Lord help us…

Lord AdonisJust sent this to Lord Adonis, Minister of State for Transport:

Dear Lord Adonis,

Further to your recent reply to Emily Thornberry regarding access to King’s Cross Station, your reference AA.l024758,l, I would like to take issue with you that funding for and construction of a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the tracks to the rear of the station is a local matter to be resolved by Camden and Islington councils. My grounds for this are threefold:

1. The growing strategic importance of the King’s Cross St Pancras transport hub  makes this not only a cross- borough issue, not only a London issue but an issue of national importance. Building a nationally important transport hub without linking it into its geographical environment would be unforgivable.

2. Large construction projects where the boundary coincides with that of one planning authority and another are highly problematic. In this case, Camden has no voters to account to on this yet Islington has no power so cannot be accountable to the local voters and businesses whose lives and livelihoods will be affected. A third party needs to intervene to ensure that King’s Cross St Pancras is not allowed to turn its back on a sizable neighbouring community.

3. The principle of accessibility in any large construction project is easily lost and that is exactly what is happening here. The principle stems partly from good practice in equal opportunities, partly from a common sense notion of social justice and partly from the very concept of urban regeneration. Again, the cross-borough nature of the location has made it impossible to properly address this. That Network Rail is being allowed to single-handedly shut down all entrances to King’s Cross removing a centuries old east/west point of access mid-way across the tracks to the rear of the station is appalling. (See http://www.kingscrossaccess.com/2008/08/let-us-back-thr.html)

For these reasons I urge you to look again at this issue. The bridge being called for would be a quick, simple and highly affordable solution to the closure or gating of current entrances. For less than 1% of the station redevelopment budget (a tiny proportion of its contingency fund) the bridge could be built now as part of the current works. This would avoid future disruption and ensure the east/west route is made available as soon as possible after the current north-eastern entrance is closed.

My request is that you intervene with Network Rail. The excuse they give publicly for not building the bridge is that there is no direct business case for them to do so. For a quasi-public body to cite lack of profit to be made by replacing a public amenity they themselves are removing is surely scandalous.

I wrote to Network Rail raising detailed concerns on 7 October this year and am still awaiting their response. (see http://www.kingscrossaccess.com/2008/10/letter-to-netwo.html)

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Sophie Talbot

King’s Cross Community Projects
Subscribe to the blog: www.kingscrossaccess.com
Sign the petition: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/kxaccess/

Islington News

6a00d8345162e169e2010535e8c9f5970b-320wiIf you live in Islington you’ll be getting a copy of the Liberal Democrats ‘Islington News’ through your door. That’s a heck of alot of coverage and each copy carries an article about this campaign (left). So a big thankyou to Bridget Fox, prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Islington South & Finsbury who has been actively involved in the campaign since the start.

The campaign has the support of all the major parties in Islington with Emily Thornberry MP (Labour) having approached the Transport Minister on the issue and Duncan Webster chair of Islington Conservative Association fully on-board. The Conservatives at regional level, through Kulveer Ranger head of TfL, have pledged to do all in their power to get Network Rail to build the bridge we so sorely need. Greater London Assembly members from the Green Party, Labour Party and Lib Dems have all been actively pursuing this.


Now – someone needs to take the Transport Minister aside and have a quiet word – the bridge is a quick, easy and cheap project to take on, the only barrier to it is Network Rail. We don’t need a feasibility study, we are asking for the original bridge (below) to be replaced so we know it can be done. What we need is someone to tell Network Rail to get it done and fast. Map 1874
Now that Argent is facing financial problems no-one knows whether the planned buildings next to the railway tracks in King’s Cross Central will ever get built, or what form they will take. We need a bridge now – the Wharfdale Road entrance will be closed soon, the bridge needs to be available to the community as a matter of urgency.

Battlebridge Crossing gets GLAM-ed up

Jennette Arnold, GLA MemberJennette Arnold, chair of the Greater London Assembly and Greater London Assembly member for Islington and Waltham Forest gets a huge cheer from this campaign today. We’ve just learned that Jennette raised the issue of the much needed bridge that would retain east/west access across the tracks at the back of the station with Kulveer Ranger the Mayor’s Director of Transport Policy. She says,

 ”I was heartened that he was supportive of the position held by many constituents that we need this bridge and has written to Network Rail on the 8th of October to make this position clear.”
You can read more about Jennette’s activities by downloading the pdf file: Jennette Arnold Report October 2008.

