LONDON UNDERGROUND was this week fighting to stop the government scrapping a £250M section of its major King's Cross Underground station expansion project.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is considering whether to shelve the work. It has seen the budget for this second phase of the King's Cross ticket hall expansion project double since work began on site in 1999.
The work now under threat would see passenger capacity boosted at the station. This will enable the Underground to cope with increased passenger numbers generated by the neighbouring Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) station at St Pancras once it is operational in 2007.
Phase one of the project is already well under way. This will expand the existing Underground ticket hall and construct a new sub-surface ticket hall above the Metropolitan and Circle Line platforms in front of St Pancras station. (NCE 20 February 2003).
The threatened phase two work would see a new underground ticket hall built north of phase one between King's Cross and St Pancras stations. This will handle CTRL passengers and provide new underground links to the Victoria, Piccadilly and Northern Lines.
Excavation work for this phase is already complete and piled foundations are in place.
But last month transport minister Kim Howells told parliament that the case for phase two should be reviewed before more is spent on the project.
London Underground (LUL) said this week that phase two was vital if the station was to handle the extra commuter traffic arriving at St Pancras on the CTRL from 2007.
It also needs phase two because it will provide vital lifts for the mobility impaired within the Underground station (see box).
A Department for Transport spokesman said that the review would assess how much phase two was needed, possible alternatives and what the actual cost would be.
LUL blamed design changes and difficulties with services for the escalating costs of phase two.
'The design has been developing throughout the scheme, ' said an LUL spokeswoman. 'We had to take on Network Rail's wish to physically strengthen the foundations, which was much more expensive than anticipated.'
She added: 'We also had difficulties with utilities not being where we expected them to be and we had to carry out a number of diversions, which was expensive, ' she added.
However, LUL said it did not expect the £250M figure quoted for phase two to increase any further as the detailed design and foundations were complete.
Initial estimates were that the whole scheme would cost around £330M but the final cost is now expected reach £650M.