A collective cheer could be heard as Network Rail began tearing down the unloved green canopy that has overshadowed the historic frontage of King’s Cross station since the 1970s. Once removed it will reveal, for the first time in 150 years, Lewis Cubitt’s magnificent Grade I listed Victorian station façade and London’s newest public space – King’s Cross Square.
The demolition of one of the capital’s longest surviving temporary buildings marks the start of the final phase of the biggest transformation in station’s 160-year history, with the new square – designed by award-winning London-based architects Stanton Williams – due to open in autumn 2013.
At more than 7,000 square metres, King’s Cross Square is 50% bigger than Leicester Square and will open up stunning views, not only of the historic frontage of the station but also across to St Pancras International.
Matt Tolan, Network Rail’s programme manager at King’s Cross said: ‘We’re finally removing a building that’s almost universally unloved, restoring the station to its full architectural glory and creating a modern station fit for the future that gives passengers and the local community a huge new space to enjoy. With the completion of the final phase of King’s Cross station’s redevelopment, we aim to bring a bit of the grandness and old-world charm of Europe’s city-centre railway stations right to the heart of 21st century London.”
The civil engineering challenge of deconstructing the delicate canopy and creating the new square is being undertaken by J. Murphy & Sons Limited. Patrick Shaw, Murphy senior project manager, explains: “We’re excited to begin work on the imaginatively designed square which deftly resolves several complicated challenges. Delivering a scheme at a station which handles 47m passengers per year requires a carefully considered approach to passenger flow management. We have deployed innovative methods and placed the station users at the heart of the planning in order to ensure safe and easily navigable access, in particular, to and from rail and underground platforms.”
David Partridge, speaking on behalf of the King’s Cross Business Partnership, said: “King’s Cross is a rapidly evolving place and is fast becoming one of the most exciting destinations in the city. Over the last 10 years almost £2.5bn has been spent on the transport infrastructure in King’s Cross and St Pancras creating the best interchange in the UK with unrivalled accessibility. The removal of this canopy together with the creation of the new square will be another vital part of the new public realm opening up this area of London.”
The final phase of works follows the opening of the spectacular glass and steel western concourse in March, providing three-times more space for passengers than the old concourse, with improved links to both the London Underground network and St Pancras International station.
More than 45m passengers a year – travelling through London and to and from destinations including Cambridge, Peterborough, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh – now have improved facilities including better lighting, larger destination boards, clearer station announcements and more shops and restaurants.
While construction of the new King’s Cross Square takes place, passenger arriving by train into King’s Cross station will need to exit the station either left onto York Way, right into the Underground or right through the new western concourse. When construction is complete, passengers will enter the station via the new western concourse and exit from the front of the station onto King’s Cross Square.