Will Camden Town ever get its new tube station now?
Sadiq Khan says station plan is unfunded - and the financial squeeze on big projects is now worse
06 August, 2020 — By Richard Osley
The plans for a new Camden Town tube station could be mothballed
THE long-awaited overhaul of Camden Town tube station faces being delayed for many years as the coronavirus puts an extra squeeze on big project finances.
Asked to give his thoughts on when the Northern line stop would ever be upgraded, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was no longer in the budget plan.
And hopes of improvements at Holborn tube station – also overrun with passengers in normal times – look set to be dashed as well.
The grim forecast has echoes of Ken Livingstone’s prediction during his time as Mayor when he said he did not think he would see a new station in Camden Town in his lifetime.
Mr Khan, who was answering a question from Andrew Dismore, the London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, said both projects were unfunded and “that position remains unchanged, although the situation has become even more challenging given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.
Plans have been in the pipeline for the station for more than two decades, and it is now 15 years since John Prescott, as deputy prime minister, blocked an extravagant overhaul of the station.
The plans had faced opposition not because people thought an upgrade was unwarranted, but because a seven-storey complex of shops and offices needed compulsory purchases of the famous Electric Ballroom, the Buck Street Market and the Trinity United Reformed Church.
In recent years, a new plan to dig out a station entrance in Buck Street had been progressing well before hitting a budget brick wall.
Camden Town’s new station – if it is ever built – would go on the old site of Hawley Junior School, which moved to new premises built as part of the Hawley Wharf market redevelopment.
With the project at a standstill, TfL plan to use the vacant school site as a base for emergency teams who respond to incidents on the network.
Mr Khan is currently in a war of words after the government’s £1.6billion coronavirus investment in the network, which has been characterised as a bail-out by the Mayor’s critics.
The issue of both Camden Town and Holborn stations would – without the Covid-19 crisis – have been a key question at City Hall election hustings, but mayoral polls have been delayed until next May.
Mr Khan added: “The TfL Business Plan stated that as TfL has no certainty of capital funding beyond 2020, it would be making the case to government for capital support to enable these critical projects.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan
Passengers were advised not to use public transport during the strictest periods of the lockdown. Users are now required to wear face coverings. The success of the markets and other businesses in Camden, however, depend on getting tourists and visitors into the area.
Simon Pitkeathley, the chief executive of business group Camden Town Unlimited, said: “The world is changing so much right now that it must be incredibly hard for TfL to plan much, but I assume that the Camden Town station will return to levels that mean the work has to be done one way or another. Let’s hope so.”
Labour councillor Awale Olad said he would like to see TfL give an update on the projects to the council’s environment and scrutiny committee, which he chairs. “This is a major blow to everyone,” he added. “We have been looking at this for almost a decade now and I will certainly have this brought back to committee for further analysis.”
The Town Hall’s regeneration chief, Councillor Danny Beales, said: “Both Holborn and Camden Town stations are long overdue upgrades. “We’ve had frequent closures to manage congestion and because of safety issues. Whilst right now there may not be capacity issues, these will return in future and they still desperately require investment.”
Councillor Danny Beales
He added: “TfL has lost millions of pounds through lost fares due to lockdown restrictions, as well as losing its £700m a year government grant. It is one of the lowest funded transport networks across European capitals. The government shouldn’t be playing politics with Londoners’ livelihoods and our transport system. It is also not in the nation’s interest to defund the capital.
“Camden and London’s success are vital to the nation’s economy. We need investment to get London moving again and central London working.”
But Shaun Bailey, who will be the Conservative challenger at next year’s mayoral elections, has blamed Mr Khan for TfL’s finance problems.
He said: “Sadiq Khan bankrupted TfL. That’s why he needed a £1.6bn bail-out. And because taxpayers footed the bill, the government asked for oversight of TfL’s finances. This isn’t a power grab, it’s an attempt to protect taxpayers from a Mayor who can’t manage a budget.”