VIDEO & GALLERY: Prepare to be wowed by new-look London Kings Cross station
EVEN seasoned commuters should be prepared to be stopped in their tracks when they arrive at Kings Cross station on Monday morning. They will be hit by the ‘wow factor’ of Network Rail’s spectacular new �300million western concourse.
Ten years ago, the area was infamous for its unsavoury reputation. So great has been the transformation of the area in the past decade that Google has bought 700,000 square feet of office space to house its European headquarters, and French finance house Paribas is also set to move in – it is, after all, just two hours from Paris.
That is in addition to the �2.2billion redevelopment of the ‘railway lands’ – the former goods yard and railway workers’ cottages to the north of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.
From Monday, instead of commuting into and out of one of London’s seediest railway terminals, travellers from this area will arrive at the capital’s main gateway.
And, if Kings Cross and St Pancras are the sought-after areas to work, this is going to be one of the sought-after areas to live – so keep an eye on house prices.
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The Kings Cross ‘funnel’, as the developers call the main span of the magnificent new 52-metre-span concourse roof, and its 16 supporting ‘tree’ columns are part of a �440m Network Rail scheme to revitalise the whole Grade I-listed station, which was designed by Lewis Cubitt for the Great Northern Railway and completed in 1852.
The grand scheme includes renovating the railway offices on both sides of the mainline station, adding the additional Platform 0 two years ago, refettling the whole of the Victoria ‘train shed’ roof, which is due to be completed in the summer, and removing the front of the station – which has stood for 40 years with a temporary planning consent as a testament to Camden Council planners’ patience.
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The final part of the transformation by autumn 2013 will be to turn the area currently covered by those temporary buildings into a piazza half as big again as Leicester Square.
The refurbished Great Northern Hotel, which survived 1990s plans to bulldoze it when the original redevelopment plans were first mooted, is expected to re-open next year.
First fruits of the whole project were the new Underground station in 2006, followed by the opening in late 2007 of St Pancras International next door as the UK terminus for international Eurostar connections with Paris, Brussels and beyond.
As St Pancras pulls in passengers from northern Europe, so Kings Cross attracts commuters and others from stations to Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn, as well as long distance passengers from Yorkshire, the north-east, eastern Scotland and even Inverness, which has a daily non-stop service.
Commuters from Cambridgeshire are among 47million passengers using Kings Cross every year – a number the new concourse and its glass bridge access to the long-distance platforms could see rise to 55million.
Network Rail’s Graham Goodwin predicts that passengers will be blown away by what is revealed to them on Monday after years of screens and noise.
“They have no idea what they will be seeing. A lot of people’s journeys to and from work will be dramatically different.”
And, he adds, they have survived a decade of improvement work without a single unplanned train cancellation resulting from it.
Commuter operator First Capital Connect says the new concourse will bring relief not just to regular commuters but to leisure travellers, too.
The company’s Roger Perkins said: “The present concourse is typically packed even outside the peak. The design of the new concourse has our passengers very much at heart. Platforms 9, 10 and 11 [the three main short-distance platforms] will no longer be the poor relations
“It’s going to hit people between the eyes on Monday,” he predicted, “and the new mezzanine floor for long-distance leisure travellers will free up a lot of space for commuters.”
Further improvements planned for Great Northern services include refurbishment of Stevenage Station concourse in 2012-13, opening of the new Huntingdon Station footbridge within days and extra trains to Ely and King’s Lynn.