Five things we already know about Crossrail 2’s Euston-St. Pancras mega-station

Could all this be one station soon? Euston (left), St. Pancras (centre), Kings Cross (right). Image: Google.

Okay, Crossrail hasn’t even finished yet, but there’s no better time to get excited about all things Crossrail 2 than at least 12 years too early.

By far the most impressive sounding of the improved stations it’ll bring is north London’s new, so-called ‘megastation’: Euston St. Pancras. This will involve joining Euston and King’s Cross St. Pancras together as one giant underground station. Some versions of the plans show Euston Square being absorbed into the whole thing, too.

And so, to whet your appetite, here are five (loosely defined) facts about the proposals.

1. It will be the biggest station in London…

At the moment, the south rules, with Waterloo receiving 100m or so entry and exits annually – a number very likely to grow over the coming years.

The proposed Crossrail 2 route.

Fairly impressive, you might think. Not to Euston St. Pancras, which merges two of the busiest train stations in the capital (and, let’s not forget, Euston Square).

Even without considering the capacity increase brought by Crossrail 2 – around 10 per cent, to be precise – a merger of the three stations now would serve a whopping 150m people per year. That’s about 5 per cent of all the passengers on the entire underground network, passing through that station alone.

2. ...so big, in fact, that you might be able to get a train from one end to the other

“This is Euston St. Pancras. The next station is Euston St. Pancras.”

Sure, Bank may be a hellish labyrinth (especially in this never-ending heat) but it’s not quite a 15-minute brisk walk end-to-end. That’s about how long it takes to walk along the Euston Road, from the westernmost proposed entrance to the easternmost entrance of King’s Cross St. Pancras, as it currently stands.

Oh god: an unofficial draft of the 2040 tube map, showing Crossrail 2. Image: Ali Carr.

Just as well then, that Euston St. Pancras may well end up having a tube journey from end to end. Today, both the Victoria line and Bank branch of the Northern line run east from Euston to King’s Cross St. Pancras. If HS2 ends up meaning Euston Square gets in on the action too, that’ll be five different tube lines which will do this. If that’s not the definition of a megastation, I’m not sure what is.

3. Its trains will serve destinations over 1,000 miles apart

Okay, I accept that maybe this is cheating. This isn’t technically a fact about the tube station – although it would be a pretty impressive show of one-upmanship on Crossrail’s Reading-Shenfield record.

It is, however, the distance you’ll be able to travel with just one change in the Euston-King’s Cross-St. Pancras complex. Euston’s Caledonian sleeper can take you up to the capital of the Highlands, Inverness, whilst St. Pancras’s Eurostar service stretches down to Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast in the summer.

Unfortunately, no reliable source could tell me whether Hogwarts is to the north or south of Inverness, so I haven’t been able to account for services departing from Platform 9¾.

4. Euston St. Pancras will finally out-do Liverpool Street for number of lines served

Right now, King’s Cross St. Pancras serves the largest number of lines on the tube network, six. It shares this title with Bank (Central, Northern, Waterloo & City, DLR), if you count Monument (District, Circle). It sort shares it with Liverpool Street (four tube lines, plus Overground and TfL Rail), too.

Thanks to that pesky Crossrail 1, Liverpool Street will soon increase its count to seven – replacing TfL Rail with the proper Elizabeth Line, and gaining a direct link to the Northern line’s Bank branch at Moorgate. But, following a £30bn infrastructure project and three-station merger, Euston St. Pancras will finally leave Liverpool Street in the dust with an unprecedented eight lines – gaining Euston’s Overground coverage and, of course, Crossrail 2.


5. It has a really stupid name

Now, this may sound like an opinion rather than a fact – but hear me out.

King’s Cross is perhaps the most significant station of the three. Firstly, it is the name most associated with that area of London these days, despite St. Pancras’s long history as the rightful title of the area. It thus seems ludicrous to drop it from the name of the station.

Secondly, doing so threatens to reignite a centuries-long rivalry. The original King’s Cross station, home of the Great Northern Railway, used to host its rivals, the Great Midlands Railway, until the latter decided to build the bigger, fancier station just over the road.

Despite the Great Midlands’ best efforts, King’s Cross still stands strong, even beating St. Pancras in passenger numbers. So, let’s not let the TfL naming system glibly allow the neo-gothic flashman of a station finally do in its older, less ostentatious rival.

 

Proposed works in the Euston St. Pancras area. Image: Crossrail 2.

Then what should we end up calling it?

Perhaps we can add another fact to the list with the most convoluted name: Euston Square King’s Cross St. Pancras. Or opt for the subtler Somers Town, the home of all three stations, from the Great Northern-Midlands rivalry until now – and the place shaped most by this monumental project.

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Tackling toxic air in our cities is also a matter of social justice

Oh, lovely. Image: Getty.

Clean Air Zones are often dismissed by critics as socially unfair. The thinking goes that charging older and more polluting private cars will disproportionately impact lower income households who cannot afford expensive cleaner alternatives such as electric vehicles.

But this argument doesn’t consider who is most affected by polluted air. When comparing the latest deprivation data to nitrogen dioxide background concentration data, the relationship is clear: the most polluted areas are also disproportionately poorer.

In UK cities, 16 per cent of people living in the most polluted areas also live in one of the top 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods, against 2 per cent who live in the least deprived areas.

The graph below shows the average background concentration of NO2 compared against neighbourhoods ranked by deprivation. For all English cities in aggregate, pollution levels rise as neighbourhoods become more deprived (although interestingly this pattern doesn’t hold for more rural areas).

Average NO2 concentration and deprivation levels. Source: IMD, MHCLG (2019); background mapping for local authorities, Defra (2019).

The graph also shows the cities in which the gap in pollution concentration between the most and the least deprived areas is the highest, which includes some of the UK’s largest urban areas.  In Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham, there is a respective 46, 42 and 33 per cent difference in NO2 concentration between the poorest and the wealthiest areas – almost double the national urban average gap, at around 26 per cent.

One possible explanation for these inequalities in exposure to toxic air is that low-income people are more likely to live near busy roads. Our data on roadside pollution suggests that, in London, 50 per cent of roads located in the most deprived areas are above legal limits, against 4 per cent in the least deprived. In a number of large cities (Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield), none of the roads located in the least deprived areas are estimated to be breaching legal limits.

This has a knock-on impact on health. Poor quality air is known to cause health issues such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and asthma. Given the particularly poor quality of air in deprived areas, this is likely to contribute to the gap in health and life expectancy inequalities as well as economic ones between neighbourhoods.


The financial impact of policies such as clean air zones on poorer people is a valid concern. But it is not a justifiable reason for inaction. Mitigating policies such as scrappage schemes, which have been put in place in London, can deal with the former concern while still targeting an issue that disproportionately affects the poor.

As the Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook report showed, people are dying across the country as a result of the air that they breathe. Clean air zones are one of a number of policies that cities can use to help reduce this, with benefits for their poorer residents in particular.

Valentine Quinio is a researcher at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this post first appeared.