction of the footbridge results from the closure of the Handyside Bridge which has already been achieved and closure of the Wharfdale Road entrance which will be achieved once the scaffolding on the eastern range of the Station is removed. At this point the last vestiges of an east/west route will be removed and it is at this point that it should be replaced.

 

This urgency is further required as Argent King’s Cross is currently under a S106 obligation to house the western end of the bridge on its land. This obligation ceases in 2012.

 

The community campaign has cross-party support and includes businesses based locally such as Gratte Brothers, P&O Estates, Regent’s Quarter Ltd and a major international publisher as well as councillors from Camden and Islington, TfL who have committed to do all in their power to ensure Network Rail builds the bridge, LB Islington via the West Area Committee, the chair of the Greater London Assembly – Jennette Arnold (Lab), deputy chair of the Transport Committee – Caroline Pidgeon (LD) and various AMs, Islington Chamber of Commerce, Islington Conservative Association, Emily Thornberry MP, the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidates for Islington South and Finsbury and Holborn and St Pancras, Norman Baker MP LibDem Shadow Transport Secretary, the Campaign for Better Transport (previously Transport 2000), Living Streets and approaching 1,000 signatories to a local petition.

 

Network Rail estimates the cost of Battlebridge Crossing to be £4.5 million. This represents approximately 1% of their station redevelopment budget and is a tiny amount compared to their contingency fund for that redevelopment. The community campaign has identified a number of recently completed bridges along with their costings in order to identify the scale of project and type of bridge that might be achieved.

 

York
Figure 3. Bridge crossing the River Ouse at York. Cost £4.3 million.

 

The community is keen that the bridge should be a gateway encouraging greater footfall to and from areas that need such urban regeneration including Somers Town and the south end of the Caledonian Road. As such it should be a destination of itself in the manner of the Millennium footbridge over the Thames at Bankside encouraging further visitors to these areas.
Swansea
Figure 4. Sail Bridge in Swansea. Cost £2.8 million.