Britain's most expensive hole in the ground is probably the £300million northern ticket hall under the road between St Pancras and Kings Cross. Alternate exits for Kings Cross underground first came up in the Fennell Report into the appalling 1988 fire, the new ticket hall was finally opened at the end of last year only 21 years later.
It was a very complex job and the delaying in commissioning it let to costs spiralling (the more work was done around it the more compelx the project became – a bit like digging a cellar while you are building the house instead of before it – the latter will always be cheaper). The engineers managed to dig a big hole without hitting a gas main or either St Pancras or Kings Cross falling into it – this article gives an insight into the complexity.
But now the northern ticket hall is open does it work? I waited until the hall had been open for a while and traffic flows normalised, went for a walk and took a video. I thought it was working quite well at 0830 am (and I didn't get arrested under the Terrorism Act for taking pictures).
This site covered a fascinating angle to the flaws in St Pancras station (in the face of otherwise hagiographic press coverage). A particular problem was the huge flows of people down the central concourse from the domestic services at the top of the station to the tube at the bottom. The concourse wasn't wide enough.
As the video shows, the northern ticket hall has now swallowed almost all those people – they enter the tube at the top of the station. The central concourse is now a much more pleasant place.
Underground the tunnelling is impressively wide and capacious, reducing to the traditional tube claustrophobia-inducing widths only as you get close to the platforms. The only downside seems to be the remarkably long walking distance underground to get to the tube – but it may just be an optical illusion. I also hear that closures due to overcrowding in the mornings have eased up on Kings Cross Square.
What do people think – let us know through the comments.