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End of the line for West Hampstead interchange

PUBLISHED: 14:56 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2010

Susanna Wilkey THE long-awaited West Hampstead interchange project has come closer to the end of the line, with Network Rail considering selling the land. The move has left residents and rail users distraught. For 11 years, people have campaigned for the

Susanna Wilkey

THE long-awaited West Hampstead interchange project has come closer to the end of the line, with Network Rail considering selling the land.

The move has left residents and rail users distraught. For 11 years, people have campaigned for the project to link West Hampstead's stations and make the area safer for pedestrians and passengers.

Now the Ham&High has learnt that Network Rail has undertaken a confidential consultation with rail industry partners - not the public - on the effects of getting rid of the land at 146 to 154 and 187 to 199 West End Lane. This is the site around the Overground station, including the shops and hoardings, and around and including the Paramount building.

Campaigners say if this land is sold, an integral part of the interchange project - moving the Overground station back, widening the pavement and creating access for the disabled - will be destroyed.

Diana Frost, liaison officer for the West Hampstead local consultation group, said: "After all these years of talking to Network Rail, we finally get down to a workable scheme and they decide to sell the land so we won't have anything.

"What is the point of talking for 11 years if they are going to sell it? The bridge on the Thameslink won't be any good if the area cannot accommodate the people coming in.

"We are very angry because Network Rail just wants to make money out of this development without giving any facilities for the passengers, local people or disabled people.

"If they sell that land they won't ever be able to put in disabled access or push the station back from the pavement to make the facilities better. They didn't even widen the narrow pavement when the Paramount building was constructed."

Locals say the junction at Iverson Road and West End Lane, where passengers will exit from the Thameslink once the bridge is complete, is a dangerous crossing where many people have been knocked down.

If there is no new access point created to the Overground station, passengers and pedestrians will be funnelled into a narrow pavement creating a hazard.

Virginia Berridge, chairwoman of West Hampstead Amenity and Transport, said: "It is incredibly disappointing after all these years. The interchange will now become very fragmented. We have been through so many different versions of the interchange project and we finally thought the latest version, which everyone was happy with, would go ahead.

"So it is very disappointing and frustrating to learn they could well sell the land."

And chairman of the West Hampstead small traders and residents association, Jitendra Thakorlal, added: "A lot of traders would be severely affected by this so I cannot believe they haven't consulted us. It seems they have already made a decision to sell this land and I don't think they have any qualms about what will happen to traders.

"The interchange between the stations desperately needs to be improved and it never will be if the surrounding land is sold off."

A consultation by Network Rail on land disposal usually precedes a decision to sell land. If the company goes ahead with the sale, it will have to apply to the Office of Rail Regulation for permission.

A spokesman said: "This exercise is designed to ensure that Network Rail retains land vital for the operation of the railway and ensures that future aspirations for improvement and expansion at West Hampstead are safeguarded. This consultation does not infer that the land will be sold.

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