Support the campaign by emailing Islington

If you live in Islington, you can support this campaign by responding to the London Borough of Islington Core Strategy Consultation. It’s quite easy, just Download core_strategy_response_template.doc, then rejig it in your own words, delete anything you don’t agree with and then email it to LB Islington with your name and full address – by 3 November. Sorry for the lack of notice – it’s taken quite a bit to get my head around this one!

Emily Thornberry MP agrees – King’s Cross needs a bridge

Emily Thornberry MP for Islington South & FinsburyEmily Thornberry MP has written twice to the Department for Transport in support of the much needed bridge giving east/west access across the rear of King’s Cross Station. Unfortunately, the Government is not listening, see Lord_Adonis_reply.pdf

(We will be challenging the Government on their view that access to the country’s largest overland international transport hub is a local issue over which they should not intervene, so watch this space on that one.)

Emily has written a number of letters to Camden Council and Network Rail as well (see list below). Emily and Frank Dobson objected to the granting of planning permission for the station because of this issue. Emily met with Network rail on the 16th April 2007 to convey her concerns and those of her constituents about the access arrangements at King’s Cross.

• January 2007 Emily wrote to Camden and Network Rail raising concerns about the plans.

• March 2007 Emily wrote to the Development Control Committee at Camden Council to object to the access arrangements and drew the council’s attention to a petition signed by local residents.

• August 2007 Emily wrote to Camden Council to follow up the 106 agreement arrangements.
Emily wrote to Network Rail following her meeting to reiterate a number of concerns with the King’s Cross development including the access arrangements.

Copies of this correspondence are available to constituents from Emily’s office. Make sure you include your full postal address in your email as Emily can only respond to her own constitutents.

(We will be asking Emily to take further action over this vital cross-borough issue of strategic importance to London…)

Latest campaign news

The campaign to Open Up King’s Cross Station and Let Us Through! has had a makeover. At our first campaign organisers meeting this week, we named ourselves the Battlebridge Crossing Campaign. Hope you like the new moniker and banner heading for this site.

Meanwhile, with the excellent news recently that Boris Johnson’s Transport guru, head of Transport for London and Spurs fan (hurray! boo! delete as appropriate), Kulveer Ranger has pledged to do all he can within his powers to get Network Rail to fund and build the bridge we are calling for, it has been pointed out our petition has nearly double the number of individuals signed up as make up Islington South & Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry’s majority.
So, here is your mission should you choose to accept:
1. If you are an Islington South & Finsbury constituent, write to Emily and ask her to get the Transport Minister to tell Network Rail to fund and build the bridge;
2. If you are a Holborn & St Pancras constituent write to Frank Dobson MP and ask him to get the Transport Minister to tell Network Rail to fund and build the bridge;
3. Whoever you are – sign the petition! The closing date for signatures is 2 January 2009.

TfL agrees Network Rail should finance bridge

The Mayor’s Director of Transport Policy, Kulveer Ranger, has written to the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group on 8 October saying “…these changes are brought about as a result of measures implemented by Network Rail and I consider it appropriate that they should fund the proposed footbridge.
Both I, and Transport for London (TfL), will do all we can within our powers to make this happen.”
Michael Edwards, co-chair of KXRLG replied saying:

Dear Mr Ranger

I am glad for this reply and its positive tone. “All we can within our powers” is s substantial promise, coming from you!

As so often in transport planning, something comes about because of one agent’s actions, but the costs and benefits are spread more widely. Camden as local (parochial, really) planning authority made a major mistake in letting this scheme go through without the bridge as an integral part of it. And it thus does fall to TfL and GLA to ensure the right outcome.

Best wishes, Michael Edwards (co-chair KXRLG info@kxrlg.org.uk)

The full letter from City Hall read: On 8 Oct 2008, at 15:04, Mayor of London wrote:

Dear Mr Edwards

Thank you for your email. I can confirm that I am not complacent regarding this matter. However, these changes are brought about as a result of measures implemented by Network Rail and I consider it appropriate that they should fund the proposed footbridge.

Both I, and Transport for London (TfL), will do all we can within our powers to make this happen.

