Long the dowdy, unloved sibling of near-neighbour St Pancras, King's Cross station is partway through a huge redevelopment that will restore the building to its Victorian splendour and equip it as a major transport hub for the 21st century and beyond. Network Rail were kind enough to show us round the new bits and explain how the reconfigured station will operate.
The main focus is the concourse on the station's western flank, built directly above the new Underground ticket office that opened in 2009. Designed by John McAslan + Partners, and engineered by Arup, the huge, curvaceous structure, 20m high at its apex and 150m long, has been built snugly between the existing Grade 1-listed station and the Great Northern hotel, and will form the main entranceway. The new concourse should offer better connections for passengers travelling between King's Cross and St Pancras, and will also make it easier to reach the various Underground lines that service the complex. It will contain shops, a cafe area on the mezzanine floor, and a new ticket office, which is actually being built in the station's original booking hall, closed since the 1970s.
The station's western range (the line of buildings adjacent to the train shed) is also being refurbished. The work includes a new building to fill the gap where an incendiary bomb fell during the Blitz; though faithful to the original, the new bits of brickwork are clearly identifiable. The interior of the western range is being converted into offices and a first class lounge. At the northern end, the old parcels office will become a two-level pub (we might visit when we get around to re-doing the station pub crawl).
The effect of the new concourse is to swing the entire focus of the station 90 degrees clockwise, which makes sense if you think of King's Cross and St Pancras as a single transport hub. Situating the main access route onto the platforms to the side could make getting to their train on time trickier for some passengers, particularly those accessing the low-numbered platforms at the far end; to ameliorate this, the new development includes a footbridge, mid-way along the platforms and accessible from the mezzanine level of the concourse. This should help, although whether it is big enough to accommodate what will at rush hour be a heavy flow of passengers remains to be seen. The new concourse does, however, immeasurably improve access to the suburban platforms 9 and 10.
The new concourse is scheduled to open in Spring 2012, ahead of the Olympics. The final part of the King's Cross project will be to remove the green canopy that currently sits on the Euston Road extension (originally built in the 1970s as a temporary measure), thus restoring the station's Victorian facade, and building a new public square. This should be done by 2013.
For an idea of how the station will look when complete, see our post on the future of King's Cross station from last month.
All pictures by the author unless otherwise stated.