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Future for King's Cross in doubt

A government review into the escalating cost of Arup/Allies and Morrison's new ticket hall at London's King's Cross Underground station threatens to destabilise an ambitious regeneration programme for the entire area.

A halt on construction of the Northern Ticket Hall was announced by transport minister Kim Howells last week after latest cost figures reached £250 million, double the original estimate.

The move will affect a separate scheme being developed by John McAslan + Partners for a new concourse for the mainline station, which takes in the area above the proposed Northern Ticket Hall. The project will include the demolition of the much-maligned canopy that currently fronts the station.

Also linked to the Underground project is a £1 billion masterplan (pictured above) for the 24 hectares of blighted land to the north, also by Allies and Morrison, with Porphyrios Associates for developer Argent St George.

Camden Council, which is this week pressing for a meeting with the transport minister, is appealing for him not to pull the plug at this crucial stage. Bob West, manager of the council's King's Cross team, told the AJ that the review, which is timetabled to complete in the summer, was 'very problematic'.

'The review reintroduces uncertainty back into King's Cross, ' he said. 'After we thought we'd finally cracked it after 20 years, this is another shift that makes it all unstable.

'All the planets are in alignment and they should move ahead now, but someone has thrown in a comet, ' he added.

West warned that, in the short term, the review could hold up a planning application for the masterplan and design development of the concourse. But if the government concludes that London Underground should abandon the plans or delay them by years, it could force major changes to both projects.

Allies and Morrison director Graham Morrison confirmed that any delay to the Underground works would affect the masterplan. But he added: 'These projects are so enormous you just have to absorb change.'

In a statement, London Underground said the rising costs were due to the complexity of the engineering works and that original estimates were produced on the basis of an early conceptual design. It insisted that, should the Northern Ticket Hall be severely delayed or abandoned, it would prepare the site to enable McAslan's concourse scheme to go ahead.

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