Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter September 2002
The proposal for a walkway next to the London Overground North London Line between Camden Road and York Way is supported by Camden Council, local MP Keir Starmer and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. According to the scheme’s designers, the ‘raised park will feature gardens and walkways, seating areas, cafés, arts and cultural interventions, spaces for charitable activities, areas for children’s play and a woodland balcony overlooking Camden Town’. What’s not to like?
The problem is that, unlike the New York Highline on which it is modelled, this walkway is on operational railway land, using an elevated space that was once occupied by rail tracks and is situated next to a live railway. There were four tracks in use in the 1960s, which reduced to three tracks and then to two in the 1990s. Two tracks were thought sufficient for current rail traffic, but Transport for London and the private-sector rail freight industry now want to add at least one track back at Camden Road station, to cope with increased demand. Rail freight passes to and from Felixstowe and Thames Gateway container ports, plus the Kings Cross to Euston main lines and the Channel Tunnel.
The on-line magazine Railfreight.com shares our concerns. ‘The proposals’ they say, … ‘are at odds with Network Rail ambitions to provide additional capacity for growing freight traffic across the north of London’.
Future Transport London has compiled a detailed statement of opposition to the Camden planning application 2022/2019/P. We claim that consent would destroy Network Rail’s recently published aspirations for the UK’s rail freight traffic and Transport for London’s plans for increased London Overground capacity.
There is also the question of the number of platforms at Camden Road station. Originally there were four platforms. Two have long been taken out of use and the entrance to the Highline is planned to be on the site. Network Rail’s 'London Rail Freight Strategy' report, published in May 2021, states that the pathing of freight trains would be eased by the reopening of a third platform and that the middle platform could be used for extra London Overground trains to and from Stratford. The plans for the Highline would make that impossible.
The Highline planning application acknowledges a possible need for the land in the future and is asking for 'temporary' use for 20 or 30 years, but FTL points out that at the end of that time it might be financially or politically impossible to regain it for railway use.
The Highline is a nice idea but we fear that, if installed, it would pile up problems for the future. The scheme's designers have published no proposals to ever fund its removal, so presumably general taxation would have to be used. Overcrowding on the North London Line might well be unbearable in much less than 20 years' time.