Sunday, January 21

St Pancras goes posh

For more than 20 years, St Pancras train station in London has had a very special meaning for me - it's the connection between my adopted home of London and my northern roots in Chesterfield. It started when I was in college, this was where I came to take the train home to see my folks, or to 'go down' for the summer holidays. It's still the same now - every time I pull out of St Pancras on the train I get excited about going back to Derbyshire; often I'm leaving on a Friday and have the weekend ahead of me so there's all those emotional connections too. And when I come back, I slip easily back into city life, the hustle and bustle, cut and thrust; tutting at anyone who's not moving quickly or decisively enough, and cutting a swathe through the meandering tourists.

St Pancras has always been the poor relation to the capital's other mainline stations; despite the fact that it has intercity trains travelling up to Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham, it has never even had its own tube station. For years there was a big tube sign right next to a flight of stairs at the back of the old train shed - but when you went down the stairs you found yourself in a nasty pissy tunnel that just led to King's Cross underground station. The beautiful station building and the hotel that fronts it were neglected for many years, even the glorious ticket hall became shabby and dirty.

But soon all that will change. After several years of building works, different routes - even different platforms! - every time I went to get the train, the final shape of the station is now emerging. Later this year, St Pancras will become the terminal for Eurostar, with travellers from the continent arriving in the north of the city rather than at Waterloo. It will be known as St Pancras International! The train shed has been cleaned and painted (destined to become a shopping area, I think) a new set of platforms built at the rear, and I can't wait to see what they've done with the old ticket hall. The only downside is that the platforms for the Midland Mainline trains have been tucked away neatly in the corner - at least 5 mins longer to walk from the tube station. The new signs at St Pancras make me wonder whether the tube station Kings Cross St Pancras might be renamed St Pancras International with the words 'for Kings Cross' in small letters underneath?! Hee hee!

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