The Society’s meeting on Crossrail 2 on 30th September was packed. Richard De Cani from Transport for London (TfL) said that London needed a new north-east to south-west underground to cope with population growth and overcrowding on older lines (Piccadilly, District and Circle Lines). A Metro, with small trains, linking Central to Outer London, was one option. A regional railway carrying full-size, suburban trains to and from Surrey and Hertfordshire was another. Both could involve tunnels under Chelsea and have a station in the King’s Road next to Dovehouse Green.
Other possibilities included a station in Chelsea but further west, or no station at all between Clapham Junction and Victoria, or alternatively re-routing the line via Battersea Power Station. TfL, having consulted widely, was currently examining the ‘safeguarded’ route of the old Chelsea-Hackney Line (this would include a construction site under Dovehouse Green and the adjacent 1960s Fire Station) to see how it needed to be changed to accommodate either a Metro or a regional railway. Next Spring a revised route would be recommended by TfL and the Mayor to the Secretary of State for Transport.
Assuming a line is built, work would start in about 2017 and take up to ten years to complete. One third of the cost, £4 billion, would come from Government, one third from borrowing and the rest from increased business rates.
Councillor Nick Paget Brown, Leader of the Council, spoke next and said that they were in favour of the new line, but wanted to see the station located further west – beyond Beaufort Street.
Terence Bendixson, the Society’s Hon. Sec. Planning, urged TfL and the Council not to destroy the trees and memorials of historic Dovehouse Green, and warned against big, ungainly commercial development on top of the station.
Many points were made from the floor of the meeting. They included:
- Given the nearness of South Kensington Station, Crossrail2 is unnecessary.
- A station further west in Chelsea would be preferable to a Fire Station location.
- All Underground stations tend to be associated with tacky down-market shops and cafes.
- The disruption of construction would be long and unwelcome.
- Congestion due to lorries in the King’s Road due to construction work would be unacceptable.
- Improved access would further increase already sky-high house prices which exclude from Chelsea all but the super-rich.
- The use of Dovehouse Green as a construction site is unacceptable.
- The new buildings associated with a Crossrail Station will be out of character with Chelsea and the King’s Road.
- Rising retail rents have almost eliminated food shops such as butchers and greengrocers from Chelsea.
- Nine Elms needs underground connections far more than Chelsea.
- The construction of running tunnels threatens the fabric of 19th century houses.
- Noise from trains in running tunnels is feared.
- Ventilation shafts, as shown on safeguarding maps, would be unwelcome.
Cllr Paget Brown gave a partial assurance that Dovehouse Green would be protected and Mr De Cani explained that lessons being learned from the construction of other lines would be applied to Crossrail 2. Modern practice, for instance, involved fewer ventilation shafts and was reducing vibration. And the depth of the tunnelling would reduce risk to old houses above.
Moving the station westwards was not out of the question, but he suggested that engineering problems would arise from moving it as far west as Imperial Wharf. Swinging the line around from there to connect it with Clapham Junction would necessitate impractical curves.
Mr De Cani acknowledged that construction of a station in the King’s Road would be disruptive but, with part of the excavation for it being done from below, some lorry-loads of spoil would be avoided. On the surface a completed station would have a single entrance and the Borough Council would be in a position to control the scale of the buildings replacing the Fire Station.
Opinion on whether house prices would be driven up of down seemed divided though it was clear that construction of a station would deflate those nearby it.
The meeting made one thing clear. Residents are resolutely opposed to the excavation of Dovehouse Green. Opposition to a station next to it was more muted.