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St Pancras railway station
St Pancras was built in the 19th century, and includes two of the most celebrated structures built in Britain in the Victorian era. The main trainshed, now known as the Barlow Trainshed, was the largest single span structure ever built to that time. In front of it is the former Midland Grand Hotel, one of the most impressive examples of Victorian architecture.
The Barlow trainshed is currently closed. From 12 April 2004, trains have been terminating at an interim station occupying part of the extension which is being added to the train shed to allow Eurostar trains to use the station when it becomes the London terminus of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which is scheduled to be in 2007.
The interim station is the current terminus of the Midland Main Line. Train services operated by Midland Mainline serve routes to the East Midlands and Yorkshire regions of England, principally including Luton, Bedford, Kettering, Wellingborough, Market Harborough, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield. Occasional trains also run to Burton-upon-Trent, Leeds, Barnsley, Scarborough and York. Thameslink are currently operating services from the station on the line to St Albans, Luton and Bedford.
The platforms in the interim station are at an upper level and accessible by lift or escalator. Space for passenger facilities at the interim station, in particular waiting rooms and catering, is limited. However facilities at the interim station are DDA compliant, and station staff can provide assistance to passengers who require it.
Because of the ongoing building works on the old station, vehicle and pedestrian access to the interim station is restricted. There is a 500 metre walk from King's Cross St. Pancras tube station, the Euston Road and most bus stops. However there is a car and taxi drop-off point next to the station entrance, which passengers with limited mobility should use.
Developments and future use of the station
The main building will be re-used from 2007 as a terminus for Eurostar trains after completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The international departure hall will be built in the undercroft of the existing station, which is raised some 20 feet (6 m) above street level. The undercroft was formerly used to store beer barrels brought down from Burton-upon-Trent.
As of September 2004, the roof structure of the interim station only covers six platforms, which are numbered 8 through 13. Three platforms are used for Midland Mainline services and three platforms for Thameslink services.
The interim station comprises the eastern part of a larger building, which will ultimately have thirteen platforms at the main level. Eurostar services will use the middle platforms, to be numbered between 5 and 10, which will continue into the Victorian station hall. The terminus for Midland Mainline services will move to the western part of the new building from 2006, and occupy the lowest numbered platforms. Long distance commuter services from Kent and some stopping trains to Bedford will occupy the eastern platforms, to be numbered 11 to 13.
Separate underground platforms will replace Kings Cross Thameslink station for cross-London Thameslink services. Additionally, major work is ongoing at King's Cross St. Pancras tube station to link the various station entrances to two new ticket halls for London Underground and reduce overcrowding.
The station was commissioned by the Midland Railway. Prior to the 1860s the company had a concentration of routes in the Midlands and north of London but did not possess its own route to the city. From 1840 Midland trains to and from London ran from Euston using the London and North Western line via a junction at Rugby. Congestion and delays south of Rugby quickly became commonplace as the system expanded.
A new London line was proposed around 1845, towards the end of the period of speculation later dubbed "Railway Mania". The Great Northern line was approved by Parliament in 1846 and a Midland Company spur from Leicester to Hitchin was agreed in 1847. While the Great Northern line was constructed the Midland spur was quietly abandoned in 1850 due to financial problems. Pressure from businesses in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Bedfordshire revived the spur scheme, notably from William Whitbread , who owned roughly 12% of the land over which the line would run. The line was re-presented to Parliament and approved in 1853. Building began quickly but did not proceed at any great pace, the line was opened in mid-1857. The Midland Company secured an initial running powers lease for seven years at a minimum of £20,000 a year. The Midland Company now had two routes into London, through Euston and King's Cross, and traffic quickly expanded to take advantage, especially with the coal trade with the Midland Company transporting around a fifth of the total coal to London by 1852.
In mid-1862 due to the enormous traffic for the second International Exhibition the Great Northern and the Midland companies clashed over the restricted capacity of the line. This was regarded as the stimulus for the Midland Company to build its own line and surveying for a 49.75 mile (80 km) line from Bedford to London began in October, 1862. However, the Midland Company had been buying large portions of land in the parish of St Pancras since 1861.
