Whilst the coming work at London Bridge may have been drawing our eye lately there is, of course, a major station project underway well north of the river as well – the redevelopment of Kings Cross.

Underway since 2007, the project aims to give the station a major overhaul. Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate the current green canopy on the southern side of the station (a “temporary” structure built in the early seventies for which planning permission has now lapsed), uncovering Lewis Cubitt’s original station frontage for the first time in many, many years.

Passenger traffic and booking services are to be relocated to a major new semi-circular concourse on the western side of the station facing onto St Pancras. The location of this can be seen in the photo below, taken from the air during the early stages of construction.

As can be seen, the new concourse abuts the existing station’s Western Range, through which passengers will walk to access the main shed. Passengers will also be able to access the suburban lines through the north side of the new concourse.

Until recently, the Western Range contained many of the station’s back room functions – from TOC and Network Rail staff areas to storerooms. This has all been relocated to the newly refurbished Eastern Range in order to allow the new work to take place. Interestingly the Eastern Range has always been known within the industry as the “Anthrax Building” due to the rumoured presence of large amounts of horse-hair within the plaster work.

“In the end,” Project Director Ian Fry confirmed, however, “I think we found pretty much every form of contamination and disease except Anthrax during the restoration.”

With relocation to the Eastern Range completed in 2009, work has since focused on refurbishing the main shed roof and platforms, constructing the new platform 0, putting the new footbridge in place (the last stage of which is due to be moved into place over the August bank holiday weekend) and completing the work on the western side of the station. All this is due to be completed by Spring 2012, with the dismantling of the green southern covering and the construction of the new open space at the front of the station then taking place after the Olympics.

Work on the west side of the station is now reasonably advanced, and thus it seems a good time to take a brief tour through what is currently in place there. The photos below are thus intended to give an idea as to the current state of work on both the new concourse and the Western Range, as well as an idea as to future layout. Many of the images are our own, but Network Rail have been kind enough to provide several shots to “fill the gaps” where necessary – either due to our failures as photographers, or (in one case) the shocking lack of a helicopter here at LR towers in order to gain a suitable aerial shot.

Before looking at the new concourse in more detail, it is worth looking at a couple of mock ups of how it is intended to ultimately look.

As can be seen, the plan is for a wide, open, covered concourse with a central skylight and additional glazed sections around the edges of the roof. The Western Range will contain the new gate line, as well as a new station pub and toilet facilities. Most impressively, the station renovation brings back into being the original double-height 1852 “pay office” which was decommissioned and turned into a plant room in the 1970s, but which will now once again be the primary booking hall for the station.

The finished roof is an impressive structure, as the image above shows. As can also be seen, the new concourse follows the curve of the Great Northern Hotel that sits alongside the station. The ground floor of the Great Northern has effectively been removed in order to provide open, easy access to the new concourse.

Behind the hoardings, Kings Cross is obviously still a fully functional station. Indeed the new concourse sits directly above the new Northern Ticket Hall, the construction of which included various preparation works for this project.

The Concourse

Inside, the sweep and scale of the new roof is really brought home. It’s a completely free-standing structure, as the large central pillar suggests. Eagle eyes may already have noticed that the project has also included another piece of construction – the permanent closure of the “Bomb Gap.” This is more visible in the photo below on the left.

The Boom Gap was the short length of replacement structure built after the Luftwaffe bombed the station in 1941, which broke three of the ribs on the western side of the station. Temporary and semi-permanent structures had inhabited the space ever since, and these have now been replaced with a permanent structure through which the platforms can be accessed, and which will contain the East Coast First Class Lounge on its 1st floor.

An escalator sits within the centre of the concourse itself, intended to operate on a tidal flow system to help with passenger flows.

Opposite the Western Range, but still within the concourse, is a mezzanine, intended for retail occupation. This sweeps round to the left, over the suburban platform access and through the Western Range into the main train shed where it links up with the new footbridge.

Just through the glass can be glimpsed the restored signage of the old parcel depot, within which will sit the new station pub.

The Gate Line

The new primary gate line is located within the space previously occupied by the old women’s toilets and retail space. This will provide the primary route for most passengers into the Main Shed.

The Booking Hall

The experts amongst our readers may well remember that railway managers installed, at one time, a curious feature in the (similarly impressive) space directly above this booking hall – a full badminton court. We hereby confirm, with a certain amount of sadness (and tongues slightly in cheek), that this is not one of the elements of heritage Network Rail have restored or preserved.

At various points within the Western Range, however, can be found small elements of preservation – such as the iron banisters pictured below. These will no doubt add to the atmosphere for the Range’s new inhabitants and visitors.

In The Pub

Within the old parcel office can be found the space that will be occupied by the new station pub. This is a surprisingly large space, which contains some of the last remaining original timbers within the station. Indeed various timber features have been preserved here.

At its centre sits a light well, which is in the process of being restored and cleaned out, as can be seen from the photos below.

Through the windows of the parcel office’s first floor can also be seen the suburban platforms.

Finally, at the back (and indeed throughout the Western Range) can be found a number of offices – the legacy of the Range’s most recent occupation. These can currently be found along the full length of the structure in various stages of restoration and demolition.

Below is the old FCC Driver’s Mess – now home to various bits of salvaged heritage material awaiting renovation and repurposing.

Overall, therefore, and as can hopefully be seen from all the pictures above, work at Kings Cross appears to be progressing rather nicely. The new concourse certainly already leaves an impression, and looks like it’ll be an interesting addition to one of Europe’s busiest interchange points. With it all due to open next spring, work will likely continue to proceed at a rapid pace, and we will endeavour to bring you an updated set of photos in the coming months.

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.