New Kings Cross Station: Review

Today I walked into the new concourse of Kings Cross Station, one month after its opening expecting shops, a wider ticket hall and a more pleasant experience. Did it live up to my expectations? Read to find out.

Stepping off the Circle line platform at Kings Cross St Pancras and ready to make my way to Kings Cross station, one thing became immediately apparent: there was no new step-free access. The TfL website says that Kings Cross is used by more passengers per year than Heathrow Airport, considering that it is a major interchange with national and international trains people are lugging huge suitcases up and down stairs. This is unacceptable. There are places where a couple of escalators really are needed. Or lifts. Simply having stairs is unacceptable and some of the staircases are so wide than an escalator could easily be added.

Once I'd finally walked what felt like half a mile to the new entrance of St. Pancras I encountered those slow-moving escalators that give you a feeling of amazement as you moving into the station: no-doubt these are also to ease the flow of people moving into the station. Once eventually in a find myself amongst shops and a turn to the left revealed the station itself.

It is be-a-u-tiful. The new roof and the size of the station create a totally new atmosphere: more relaxed, more like travelling on the eurostar. If you are on the food court on the first floor there is also a passageway above the station that takes you to the platforms: not very many people used it and I was able to be on the train much quicker than everyone else by using it though I am sure this will change over time.

After the initially wow of the architecture of the station, I began to notice a few niggles:

1. There appears to be less seating than before... or at least less than I imagined there would be. There is a lot of space which could be used for seating - where people have currently opted to stand for example - which is simply going to waste.

2. The train announcements are quieter due to the immense size of the station: more speakers would solve this. I could hear them but I could imagine people with hearing difficulties struggling.

3. The departure boards are now very high up: it could be hard for those with bad vision to see the boards.

I suppose all of my niggles involve people with some kind of impairment...and if I thought of them, the designers should have too.

My final niggle is one which just seems inherent to the station, rail travel and in particular to East Coast: announce the platforms earlier and it stops people running across the station like lunatics. Further research in this topic has led me to believe this a problem caused by Network Rail and its signallers and not the station...but why does East Coast always seem to be the slowest then...


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