A plot of land next to the disused York Road tube station that’s been undeveloped for 30 years could soon be the site of a large medical research lab now that engineers have solved the problem of how to build on a site that sits above five railway tunnels.

New development next to refurbished York Road station (c) KPF/Planning documents

The plot of land is just north of King’s Cross, and the station’s three large national rail tunnels run right underneath it. It’s also right next to the disused York Road tube station, so there are two tube tunnels as well.

Although some light industry buildings are on the site, it has proven a considerable engineering challenge to build something heavy above the tunnels.

The proposal is for a tall building that partially steps back from the main road and at the rear with terraces for occupants to use. The stepped-back design isn’t just cosmetic but a response to the constraint of having three railway tunnels that run very close to the surface right underneath the site.

Schematic showing tunnels (c) KPF/Planning documents

Where the building rises, it sits above the much deeper Piccadilly line tunnels, which are deep enough not to be affected by the office above. In effect, most of the weight is concentrated on the back half of the new medical research laboratory building, which then supports the lighter-weight front half of the building.

The design of the ground floor also reflects the tunnels below — as it allows the upper floors to sit on vibration absorption pads separate from the ground floor structure and prevents researchers from being disturbed by passing trains.

The whole development sits next to the disused York Road tube station. Although there are no plans to reopen the station, the surface buildings look to be refurbished and the sealed-off forecourt opened up as new pavement space.

The current state of York Road station (c) KPF/Planning documents

All this is subject to planning approval from Islington council.

Planned development (c) KPF/Planning documents


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  1. MPW says:

    Vibration absorbing pads… enough to mitigate the concerns of tunneling under francis crick institute? Or a step in that direction maybe?

    Answering my own question: probably not or it wouldn’t keep coming up as a reason not to tunnel from euston to st p.

  2. Keith says:

    Interesting to see they plan to retain the York Road surface building and refurbish it. I gather it’s currently an emergency tube exit and may provide ventilation.

    I wonder if they plan to turn part of the surface building into a shop unit. Alternatively, they may hope in the long term that they can persuade TFL to reopen the station for those working in the new research lab. From what I’ve read the lifts used to go all the way down to platform level, which presumably is a big tick for accessibility.

    • ianVisits says:

      Click on the links in the article about there not being any plans to reopen the station for details as to why they wont be reopening the station.

  3. Tony says:

    How long ago was the station closed?

  4. Giselle says:

    I would love it if they put a café into the unused York station building. No idea if there is enough space but that’s my two cents worth of what I’d do with it.

  5. Tim Watson says:

    The Model Railway Club’s 2mm scale model of York Road station (part of the Copenhagen Fields layout) will become quite pertinent with this development. It features all aspects of the station, above and below ground.

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