After four years and £550m of redevelopment, the transformation of King’s Cross from dingy building site to 21st century piazza is complete. The hoardings are down, the pits have been filled, and already commuters are swarming across the new space.
For decades, if not centuries, King’s Cross had an insalubrious reputation for being a seedy part of town; a red light district and a haven for drunks. With this morning’s opening though, the final nail has been hammered into that particular coffin.
The space – more of a tetrahedron than a square – is a roomy 75,000 square feet, an expanse of patterned grey stone, with benches, trees, and four space-age pillars designed to illuminate the whole area from on high.
It was opened by the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Network Rail’s chief executive, Sir David Higgins, to an audience of morning commuters and dozens of Victorian-themed living statues, ahead of a weekend of celebrations.
Johnson said that the square would usher in "a whole new vibrant district".
"The transformation of King's Cross is not only beautiful but it has also triggered all sorts of regeneration, with new jobs, huge numbers of homes being built and businesses relocating here," he said.
McLaughlin added: "I have been travelling to and from my Derbyshire constituency for years and I remember when King's Cross and St Pancras were not places you would hang around. Now it is a destination in its own right.
"With more platforms, a redesigned concourse and improved facilities, work at this iconic station has transformed the experience of thousands of rail passengers travelling into London for the better."
Work started on the square shortly after the Olympics last year, following the completion of the station’s new western concourse in March of that year.
It is thought that 150,000 people pass through the station every day, making it one of the busiest interchanges in the city.