The long running debate about reopening disused tube stations has reared its head again with a renewed focus on York Road just to the north of the revamped King’s Cross station.

York Road disused station is located between King’s Cross St. Pancras and Caledonian Road stations on the Piccadilly line. It was closed in 1932 owing to low usage and the need to speed up journeys following the extensions at both ends of the line.

Extract from 1908 tube map (with the old line colours!)

Much of the infrastructure, including the street level building, still survives intact. Now that the area is less railway wasteland and more offices and students, is it time to rethink an old decision to close a little-used tube station?

Blue dot shows the location of York Road station

Unsurprisingly, London Underground has already looked at this — commissioning outside consultants, Halcrow for a pre-feasibility study to review the business case in 2005.

In summary, not viable.

In more detail…

A “do-minimum” option was looked at which would reuse the existing shafts to provide two lifts and an emergency staircase, with a capacity of 4,200 passengers per hour. This would not have met modern standards for tube stations, but was felt acceptable for public use if the reopening went ahead. Escalators were ruled out as far too expensive.

Based on 2005 prices, the cost of renovating the old station to modern standards, and replacing the lifts, was reported at £21 million, but TfL estimated that the real cost when works started would end up being in the region of £30-£40 million as there were some costs not included — deliberately — in the report, plus the usual unexpected problems that all projects of this nature throw up.

Once open, there would be an additional roughly £1 million per year in running costs to factor in.

(c) Transport for London

To bring the station up to fully modern standards would be considerably more expensive, so the analysis worked on the principle that the do-minimum option could be accommodated.

A number of standards would need to be deferred, such as platform and tunnel widths, but the report noted that some existing stations on the Piccadilly line already have such derogation agreements, so it wasn’t thought to be an issue for reopening York Road station.

The station building would also need to be expanded to include modern standards for ticket halls, and space for the ticket barriers. Even back in 2005, they were already talking about not having any space for an office to sell tickets from.

Don’t get excited, the purple roundel predates the Elizabeth line

The proposal — which was just a concept — was to put a glass canopy in front of the building to create the necessary additional space. Due to the compact site, the report suggested demolishing most of the back of the surface building, but preserving the original Leslie Green frontage, which still retains its very distinctive ox-blood red tiling.

Down at the platforms, the cross-passages between platforms would need to be modified to include fire doors, and as this station was closed before their introduction on the Underground, an anti-suicide pit would need to be dug under the tracks.

Those works would almost certainly have seen the Piccadilly line suspended for a number of weekends.

(c) Transport for London

The analysis indicates that around.9,200 customers could be expected to use York Road Station during the morning three-hour peak period, with a roughly even split between those arriving and departing reflecting the mixed nature of the King’s Cross Central (KCC) development. 85% of the latter are predicted to have a destination within the KCC development.

While the report accepted that this would be very good for people using the King’s Cross development, it had the knock on effect of slowing journeys for everyone else using the Piccadilly line, due to the extra station being stopped at.

It was also found that people would be inclined to start using the tube to get from King’s Cross to York Road rather than walk the journey, which would increase congestion at King’s Cross tube station.

In summary, “The high capital and operating costs combined with low net quantified benefits gives an extremely poor overall business case” – in technical jargon, a benefit to cost ratio of 0.03:1 Essentially a loss of £34 million.. Although cost-benefit ratios are allowed to run at a loss if there are wider society benefits, spending £40 million, in order to lose another £34 million would not be acceptable.

(c) Transport for London

Accepting that the report was commissioned in 2005, while the cost-benefit ratio might have improved slightly over the years, the downside to the other Piccadilly line passengers having their train trips slowed down by an additional stop won’t have changed. It’s also an issue that the longer a train takes to complete a trip along the line, the fewer trips it can make per day, and that has a knock-on effect on overall capacity for the entire line.

Reopening the York Road tube station translates into more crowded trains, and that is to be avoided at all costs, at least until the New Tube for London is ready in 2022.

