London King’s Cross is one of the most famous of all stations, not just in the UK, but in the world. It is the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line to Edinburgh, as well as a number of suburban and rural routes. It is a station I know quite well, having travelled through it on numerous occasions. As such, I’ve seen it change a fair bit from when I was a kid.
King’s Cross first opened on the 14th of October 1852, so the station is now 170 years old. The main trainshed and architecture has remained largely unchanged in that time, so the original design, by Lewis Cubitt, has stood the test of time. Originally, King’s Cross had one arrival platform, and one departure platform, but Cubitt and his colleagues knew demand would grow, and designed the trainshed to accommodate future developments. Suburban links to King’s Cross grew considerably, and it wasn’t long before the station was linked to what would become the Underground.
I won’t give a detailed history lesson here (you’re better off checking out the Wikipedia page), but suffice to say, King’s Cross has a rich, and sometimes tragic history. The station was struck by bombs in World War II, and the notorious Underground Station fire on the 18th of November, 1987, killed 31 people.
My personal experiences with King’s Cross began with trips into London as a kid, with my mother, brother, and father. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, King’s Cross had become a crowded, worn-out location. The concourse was rapidly becoming unfit for purpose. The station was dark and gloomy, and the area just outside the station had developed a seedy reputation. Things needed to change, and in 2005, Network Rail approved a restoration plan, that would coincide with the redevelopment of the Underground Station, and greatly improve both the interior and exterior of the station. King’s Cross now boasts a large semi-circular concourse, complete with several shops and a lot of natural light. The dingy extension from 1972 is gone, meaning the original Victorian architecture can be seen once more, from a big open plaza.
All in all, King’s Cross is a beautiful, sweeping piece of work, and is now more functional too. It is the best of both worlds.