I was concerned, but not surprised, to read reports in the media that the Crossrail 2 project could be derailed or side-lined because of cost and competing infrastructure demands.
Residents will know that the Council is a staunch supporter of a Crossrail 2 Station on the King’s Road. We believe there is an overwhelming case for a station in an area that many people visit but is poorly served by public transport.
I know that in the final analysis money calls the shots, especially when it comes to costly infrastructure projects. If reports are to be believed, a project that had a budget of about £31 billion is now looking to deliver the line with £27 billion in the pot. A cut of £4 billion. Not an insignificant sum and one that will require sacrifices to the original plan. Might this mean that the King’s Road station may be lined up for a place on the altar?
Of course, where money is concerned there is sometimes room for negotiation. Could we offer something that would help the budget? The obvious answer for a cash-strapped Treasury would lie in associated development above and around the station. But this is not an option. There will be no backsliding on commitments made to residents, even if such development would help to meet the cost of a station.
On current plans, ones I still hope will come to fruition, the above ground element of a Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea would be an elegant, single storey building at the southern end of Sydney Street. These modest proposals originated with TfL and put paid to a number of false claims and rumours, the most fantastical of which was that the station would entail “a Westfield-sized” retail development.
In letters to residents and local businesses and in a number of published articles the Council made plain its strong support for a Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea. At the same time, we also promised that the station would not mean additional development which would be out of character with the local area. Moreover, we indicated that, as the planning authority, we would not permit such development.
Now, with the putative Crossrail 2 budget facing a significant reduction, boroughs campaigning for stations are under pressure to show what additional development might be possible in order to help meet the cost of the scheme. This is the context in which Kensington and Chelsea has renewed its commitment to residents.
Make no mistake, we continue to believe that Chelsea needs a Crossrail 2 station. Nevertheless, we consider ourselves bound by our public statements about station development. An elegant and low-key development would fit the bill – a larger development would not. That was our commitment to residents and we will not resile from that promise.
Our position therefore is that we have made a sufficient case for the station without having to offer up additional value in the form of over-station development.
It’s worth repeating that Chelsea is a densely populated area with three major hospitals. It is also a world-famous shopping and visitor destination. In other words, Chelsea is somewhere people actually want to go. Add in that it is poorly served by public transport, heavily congested, has some of worst air quality in the country and that over the long term our station would comfortably pay for itself and you can see why we believe we still have overwhelming grounds for being included in the next iteration of the route.