The Independent London Newspaper
10th December 2018

'1,163 journeys by 18.5-tonne lorries': campaigners fighting disruption are ready to take King's Cross railways land battle to the High Court

    Published: 10 January, 2013

    THE company behind the redevelopment of King’s Cross railway lands could be dragged to the High Court over its decision to use heavy lorries to transport materials to and from its building sites.

    The King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership will be challenged over its plans for the plot known as Gas Holder Number Eight.

    The Regent’s Network, a group of canal enthusiasts, wants the waterway which runs through the site to be used to bring in building materials.

    Network secretary Del Brenner is behind a plan for a judicial review, currently being logged at the High Court. He said research showed the work will need about 1,163 journeys by 18.5 tonne lorries.

    Mr Brenner said: “They should use the canal. The costs will not be outrageously different but the benefits will be enormous.

    “They are actually obliged by law to do it. Government guidelines say they must take as much off the road and use rail or water. It is right beside the canal and it would take around 120 barge loads to move the spoil.”

    He added: “Lorries cause air pollution – the children of Somers Town get asthma. They wear out the roads. They are dangerous – we’ve had a series of fatal accidents over the years.

    “It ruins the quality of life to have heavy lorries constantly rumbling through our streets. The canal is a brilliant asset that could be used more.”

    His views have been echoed by Richard Rutter, head of enterprise at the Canal and River Trust, which manages the waterway. He said: “You can’t impose unrealistic targets on developers but there are hidden costs of moving materials by road. We would like the developers to look again at using the canal.”

    But a spokesman for the developer said it was sticking to guidelines laid out in 2006 when outline planning permission was granted for the site.

    He said: “We have looked at using the canal for construction freight many times and it has not stacked up. Not least because it tends to involve double handling and a road leg, anyway, to the ultimate destination.

    “We do not consider canal freight to be a realistic option for these works, which have been procured contractually and are ready to go.”


    The key issue is that the

    The key issue is that the developer does not pay the cost of road damage, and the emissions footprint, nor do they reflect the externalities of increased risk to cyclists and pedestrians. So the easy way out is to slip in to the proven formula of piling in trucks, as setting up a canal or rail haulage solution for each individual construction project presents a critical step cost.

    The construction of St Pancras International did use rail to move bulk materials in & out, largely because they still had the sidings of Kings Cross Goods available (now lifted), and access via a ramp from York Way to 2 'spare' tracks (now also removed) through the Eastern bores of Copenhagen and Gas Works tunnels. Kings Cross Goods is now cut off by the new Thameslink Tunnel and approaches, but the St Pancras works did build a new siding for the aggregates used by the concrete batching sites, which remain just off York Way.

    What is needed is a means to maintain a continuity for rail transfer and water transfer locations, which was broken when TfL's Freight Unit was closed down. The success of its revival for London 2012, now sees it reinstated,but with a clear need to deliver for moving freight to the same standard as TfL does for moving passengers. This may well be backed up if an amendment to the Infrastucture and Development Bill succeeds in placing a requirement on larger projects to use these alternatives to truck based haulage.

    You describe the lorries as 18.5 Tons but do you really mean the most deadly vehicles on London's streets, with the highest 'kill' rate - the 4-axle 32Ton rigid tipper. By way of illustration Camden residents might recall the big dig for the Francis Crick building, going down for 4 levels of basement, it kept between 40 and 50 trucks per day making typically 150, 63-mile round trips to Pitsea for around 2 months. I have photographs of the daunting prospect of over 30 trucks queueing back up Midland and Pancras roads almost to Camden High Street,as the start of a day hauling spoil from the Francis Crick site, and by contrast a single tug moving the equivalent of twice as many trucks (1500T) through Central London on the river in a single low impact trip.

    At a rough guess that ton (or truck) mileage would be costing around £15K per day, with the truck resource stuck in traffic queues, strung out along City Road. Whether that dig-rate - of up to 3000T per day, could have been moved for 2 months along the canal (30 barges per day, and dependent on water levels being maintained) would be an interesting debate (8 lockings per hour) It would be 2-3 trains per day, or if the loads made the relatively short trip to the river 1-2 strings of barges. The river can move up to 2000T as far upstream as Battersea, and used to move large barges as far upstream as Brentford Docks & Gasworks. An under-used container handling wharf which can take a 500T barge alongside exists down by Cannon Street Station, but it cannot be effectively used at low tide, unless the berth is piled and dredged.

    There is a case to make that TfL Freight unit should get some of the 'cycle safety' cash to deliver a far more effective solution than mirrors, cameras and sensors, and actually eliminate these truck movements by providing facilities which are 'maintained' ready for use and recoup some of that cost from the charges for materials moved, plus the savings on road repairs. Experience of many such large project is the developers claiming a variety of reasons not to take that step away from the 'safe' (ie financially predictable even if more expensive) and tested option. Excuses for another major project have included a lack of capacity on the river (the PLA and CBOA would welcome the extra business) and the greater risk of damage for precast units travelling on a barge compared to going by road.

    There are many massive projects taking place, and planned putting hundreds of trucks on the road, and a strategy for putting this on rail or river is urgently needed. The big articulated trucks delivering parcels (logistics) don't normally come in to the city (the economics don't stack up) and the hauliers want to keep these trucks moving up and down the motorway network. Retail deliveries also move to use the right size for the store, and avoid coming in during the working day when traffic congestion can wreck their closely scheduled deliveries. that leaves the day-time movements of construction traffic and local 'deliveries' to pubs etc, with the 32T tippers uncomfortably dominating the traffic mix in some parts of the City.

    The double handling detail does not really stack-up as many of the tipping and processing facilities are served by river so it is just one transfer if the site cannot directly connect to a river or rail loading point, indeed the Crossrail waste is shipped out from Paddington by rail and transferred to river after travelling across North London, and in terms of increased truck payload and versatility, the option of using bulk material (open) containers, means a tare weight plus cost saving on the trucks through eliminating the tipper ram and hydraulic power pack, and the ability to use the same trucks for moving other containerised freight. Interesting that one overseas mining operation has moved to using containers for moving the ore from mines to railheads by road and moving consolidated loads by rail for the substantial cost savings that can be made.

    Many of these vehicles do not need to have high ground clearance, and high riding drivers. Walk in cabs are available, and some councils do specify this for refuse trucks, and other vehicles - all with drivers sitting practically at eye level with the pedestrians and cyclist outside.

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