Who's been to look at St Pancras, then?

Discussion in 'London and the South East' started by teuchter, Dec 2, 2007.

  1. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Went along to have a look at the newly reopened St Pancras today.

    I've been keeping an eye on it over the last few years, peering in from the Midland Mainline bit, reading about it and more recently been watching the documentary on the telly about its construction. So I had some idea of what to expect.

    I have to say that I would most likely have been a lot more impressed if I didn't know what to expect; if the last I'd known of it was as the dark, smoky, rusting place it was before renovation. Nonetheless, some mixed feelings when I actually got there.

    On the one hand, there are a lot of things about it which are really spectacular. Most obviously, the roof structure with its reinstated glazing and repainted steelwork... very beautiful, and today the sun was coming through it and shining onto the brickwork along the east wall of the trainshed. Easily one of the most impressive structures, and spaces, in London, I would say.

    And generally, the quality of the purely architectural elements, whether new or refurbished old, in the "old" part of the station seems very good; nothing looks like it's been skimped on unreasonably or boshed together.

    The entirely new elements in the "old" part have been inserted unfussily and I think perfectly successfully, in architectural terms.

    The extension to the trainshed (at the north end of the platforms: it lengthens the Eurostar platforms to enable them to accommodate the full length of a Eurostar set as well as housing several shorter platforms for domestic services) isn't in my opinion a particularly stunning piece of architecture. Rather bland and also a bit clunkily detailed, especially the roof which has obviously been designed to let light through (it is made up from a series of angled fins) yet doesn't really succeed in doing this and ends up looking heavy and dark. However, it doesn't bother me as much as it did when I first saw it (before the main station was reopened) because it doesn't really impact on your experience of the main trainshed, mainly because its roof has been kept low enough not to be visible through the big arch at the north end.

    My main quibbles are to do with Eurostar's claims that it is the "greatest railway station in Europe". The railway station seems almost incidental to it, in a way. It might more accurately be described as Europe's grandest shopping centre, with trains attached.

    It just doesn't really feel like a train station. Yes, you can see the Eurostars, but they are behind glass security barriers and are to be observed more like animals in a zoo. Almost all of the "train station" stuff - ticket halls, waiting rooms, and suchlike, is buried away in the undercroft. The truly great stations of the world are filled with the activity of travel - people waiting, meeting, queuing, running, snoozing ... destination boards, luggage trolleys and all the rest of it. This feels like it's missing from St Pancras.

    I know that's partly to do with the way Eurostar works and the security concerns that access has to be more controlled than in most stations. But comparing St Pancras to Gare du Nord... well, the latter just feels much more like a real train station.

    It's telling that the domestic trains have been relegated to the far end of the station, and banished from the Barlow shed altogether in favour of a double-height void (where the platforms could have been) given over to retail space. Well, perhaps that's just how the economics add up, and perhaps it wouldn't have been viable to renovate the building to such a standard without doing this. But it's a bit sad nonetheless.

    The building is currently marred by various bits of tacky Christmas marketing tat ... including a giant and fairly ugly "advent calender" (sponsored by Boots?) right across the arch at the South end. At least they have been kind enough to cut a hole in it for the rather lovely giant clock.

    Oh yes, the "world's longest champagne bar": well, it's OK but nothing special. Just a long line of people drinking champagne. I thought it was going to be something a bit special, but it's not really.

    And then there is that statue. I wont say any more as there are enough derisory comments here and here already.

    So all in all then, a spectacular and beautiful building (although it is mainly the Victorians we have to thank for this), and definitely one of London's best and grandest spaces. And it's really good to see this kind of investment being put into rail infrastructure for once, even though one gets the feeling that the investment hasn't been put in entirely for the benefit of the railway bit of it. For my money, it's not London's best railway station though - that honour remains with Paddington.

    By the way, it might be open, but it's by no means complete. Still an awful lot of hoarding around the place.

    I'd be interested to hear what others make of it.....
  2. Minnie_the_Minx

    Minnie_the_Minx someinenhhanding menbag and me ah bollox

    No. I watched the series that's just finished though.

