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.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

Barcelona’s car-free “superblocks” could extend lives. So will they catch on elsewhere?

Barcelona. Image: Getty.

The world’s biggest cities have larger populations and higher economic outputs than some countries. But as they grow in size and complexity, cities are also facing thorny challenges that threaten the health and happiness of residents. Congestion, pollution and a lack of community spaces have become major drags on people’s aspirations and experiences of urban living.

In response, cities must manage their resources and priorities to create sustainable places for visitors and residents, and foster innovation and growth. Enter Barcelona – the capital of Catalonia, in Spain – where a bold stroke of urban planning first introduced “superblocks” in 2016.

Image: ISGlobal/FAL.

Superblocks are neighbourhoods of nine blocks, where traffic is restricted to major roads around the outside, opening up entire groups of streets to pedestrians and cyclists. The aim is to reduce pollution from vehicles, and give residents much-needed relief from noise pollution. They are designed to create more open space for citizens to meet, talk and do activities.


Health and well-being boost

There are currently only six superblocks in operation, including the first, most prominent one in Eixample. Reports suggest that – despite some early push back – the change has been broadly welcomed by residents, and the long-term benefits could be considerable.

A recent study carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health estimates that if, as planned, 503 potential superblocks are realised across the city, journeys by private vehicle would fall by 230,000 a week, as people switch to public transport, walking or cycling.

The research suggests this would significantly improve air quality and noise levels on the car-free streets: ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) would be reduced by a quarter, bringing levels in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The plan is also expected to generate significant health benefits for residents. The study estimates that as many as 667 premature deaths from air pollution, noise and heat could be prevented each year. More green spaces will encourage people to get outdoors and lead a more active lifestyle.

This, in turn, helps to reduce obesity and diabetes and ease pressure on health services. The researchers claim that residents of Barcelona could expect to live an extra 200 days thanks to the cumulative health benefits, if the idea is rolled out across the city.

Space to play. Imag: Mosa Moseneke/Unsplash.

There are expected to be benefits to mental health, as well as physical health. Having access to such spaces can stave off loneliness and isolation – especially among elderly residents – as communities form stronger bonds and become more resilient.

Stumbling blocks

It was Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, who first championed the introduction of superblocks – and he argues that the idea could be used in any city. Even so, authorities looking to expand the concept in Barcelona or beyond will need to be mindful of some concerns.

Changes like these require capital investment. Even as the car-free streets are transformed with urban furniture and greenery, the remaining major roads will likely have to accommodate heavier traffic.

Nothing comes for free. Image: Zvileve/Flickr/creative commons.

Further investments in local infrastructure – such as improving surrounding roads to deal with more traffic, or installing smart traffic management system – could be required to prevent serious congestion. Then the question remains, how to finance such investments – a higher tax rate is unlikely to be popular.


What’s more, whenever a location becomes more desirable, it leads to an increase in property demand. Higher prices and rent could create pockets of unaffordable neighbourhoods. This may lead to use of properties for investment purposes and possibly, displacement of local residents.

It’s also worth noting that Barcelona is an old and relatively well-planned European city. Different challenges exist in emerging global cities across Asia, Africa and Latin America – and in younger cities in the US and Australia. There is a great deal of variation in scale, population density, urban shape and form, development patterns and institutional frameworks across the cities. Several large cities in the developing world are heavily congested with uncontrolled, unregulated developments and weak regulatory frameworks.

Replicating what’s been done in Barcelona may prove difficult in such places, and will require much greater transformations. But it’s true that the basic principles of superblocks – that value pedestrians, cyclists and high quality public spaces over motor vehicles – can be applied in any city, with some adjustments.

Leading the way

Over the history of human civilisation, great cities have been at the forefront of innovation and social progress. But cities need a robust structure of governance, which is transparent and accountable, to ensure a fair and efficient use of resources. Imposing innovation from the top down, without consultations and buy-in, can go squarely against the idea of free market capitalism, which has been a predominant force for modern economies and can lead push-back from citizens and local businesses.

Citizens must also be willing to change their perspectives and behaviour, to make such initiatives work. This means that “solutions” to urban living like superblocks need to have buy-in from citizens, through continuous engagement with local government officials.

A man speaks at a public consultation on the Eixample superblock in Barcelona. Image: Ajuntament Barcelona/Flickr/creative commons.

Successful urban planning also needs strong leadership with a clear and consistent vision of the future, and a roadmap of how that vision can be delivered. The vision should be co-developed with the citizens and all other stakeholders such as local businesses, private and public organisations. This can ensure that everybody shares ownership and takes responsibility for the success of local initiatives.

There is little doubt that the principles and objectives of superblocks are sound. The idea has the potential to catch on around the world – though it will likely take a unique and specific form in every city.

The Conversation

Anupam Nanda, Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate, University of Reading.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.