Yesterday, the new ticket hall at King’s Cross Underground station opened. The official unveiling had been on Friday, with the Mayor and Minister for London, but it was on Sunday that regular commuters got their own chance to have a look around.
So, first things first: the station works. It’s big - surprisingly big, in fact, given how much of it is in deep tunnels. It’s shiny enough (although I’m not sure how long that will last). Generally, it’s well signed. The new ticket hall is well located for St Pancras and the new high-speed domestic services due to start properly in December, and the whole thing has to pretty much double the capacity of the (incredibly busy) station.
The station is so big, in fact, that the lifts have their own map. There are nine of them (although one isn’t open yet and, alarmingly, when I popped in today one was closed), six of which belong to the extended station. Oddly, the lifts don’t go up or down automatically; once called, they wait for a button press to ascend or descend. Generally they’re well signed, but the Piccadilly’s Lift J is hidden between the platforms- I figured out where it was by descending from the interchange subway (pictured above).
The opposite end of the subway to the Victoria line sees the Northern line’s new concourse hosting an artwork by Knut Herik Henriksen, as discussed at Building Design, and photographed by Londonist (cheekily reused above). I suspect the art is so subtle as to go unnoticed by many, but I quite like it (although perhaps more so in photographs and diagrams than in reality). Londonist’s pictures really do a good job of capturing the way a 2009-era Tube station looks when freshly uncovered, too; the shot up at the ticket hall ceiling from the bank of four escalators down to the subway level is lovely.
Speaking of the interchange subways, they’re very, very long. The map above shows how the three deep lines (the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria) more or less meet at a point a the bottom of the current Tube hall’s escalators. The new hall feeds down to a much longer set of passages (in peach), especially for the Victoria line (where they connect with the existing, now barely used, subway to what was once the Thameslink station, now maintained as an exit to Pentonville Road).
There’s nothing really wrong with that. What is somewhat offputting is that the signage at the new entrance to the Underground from the main-line station’s concourse is that it suggests any deep-level passenger should head via the Northern hall. This turns a one and a half minute journey into a four-minute one.
Of course, the signs are there for the confused, and there’s probably merit in sending people down the wider, shinier new corridors. If I get the choice, though, the older entrance is far more likely to be the one I use.
Still, it’s good to see a project that nearly didn’t happen take a massive step forwards.