    May take my b/f to see it as he's a brickie
  3. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Some nice new (in style of the old) brickwork on the West side....
  4. Minnie_the_Minx

    Minnie_the_Minx someinenhhanding menbag and me ah bollox

    I wouldn't know where west was but my b/f could happily sit there and talk about bricks for quite a while :D
  5. g force

    g force Affects Shatner's Basoon

    I went...thought it was shite. I agree it doesn't feel like a train station particularly...assume it's security designed in.

    The statue that's meant to be a "centrepiece" is bollocks because it should have been the station itself that's the centrepiece and takes people breath away. IMO they failed because they seemed more interested in the positioning of the shops to get some money.
  6. Prince Rhyus

    Prince Rhyus Spokesman of King Antonio

    And that's the really sad thing about many of the stations these days. They are becoming more like shopping centres with train stations attached to them. There are big plans to completely do up the area around Cambridge's railway station and my fear is that the £700million+ redevelopment is going to go down the same route rather than being something much more holistic to serve both the neighbourhood, the city and the region.

    Having lots of clone shops really doesn't do it for me.
  7. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    i don't think there's anything wrong per se about combining train stations with retail. It's certainly preferable to having a neglected station that no-one uses along with an out-of-town shopping centre that everyone drives to. This is the situation in many places. Anything that centres activity around public transport is good if you ask me.

    It's just a shame when this approach is applied to the extent where the train station becomes subsiduary to the other activities thus defeating the purpose somewhat.
  8. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    He'll probably like the gothic brickwork in the entrance bit between the new Underground ticket hall and the "Arcade" of shops at undercroft level.

    It took me a couple of minutes to convince myself that it is all brand new.
  9. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    It is a real shame that the station no longer works as smoothly and simply for trains to the Midlands as it used to. As John Betjeman noted, despite all the gothic trimmings, the orginal plan was very practical - get dropped off in a cab, stroll into Booking Office to buy a ticket then a short walk to your train.

    That tunnel into which cabs used to disappear before emerging into Midland Road always had a strange Alice in Wonderland rabbithole feeling, which I will miss. On the other hand, only a few sad fans of Piranesi's Carceri like me will probably mourn the loss of that overcrowded former tunnel to the Tube.

    One other saving grace of the new layout is that [when it finally opens next weekend removing some of those hoardings], the escalator for the Thameslink will come out next to the domestic ticket office - removing the need for the yomp from Kings Cross Thameslink.

    However, the lack of any waiting facilities for domestic passengers at platform level - apart from a few tables inside Camden foods - is a scandal.
    [Apparently the first class passengers have to slum it without a lounge until next year as well.]
  10. catrina

    catrina back on the road

    Grand Central Station in New York is a real beauty.

    I haven't been inside St. Pancras yet. The stupid thing has been under works and messing up my bus route into work for the entire duration of my time in the UK (over 7 years). I don't know why they have to go and make luxury flats out of it, as well, seems kind of obnoxious to me.

    I'll get the chance to have a gander this week and will report back.
  11. g force

    g force Affects Shatner's Basoon

    Indeed...I've got no issue with retail..hell I always need a coffee if i'm catching an early train but it's the same old crap plus a few up market bits. And the "longest champers bar" is a pathetic joke.
  12. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    i was there this morning, had a sausage sandwich and a coffee at baby betjiman, was getting a train from kings x thameslink, but popped in to have a look, noticed that all thameslink trains will be leaving from st pancras next week, not sure what is happening to the thameslink station, which is a bit miserable tbh, st pancras is enormous, but not quite finished, a load of shop units have not yet been completed, that long bar is a bit rubbish, it's a small champagne bar with a long load of tables stretching along a platform - i wanted a long bar:mad:

    apart from that, it looks great looking up at the massive arch, still some scaffolding outside, so not quite finished yet, the retail units, well they wouldn't drag me there, they are just shops
  13. Minnie_the_Minx

    Minnie_the_Minx someinenhhanding menbag and me ah bollox

    Can't wait. He's already been asking me what's wrong with my M&S Christmas Tree Advent Calendar from a brickies' point of view :rolleyes: :D
  14. WouldBe

