Courtesy of Network Rail

Carnival time as Kings Cross Square opens

Published: 26 September 2013

Celebrating 160 years of serving the public – the Kings Cross Carnival!

Kings Cross station is a Grade 1 listed building built by Lewis Cubitt in the early 1860s and opened for service in 1862. The station, to recap, has a twin 250 metre long barrelled roof trainshed, 22 metres high and 65 metres wide. Along with the rest of the station this has been completely renovated over the last 5 years costing a whopping £550 million.

But, it is absolute proof that the UK can deliver a huge rail project while keeping trains and tubes running. Kings Cross is used by around a million people a week and this is set to grow by 36% over the next 18 years. The station was getting very crowded as more and more trains sought to use it’s 11 platforms.

Platform 0 was added on the east side where the cab rank used to be enabling Network Rail (NR) to close one platform at a time during the upgrade project.

The well known and widely appreciated (if passenger feedback is to be believed) western Concourse has almost returned the station to its original design insofar as arriving passengers are concerned!

Arrivals and departures

The original twin roofs covered tracks that were originally designed for arriving trains on one side and departing trains on the other. Passengers will now exit the main line platforms directly onto the new public square in the front of the station. Departing passengers are directed to the new western concourse thus dividing the footfall and relieving the congestion.

The new public square will allow the Kings Cross façade to be seen for the first time in 150 years as the area in front of the station has been variously used for ticket offices from the 1920s, plus a cab rank and ventilation shafts for the underground station which is just one metre below it.

The old green covered extension was granted planning permission and built in the early 1970s for just 20 years, 40 years ago and has now been demolished. This has been replaced by the public square which opens over the last weekend in September.

Regeneration by the railways

The area around Kings Cross and St. Pancras became run-down and gained a reputation for the darker side of London life delicately described as ‘suffering from physical decay and social deprivation’. After the creation of St. Pancras International and introduction of Eurostar services in November 2007, combined with Thameslink services calling at the new Kings Cross St. Pancras station under St. Pancras, the area has been transformed by billions of pounds investment. It will, when completed, be home or work to 45,000 people and 2000 homes will be built.

Developers have created eight million square feet in 50 buildings in the 67 acre swathe of former railway lands. They have created 20 new streets and 10 public squares attracting such companies as Waitrose, BNP Paribas and Google to the area. Although you won’t find the Google HQ yet for another few years however hard you search as its not yet built!

Public space difficulties

The public square area in the front of the station was home to the old green temporary canopy and three ventilation shafts which serve the six tube lines below them. The canopy was taken down as soon as the Olympics had ended but the ventilation shafts could not be moved. These have been cleverly incorporated into the design and used to provide information screens, signposting and retail outlets.

Trees have been ‘installed’ in raised planters, required as there is no room to plant them below ground level due to the underground booking hall just one metre under the square.

Wide seats have been provided allowing relaxation and LED lighting installed using three 19 metre high masts supplemented with six smaller ones and the station façade will be illuminated by uplighters. This means lighting is more discreet and easy to maintain than conventional arrangements.

All this work has been carried out in just 12 months while the area remained fully functional and designed and constructed to Network Rail, London Underground and the various statutory Authorities’ guidelines.

Celebratory Carnival

To mark the completion of the Kings Cross station renovation and expansion, a carnival has been arranged for Saturday September 28 and Sunday September 29. The organisations behind it are Network Rail, Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership and it will take place in Granary Square just to the north of the station by the Grand Union Canal.

A land train will run from outside the Western Concourse by St. Pancras International from Battlebridge Place along King’s Boulevard, where more carnival events take place, to Granary Square. So what’s on offer? Fairground rides, entertainers and food stalls and what should be a great weekend of entertainment.

The event also celebrates the wider area regeneration supervised by the Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership and will look at the locations Victorian history.

Kings Cross has plenty of world beating history to celebrate. The Flying Scotsman (train and locomotive) served the station and Mallard broke the world steam speed record 75 years ago on a train to Kings Cross. And don’t forget that the ‘Hogwarts Express’ used Kings Cross………..

So, one wonders if the ‘railway doubters’ will visit the station to see what can be achieved? If they do, will it be enough to change their minds about HS2?

That is another story will cover!

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