The report did accept that political pressure may overrule a strict cost-benefit argument, and London Underground should be prepared for the possibility of political pressure being applied to proceed because of the regenerational benefits that may be incurred as a result, especially if a substantial contribution towards the costs could be found from the private sector.

(c) Transport for London

However, that’s not to say something else might not be possible — as there’s another disused station nearby, or at least, space where it used to be, at Maiden Lane.

A rebuilt Maiden Lane station on the Overground would be much cheaper to build, at around £8 million, and have much lower running costs. The site for the Overground station would be around 100 yards further to the north of York Road Station, roughly where a Camden Council maintains a bus garage.

Replacing that with the usual generic block of flats may generate the cash to fund a rebuilt Maiden Lane station.

However, York Road tube station is unlikely to ever reopen to the public again.


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  1. Mike Jones says:

    Let’s assume that there is no existing station. Would this be a good place for one? I think so, the development in the area is massive, and it is a long walk to KGX. We can’t be in a situation where no new station or relocations are feasible. Perhaps another tube station could be closed (candidates?)
    Yes,I read the negatives, but it would also reduce congestion at KGX as many passengers would leave the train at York Road providing additional capacity for those joining the tube from mainline services. It’s been shown that people over time move to the line that best suits their commute needs, so those getting off at York Road will only increase.

    • Rob says:

      A long walk? you’re kidding, Google maps estimates 15 minutes to Kings Cross its only 0.7 miles, experience tells me that is more like 10 minutes. You cant put a tube station on every street corner they need to be spaced sensibly to cover the population and keep the station count low enough to keep the line speed up.

      The DLR suffers from too many stations slowing the line down to a snails pace because it stops so frequently.

    • The Docklands was built as a local resource not as a Jubilee Line short cut. It was designed to have stations close together.

    • diana says:

      Well I think we can all be confident that they will sell the site for more luxury flats for non doms and damn the local population who actually pay council tax . The cost is probably one cycle lane

  2. Ben Freeman says:

    The need for an additional station in the area is great, and numbers will only increase as more of Kings Cross Central comes online. Reopening any old station will have a knock on effect of increasing journey times be it on the Overground or the Underground so thats a bit of a null point.
    I think both redevelopements are needed inspite of the cost and potential for congestion, which is why the New Tube Trains are so needed. However I can see the more cost effective route would be to reopen Maiden Lane first – which i know would be busy from the outset due to increasing numbers using the Overground Service (a far cry from the old North London Line service) would give additional revenue – as well as redevelopement of unused and underused TfL land could provide towards half of the money needed for a renovated and upto code York Road/Kings Cross North/Kings Cross Central and whilst we are at redeveloping and renovating York Road why not develop apartments atop the new building to provide additional income.
    Either way why cant we start planning for it now rather than wait until it becomes desparate, even if we dont need to start building it now.

    • Jeremy says:

      Even with replacement rolling stock, the Piccadilly line isn’t suddenly going to become flush with spare peak capacity. There would likely be significant periods of the day where one could not board the first few trains to arrive.

      Realistically, unless a future new line were to take a significant amount of traffic away from the Finsbury Park – central London flows on the Piccadilly and Victoria lines.

      Or as it’s also known: Crossrail 2, and then maybe we’ll talk.

    • denise says:

      If anywhere needs tube stations its South London

  3. Andrew Gwilt says:

    York Road tube station to reopen. I think it could happen. Other disused stations in London might also reopen/open such as Primrose Hill, New Bermondsey (Millwall), Maiden Lane, Hythe Rd, Old Oak Common Rd and London Overground could operate the West Ealing-Greenford branch line with Drayton Green, Royal Bar Park, South Greenford and Greenford to be added to the Overground network as Greenford is on the Central Line and West Ealing is on the Elizabeth Line.