Thank you again for writing.

Yours sincerely

Kulveer Ranger
Director for Transport Policy

Letter to Network Rail

kingscrosstimelineIn response to Ian Fry’s letter: Download ian_fry_letter.pdf, here is our reply:
Ian Fry
Director, King’s Cross Redevelopment Programme
Network Rail
344-354 Grays Inn Road

7 October 2008

Dear Ian,

Many thanks for your letter of 20 August and apologies for my delay in replying. Whilst I very much appreciate your taking the time to write to me, I feel I need to raise some rather important points as a result.

Paragraph 2: I understand we agree that the Arup feasibility study doesn’t address the bridge the community is calling for; namely a bridge crossing the tracks at the north-eastern end of the station. The bridge would replace the road bridge built in 1872 and demolished during World War 1 with a pedestrian and cycle bridge. It would have no access to platforms; carrying station users externally from one side to the other creating a faster, safer and simpler walking and cycle route to the King’s Cross/St Pancras transport hub and the new King’s Cross Central Boulevard. I further understand that is LB Camden’s responsibility and not Network Rail’s that it fails in this. It is however extremely frustrating that in response to queries from politicians and the press about the pedestrian and cycle bridge the community is calling for, Network Rail continues to refer to the Arup study. This gives the impression that the bridge would not be feasible. I attach a recent answer given to a Parliamentary Question as an example. It would be very helpful if Network Rail would correct this impression and cease to refer to the Arup study in relation to the campaign for a bridge.

Paragraph 5: As a regular user of train services from King’s Cross to Yorkshire and Scotland, I understand the importance of Platform Y to our rail system and welcome the foresight being shown in constructing it. However, Network Rail is removing a centuries old east/west route of growing importance to the King’s Cross and Somers Town communities in order to build the revenue generating Platform Y. Network Rail should therefore be obliged to provide us with a replacement. This should be by Network Rail either alone or in a partnership led by Network Rail comprising statutory bodies and property developers. The community is not asking for a new facility in pressing for this bridge; we are calling for an amenity we have enjoyed for a very long time to be maintained.

Paragraph 6: The new square and improvements to York Way are very welcome and are improvements of the type to be expected under S106 resulting from a major development. These improvements are separate from the preservation of east/west access. Again, it is frustrating that Network Rail continues to quote these improvements as alternatives to east/west access and it would be helpful if Network Rail would be more precise when mentioning them rather than giving what could be a misleading impression.

Paragraph 7: I find it very difficult to understand why, when Network Rail states it aims to take into account the needs of the community, it refuses to fund the bridge the community desperately needs – particularly when the cost of the bridge is estimated at less than 2% of station redevelopment cost. I can see why Network Rail might want to create and lead a partnership to fund and deliver the bridge as St Pancras International and Transport for London would also benefit from its construction. But total refusal to positively engage with the project appears perverse. The tours for local residents are great and were suggested by Will Perrin; they are a good example of how Network Rail can work positively with our community. Network Rail’s corporate community investment is also very welcome and we would ask that you work with experts in this field such as the Charities Aid Foundation and National Council for Voluntary Organisations, as well as local experts such as Camden and Islington Councils for Voluntary Service to get the best out of it.

Paragraph 8: Community engagement is a vital element of the change process in major developments such as King’s Cross. The change management and community development professions are generally overlooked by developers. The tendency is to take a minimalist approach, putting a limited amount of information out, undertaking only those consultation processes required by statute and pacifying rather than engaging with differences of opinion. My recent experience seems to point to Network Rail being rather inexperienced in the field of change management in the context of community development. I remain hopeful that past mistakes such as meetings promised and never taking place, minimal information provided and only in the station, engagement being seen as a one-way street with debate being viewed as a negative rather than a potentially highly positive input to station redevelopment will decrease in the coming months. I am also keen to work with Network Rail to ensure the outcomes achieved as a result of the station redevelopment are as far-reaching as possible. It would be a terrible shame if a narrow, solely economically driven agenda were to continue to drive this construction programme. Taking a sustainable development approach in line with the aims of Network Rail’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee would achieve so much more not only for King’s Cross, but for all of the redevelopment projects Network Rail is now undertaking across the country.

I look forward to your comments on the above points.

Yours sincerely,
Sophie Talbot