Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday December 01 2007

Earlier in the week I too a look at the new St Pancras Station, and like almost everyone I like it a lot.  This is how to waste public money indeed.

Much of the pleasure of the new station comes from the way it is organised.  About two thirds of the old shed is the new Euro-station, but alongside that is the publicly accessible bit, on your left as you enter, full of shops and coffee bars, with its sunken rectangular areas, bridges, stairs and colonnades.  And then, beyond all that shopaholic bliss, again on the left, is ... a regular British railway station, with trains going to unmemorable places like Derby and Leicester, and maybe even to exactly those places.  I can’t remember.  Presumably that would be the old LMS main line.  The point being that the Euro-trains are twice the length of regular local trains, which means that the short Brit trains make room for all that shopping.  That enabled them to shove the old station completely into the new extension, using the original station only for the Euro-trains.

Here’s what the whole thing looks like from the air.

image

I snapped that by snapping my TV during one of the six half-hour documentaries that the BBC has been airing about the remaking of the station.  It’s not the best photo technically, but you get the picture very clearly from that, I think.  The rather darker railway lines on the right as we look down are the local lines, presumably.

Here is another aerial view, this time very fine indeed, of the new station.  On the left you can see Kings Cross, and beyond St Pancras on the right, you can see the British Library.

Next is a fine shot of the station as you enter it by train, found on flickr.

image

Not a lot is being said by commentators about the new bit, because it is so banal.  But, as with the new Hungerford footbridges, I am becoming a convert, after first not approving.  The new Hungerford footbridges rescue the original and very dull railway bridge.  The new St Pancras extension is simply added to the far end of the glorious original, adding not very much aesthetically, but also subtracting very little, and arguably, by contriving that you enter the old station as if through a tunnel, making the arrival in the old station, presumably, all the more dramatic.  I am looking forward to actually doing this.

And here are a few of the best snaps that I took.  By the time I got there it was already getting dark, but this didn’t diminish my pleasure, or photographic effectiveness.  For one of the most excellent things about this station is how well it is lit, and how cannily the colours of the roof have been selected.  That light blue and grey works very well.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Inevitably there were other Billion Monkeys about besides me, and inevitably I snapped some of them.

I agree with Patrick Crozier about the naff statue.  I like the idea of representative sculpture, but this just looks foolish.  My photo makes it look far better than it is.  The John Betjeman stature, on the other hand, actually is far better.  And note the last two, inside and outside the boring extension.

Yet more St Pancras snaps and commentary here, including a full length one of the stupid statue.  Maybe I’ll eventually get to like that too.

By the way, you can’t help noticing that the place is not yet finished.  Many of the shops are still boarded up, and all over the place evidence is to be found of work yet to be done, details yet to be cleaned up or finalised.  The number of people (not that many) there when I went, which was at about 4pm, surely reflected the only partial nature of what is there now.  When it all beds down, it will be very crowded, I think.  So if you want to visit, now might be a good moment.  On the other hand, when it is finished, it will be even better, and arguably the greater throngs will suit it better.