Could King's Cross obtain 'destination station' status?
- 14 March 2012
- From the section London
King's Cross station has arguably been London's worst major railway station over the last few years.
It was grotty, inconvenient, out of date and barely fit for purpose for the 47m travellers that use it each year.
Take the green corrugated iron exterior as an example.
It was meant to be a temporary structure, but I am told that every four years Network Rail has to apply to the council to renew the planning permission for it.
Hardly the stuff of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
King's Cross also got left behind by the new wave of 'retail destination' stations, like neighbouring St Pancras International.
There, the station is almost as much about shopping and restaurants as it is about boarding a train.
However, that is about to change as the western concourse at King's Cross officially opens later, with commuters starting to use it from Monday.
I have been lucky enough to see inside and it's certainly impressive. It moulds the old listed buildings with a new steel latticed dome spectacularly.
As you would expect, there will be bars, restaurants and retail outlets similar to St Pancras International, to make waiting for a train or a passenger more enjoyable.
The cost is £550m, including a new square at the front that will open in 2013.
Predictably, not everyone thinks it's money well spent.
Some local community bloggers are questioning why the money hasn't been invested in improving the service and capacity on the Great Northern line to Cambridge and Peterborough instead of the station.
There are also concerns the station cuts off parts of Islington.
Network Rail says it is maximising income by improving the space for retail outlets and more capacity will be delivered with the completion of the Thameslink into St Pancras project.
It says it will be able to run more 12-carriage trains eventually on the Great Northern line after some stations are extended.
Network Rail also promises improvements to existing lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace to give more timetable flexibility.
One last thing. The western concourse is where the famous Harry Potter Platform 9 3⁄4 will end up and I'm told a certain film company may be interested in the lease on the nearest shop.