Multimodal Transport and Railway Systems – King’s Cross, London

by Maja Roic on May 15, 2015

placeWith this article I will be starting a new series of posts, which will analyse several innovative multimodal transport and railway systems across the world. Efficient transport and logistics solutions are becoming increasingly important in areas with high population growth and new innovative solutions are developed to fill the needs for efficiently working transport hubs. My first case is about the redevelopment of King’s Cross area in London.

Kings Cross

Being one of the world’s oldest great cities, with a nearly two millennia long history, London is Britain’s largest metropolis and the country’s central cultural, economic and transportation centre.

Only the Tokyo transport system can rival the one of London for scale and density, with a network of lines and stations created by the London Underground system across London, and the surface national rail system stretching out to the south of the city.

Over three million journeys are made every day on the London Underground network, which equates to over 1 billion journeys every year. An investment programme is attempting to reduce congestion and improve reliability, including £6.5 billion (€7.7 billion) spent before the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Docklands Light Railway, which opened in 1987, is a second, more local metro system using smaller and lighter tram-type vehicles.

King’s Cross, one of London’s railway stations, is one of the largest and most famous transport hubs in Britain, initially designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852. Today, it provides local commuter long-distance over ground train services, and it also includes King’s Cross St. Pancras underground station. This station is the biggest Underground transport hub in London.

The area around the King’s Cross station used to be a thriving industrial hub in the Victorian era, but it has since fallen to dereliction and has for a long time suffered from a poor reputation. By the 1980s it became an area with the lowest rent levels in central London and it was mostly populated by low-income groups. It was for a long time shunned by big business and development.

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In 1996, a decision was made to redevelop the area. The project represents a classic regeneration challenge, and it has become a shining example of Place Excellence and good place-making practice.

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The King’s Cross area is being transformed into an exciting part of the city with galleries, bars, shops, offices, restaurants, homes, schools and even a university.

The total area of the development is approximately 67 acres, and it includes 50 new buildings with 2.000 new homes, and 26 acres of open space including 20 new streets and 10 new public squares. It is expected that 30.000 people will be living around King’s Cross by 2016.

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The solution of the challenges in this project was achieved through aligning transport accessibility with a vibrant planning scheme, encouraging landowners with restorations of the stations. This way, one of the most sustainable development in the UK was achieved, and the station is expected to support 63 million passengers per year from 2020.

The new King’s Cross station is safe, easy to understand and easy to navigate. The whole area is striving to achieve high density land use mixture, and the developer wanted to create areas which would be lively during the day and night.

One of the core challenges for the design team (Allies and Morrison, Porphyros Associates and Townshend Landscape Architects) was to organise the complex landownership information. The master plan which they created presented a network of public open spaces, streets, lanes, squares and parks that permeated urban blocks.

During the course of the development of this particular project, almost 4,000 consultation meetings were held, and some of the stakeholders involved are: mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, English Heritage, local people from boroughs of Camden and Islington, and local community groups which participated in the process through King’s Cross Development Forum.

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In the graphic displayed above, we have mapped the vision of the project, through four main factors that we identified were relevant in all of the projects we analysed.

It was important to detect the influence of the project in all of the four sections, to put emphasis not only on the hard factors, but also on the soft factors of the project, mainly the effect it will have on the community.

The structure of the involved entities is as displayed:

Ownership entity / developer: King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership – single landowner that comprises of three groups:

  • Ownership entity partner: Argent LLP (property developer, holding 50% interest)
  • Ownership entity partner: London and Continental Railways Limited (UK state-owned, holding 36.5%)
  • Ownership entity partner: DHL Supply Chain (formerly Excel, holding 13.5%)

Master developer and asset manager: Argent King’s Cross Limited Partnership (Argent’s subsidiary)

One of the other important factors that always surface is the financing of the project, and in this case it was dealt with through a combination of equity, senior debt and recycled receipts. Working capital was raised from early development and plot sales and more than half of potential space was sold or committed by early 2013.

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The total estimated value of the project is expected to reach £3 billion. The simplified scheme of the financing shows all of the detected sources of income, as well as the estimated value of the investment into the project.

The concept of innovative private-public partnership’s (PPP’s) has started to be used more and more in the whole world as it is proven that it produces good results, when managed appropriately, both for the public and the private stakeholders, therefore creating positive effects for the economy as well as the community.

Great Northern Hotel

Since the start of the project, first residents and office tenants have moved in, restaurants have been opened, the Great Northern Hotel has been refurbished and a new Granary Square is in use for festivals and events. In the end, the results of the project (expected and current) include urban, economic and social renewal.

Great Northern Hotel Bar

In upcoming articles, we will be showing some other examples of innovation driven redevelopments and new projects, in different countries around the World.

About Maja Roic :

Maja Roic has recently finalised her Master of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Zagreb, and works as an analyst with Bearing, where she works on pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, cost-benefit analysis, translations and document preparation, as well as research and case studies.
In 2012-2013 she was an exchange student at the Technische Universität in München.
She is the National Contact for Croatia for the European Architecture Students Assembly (EASA).

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