  4. Ian Gould says:

    Having lived in the area for 5 years I think reopening York Road has turned from a nice to have to a must have. There has been a huge increase in the number of flats in the surrounding area and the gap between KingsX and Caledonian Road Piccadilly line is at least a 25min walk, 1.5miles – a big distance in Zone1 or 2 standards. One of the most pertinent reasons for reopening is due to the regular overcrowding at KingsX – how many times a year is it closed due to this? There would be no need to go into KingsX if you work or live in ‘north Kings Cross’ meaning less congestion. The addition to journey times surely becomes less and less relevant when you consider the immediate need for the station – the building already exists, shafts already in place – what more reasons to TFL want!!

    • denise says:

      Most of the flats in Kings Cross have been brought by the Chinese or other money launderers …they dont actually live in the flats which is why they design in lights to give the impression they are occupied . Battersea is getting a new tube line to the flats down at Vauxhall …no public enquiry , no wrenching of hands saying we cant afford it …they just get it because they are rich …even if they dont use it . How about the actual people who live here / work here / pay taxes getting better transport

    • ianvisits says:

      If you’re going to make racist rants, at least get your fact correct – there was a public consultation on the Battersea extension.

    • Colin says:

      As usual, it takes a racist to contribute the square root of zero to an important issue such as this. I wonder why? Brexit isn’t working out as planned?

  5. York Road station appears to be in reasomable condition.

    Perhaps the buildinmg should be used as the terminal for a Docklands Light Railway extension from Bank?

  6. Jim Blake says:

    My belief is that York Road (Way) will eventually reopen, hopefully with funding from developers of the former Kings Cross railway lands and from Islington Council, which I know have been in favour of it reopening. Who knows, maybe Camden Council could chip in too – and in the end, we may even see Maiden Lane reopening AND thus providing a direct interchange with London Overground, which the Piccadilly Line does not have at present!

    • Tim Shea says:

      Having worked off York Road I would say to the person who says it is a 10minute walk to Kings Cross is that it is a 10 minute walk if you run. I found it surprising that it was considered to be a negative point because it would attract more people because they want to travel from King’s Cross to York Road. Bottoms on seats means money, having seen the changes in the area since the 1960s I cannot believe it would not be an asset to the tube system. If the points put against York Road were applied to certain existing stations elsewhere you would closing them

  7. Aaron Whenman says:

    I’ve lived just off of York way all my life and seen all the changes over the past 10 years even if they reopened both stations under ground and over ground it would be a boneness to the people whom live here as kings cross is a good 20 min walk c
    Camden road station and Camden Town underground is also a 20 min walk and cally road overground and underground 20 min walk it would be ideal and profitabale to Tod to reopen both stations in my opinion

  8. John Ward says:

    Seems like a great idea to reopen York Street tube station. Just hope that the heritage design of the station is respected and retained.

    • ianvisits says:

      You say that even though the entire article is about why it would be a very bad idea?

  9. Vvladski says:

    @ianvisits I’m intrigued if you’ve heard anything on putting an Overground station in Kings Cross
    On the train and it seems strange to roll past this huge new hub and the not have a stop to service the area

  10. James Mackay says:

    I would like to see the outline appraisal of building a new station where the Piccadilly Line crosses beneath the North London Line of the Overground at Maiden Lane.

    Leave York Way station closed, but close Caledonian Road too. This would make the journey time for everyone travelling through the area the same as now. Increasing it was one of the worst negatives of re-opening York Way, solved.

    It would space the stations much better, making the walking times to the nearest station less than 15 mins for everyone on the line of route. Many more people would gain than would lose by access being a bit further for some who now use Holloway Road.

    There would also be gains for journeys interchanging between the Piccadilly and the Overground, and, by diverting those, (slight) reductions in passenger congestion at King’s Cross, Finsbury Park, and Highbury & Islington.

    Against all this would be the huge construction cost of a complete new station and the disruption of train services while it was done.

    It may be just as clear as the case against York Way that this is a bad idea, but, as I said at the start, it would be interesting to see the outcome of a quick appraisal.

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