St Pancras was an unprepossessing district, notorious for some appalling slums. The area's other landmarks were the covered Fleet River, the Regent's Canal, a gas-works, and an old church with a large graveyard. The Midland company chose for the terminus a site backing onto New Road (later Euston Road) and bounded by St Pancras Road and Brewer Street, a few hundred yards to the east of Euston and immediately to the west of King's Cross station. The problem canal was to be tunnelled under (the Belsize Tunnel ), although the churchyard and the gas-works were added problems. The site was occupied by housing, the estates of Somers Town and the slums of Agar Town . The landlords sold up for £19,500 and cleared out the residents, without compensation, for a further £200. The church was demolished and a replacement built for £12,000 in 1868-69 in Kentish Town. The demolished church was re-erected piece by piece in 1867 as a Congregational church in Wanstead, and still exists [now a United Reform church].
The company intended to connect from the site through a tunnel (the St Pancras Branch) to the new Metropolitan Line, opened in 1863 running from Paddington to Farringdon Street below the Euston Road, providing for a through route to Kent.
The design of the station took some time. The sloping and irregular form of the site posed certain problems and the Midland Company directors were determined to impress London with their new station. They could see the ornateness of Euston, with its famous arch; the functional successes of Lewis Cubitt's King's Cross; the design innovations in iron, glass and layout by Brunel at Paddington; and, significantly, the single span roof designs of John Hawkshaw being built at Charing Cross and Cannon Street.
The initial plan of the station was laid out by William Henry Barlow, the Midland's consulting engineer. The single span roof of 74m (243ft), the greatest built up to that time, being adopted on purely economic grounds to make maximum use of the space without obstructions. A space for a fronting transverse hotel was included in the plan and the overall plan was accepted in early 1865.
A competition was held for the actual design of the station buildings and hotel in May 1865. Eleven architects were invited to compete, submitting their designs in August. In January, 1866 the brick Gothic revival designs of the prominent George Gilbert Scott were chosen. There was some disquiet at the choice, in part because Scott's designs, at £315,000, were by far the most expensive. The sheer grandeur of Scott's frontage impressed the Midland Company directors, achieving their objective of outclassing every other station in the capital. A subsequent financial squeeze trimmed several floors from the frontage and certain ornateness but the impressive design largely remained.
Construction of the station, minus the roof which was a separate tender, was budgeted at £310,000 and after a few problems Waring Brothers tender of £320,000 was accepted. The roof tender went to the Butterley Company for £117,000. Work began in the autumn of 1864 with a temporary bridge over the canal and the demolition of Somers Town and Agar Town. Construction of the station foundations did not start until July 1866 and delays through technical problems, especially in the roof construction were commonplace.
The graveyard posed the initial problems, the main line was to pass over on a girder bridge and the branch to the Metropolitan under in a tunnel. The disturbance of the remains was expected but was, initially, carelessly handled. The tunnelling was especially delayed by the presence of decomposing matter, the many coffins encountered, and a London-wide outbreak of cholera leading to the requirement to enclose the Fleet River entirely in iron. Despite this the connection was completed in January 1867.
The company was hoping to complete most essential building by January 1868. The goods station in Agar Town received its first train in September, 1867 but passenger services through to the Metropolitan line did not begin until July, 1868. However, the station was not finished when it opened, to little ceremony, on October 1st. The final rib for the train shed roof had only been fitted in mid-September and the station was a mass of temporary structures for the passengers. The first train, an express for Manchester, ran non-stop from Kentish Town to Leicester - the longest non-stop route in the world at 97 miles (156 km).
Work on the Midland Grand Hotel did not begin until mid-1868. With construction in a number of stages the hotel did not open to customers until May 5, 1873. The process of adding fixtures and fittings was contentious as the Midland Company cut at Scott's perceived extravagances and only in late 1876 was Scott finally paid off. The total costs for the building were £438,000. The hotel was closed in 1935, and the building was subsequently used as offices before falling vacant in the 1980s. In 2005 planning consent was granted for a refurbishment of the hotel building. Most of the public rooms and a small fraction of the bedrooms of the original hotel will be incorporated into a new hotel, but the majority of the new hotel's bedrooms will be in a newly built wing to the west of the Victorian trainshed. The remainder of the original hotel will be converted into apartments.
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