    WouldBe non smoking

    It's the left hand wall as your looking out along the tracks. :)
  15. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Alternatively, face East and it's behind you.
  16. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    The blue on the ironwork isn't right. I think the Victorians would have had it a tad gaudier.
  17. Minnie_the_Minx

    Minnie_the_Minx someinenhhanding menbag and me ah bollox

    :D :D :p
  18. WouldBe

    WouldBe non smoking

    It's years since I was at St P. What was the west wall like?
  19. laptop

    laptop Freudenschade

    As I recall it, on the inside it was original brickwork, in good nick - since it was next to a carriage siding, not a platform, so no-one had burrowed kiosks into it.
  20. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    I think everyone is a bit shocked by the "Barlow blue" when they first see it.

    It was hopelessly impractical because it got covered in smoke so quickly, but it is the designer's original vision which can finally be maintained now that only electric trains come into the trainshed.

  21. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Can't remember what it was like on the outside.

    While I was there the other day I noticed they were building some kind of additional structure at high level on this side. Not sure what that's all about.
  22. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Is that all new then?

    I found that space really bizzare ... a kind of no-man's land between the tube concourse and the station proper. Especially with the strange (and rather bright) lights on the wall. Feels like a bit of space no-one had really thought about. Which is unfortunate because presumably, in practice, this is how a large proportion of people will enter the station.

    Also the tube concourse itself (I know it's been open for a while now) ... it's functional but a bit boring.
  23. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    it was my first visit - found it a bit confusing really - it is a massive space, and i wasn't quite sure of the way out:oops:
  24. Paulie Tandoori

    Paulie Tandoori shut it you egg!

    Interesting comments, we're going through it this weekend so will let you know first thoughts following that expedition.
  25. William of Walworth

    William of Walworth Festographer

    Went there the Thursday evening after it opened to Eurostar traffic. I have some issues with some of the detail/retail, but the roof's the thing and transcends everything else, I was massively impressed!

    The Baby Betjeman does NOT sell proper ale, which is a disgrace.

    But overall, I love it, doesn't even dislike that statue as much as most people seem to :oops:

    Hoping for a sunny day on Saturday 15th when we go to look at it in the light.
  26. psycherelic

    psycherelic I'm not an old hippy!

    it seems ok, but doesn't fell too much like a station, I don't like the glass around the trains
  27. Nixon

    Nixon peanut butter n.w.o.

    I went to Paris on one of the last trains that week leaving from Waterloo and forgot I was coming back via St Pancras.It is pretty fucking nice..as a station.I agree that in some ways it didn't feel like they had considered the space at all,but then again that could have been because I got one of the first services you know.There was some interesting one way exits and stuff.
  28. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    They have to be seperated somehow - passport control, you see.
  29. dtb

    dtb > On A Trip Jam

    i liked the roof design and the statue but the upstairs is very quiet and doesn'#t feel like a train station. the champagne bar symbolises everything i hate about london at the moment, it's awful to see so many people quaffing champagne at £7.50 a glass
  30. Poi E

    Poi E Well-Known Member

    Did a return to Brussels the other day and I was extremly impressed. The station is very intuitive in terms of users finding their way around, with none of the "war zone" feeling that large halls like Waterloo create, with human traffic criss-crossing each other in a haphazard fashion.

    Displays are arranged in a logical fashion, as are the direction signs, which must be a first for Britain. Britain does not do directions and signage very well generally.

    Compared to Waterloo where no parts of the Eurostar were visible, I loved the train level. It presented the trains in a human fashion, such that the trains are not overly intrusive on the station as a whole. I know they are the whole point of being there, but I do like the fact that a bunch of anoraks have not managed to fetishize the trains.

    Shops include M&S, chain coffee and a champagne bar that willl no doubt close down shortly. The usual suspects charging extortionate prices.

    Check-in was fairly easy. The greatest disappointment is the departure hall after security. Poorly arranged seating, dysfunctional air conditioning, a low ceiling and generally felt like an after thought.

    And the ride? Awesome. Really notice the shortened train journey.

    Thanks John.

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