Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Trainspotting: London Kings Cross Station and Orientation

*** update 26/10/2012

From Wednesday 31, October 2012, Network Rail is temporarily changing the way you exit King’s Cross station from platforms 0-8.  You will no longer be able to exit through the old concourse.  However, these exits will remain open:

Left on to York Way
Right into the Underground
Right through the new concourse

The closure is to allow the safe demolition of the old extension and the creation of a public square.
More details and maps can be found on:

*** end of update
19th September 2012

The Kings Cross area in London is still under reconstruction, though the end shape of the Kings Cross Terminus is now clearer and worth checking for yourself.  After the reopening of the St Pancras development I had an orientation tour of the main features and thought I would do the same for Kings Cross.  My first visit had been in 1969 and my last had been in 2011 when I returned from Hertford North. 

View of Kings Cross main entrance from Euston Road
22 November 2012

I entered through the old entrance and could make out the mazes for people standing in line for trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow and points north although the area was deserted.  I followed the sense of the direction to the platforms but a barrier directs you to a left turn in a new concourse.  Having found an information desk, I asked if it would be possible to be given an orientation tour and Craig Tomlin, the duty station manager from Network Rail came and took me round. 

Craig asked what sort of journeys I might want to make and how would I normally arrive at Kings Cross-St Pancras.  He then took me out of the new concourse to a point near Pancras Road, where I could make out the Train Shed of St Pancras.  I recognised the pathway to the side entrance to that station and we started to go back into Kings Cross.  This is a neat way of “wayfinding” as I could start to lay my reel of cotton (metaphorically speaking) so that I could map my movements from a sound base. 

We then passed by Platforms 11,10 and 9 which are the platforms used for local services provided by First Capital Connect (FCC).  This company has a cornflower or powder blue livery for ticket machines and I could sense the “blue” glow without knowing what they were.  The accessible toilets are behind a turnstile and Craig told me how to gain access.  We then entered the main train shed with platforms 8 down to 1 (There is a trackline for Platform 0)  The train shed has been re-fitted and totally re-covered with glass and some solar panels which generate about 20% of the station’s power needs.

The original frontage of this station has been uncovered and with much of the later additions to be removed, will result in a large space adjoining Euston Road.  The new development has much natural light and an open skeletal structure with ribs supporting the glass roof.  There are some monoliths which may have projections and there is a lot of stone and steel.  

View of St Pancras International along Pancras Road
22 November 2012

Craig suggested I think of the station as a capital L with the horizontal limb at an angle to Euston Road.  We then retraced our way to the concourse and Craig indicated where there were potential human bottlenecks, with attention focussed on destination boards and sudden movement to the platform.  This is to be expected in any station but it was thoughtful to be made aware of these points. 

After taking me round the station Craig took me over Pancras Road following the tactile surfaces.  We discussed them as they align to a tactile crossing in Pancras Road.  Entering the side entrance to St Pancras, Craig took me to the FCC help desk and the duty staff took me to the Thameslink platform where I was put on a train home. 

This orientation tour was a real confidence booster.  While the track layout is essentially the same, the station has been effectively relocated and is brand new. 

Many thanks to Craig, Network Rail and FCC.   This was undertaken with no advance planning and indicates an awareness in some of our transport management structures. It is worth noting that the London Underground staff at this station (Kings Cross-St Pancras are always approachable as are the staff in St Pancras main station.

First Capital Connect website :
Network Rail website:
Website for King’s Cross: