Construction work on the latest phase of the development of King's Cross, the redevelopment of King's Cross St Pancras Underground Station, has begun.
At the launch, the Rt Hon John Spellar MP operated the first lift of the 30m crane which will carry materials and equipment down into the excavation deep beneath the forecourt of St Pancras station. The event, watched by local London news stations and national press, marks one of the most visible phases yet in the development of King's Cross as Europe's largest interchange.
The Tube station at King's Cross St Pancras is one of the busiest in London, connecting six lines, as well as local and national road and rail links.When the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) opens in 2007, the underground station's daily morning peak alone will see an increase in passenger numbers of about 50 per cent.
Eventually, the interchange as a whole will see a passenger throughput of about 60 million each year.
The underground station design team's brief (Arup with Allies and Morrison) includes modernisation of the existing station and provision for the dramatic future changes in quantity and type of passenger flow.
The scheme includes the enlargement of the existing ticket hall, the creation of new western and northern ticket halls, new access to all six Tube lines and a new public subway under Euston Road.
The palette of new finishes - white glass mosaic, natural stone, white glass and stainless steel - has been selected to be robust enough for one of London Underground's busiest stations and to represent King's Cross' eventual reincarnation as an international gateway to London and the UK. Clearly the focus has not simply been on the increase in the quantity of people passing through, but on the quality of the experience.
The reconfiguration of many existing routes and their integration with new routes will make the entire interchange experience more logical, eradicating the 'no-go zones' often associated with many current transport hubs. Step-free access will be increased.
There were many physical constraints, such as the Grade I-listed status of the surrounding buildings and the shallow depths of the existing, and unalterable, rail tracks crossing the site. One and a half years of site preparation were necessary before construction could start. The re-routing of sewers, water mains and utility cables criss-crossing the site, required a surgical intervention.
The complex logistics of the stage management are daunting, from the relatively obvious need for construction to take place with minimal disruption to transport services, to the less publicly visible management of the complex interfaces between the different elements of the scheme.
So, after years of deliberating and debating, it is beginning to look and feel as though plans for King's Cross might just work.
At the moment, the line between the growing excitement in the area that things are finally happening, and the frustration of daily disruption to local residents, businesses and those using existing transport in the area, is a delicate one. But with the current stage management of the various construction phases, the gradual communication of information locally, and a long-term view, it is looking as though the results will be worth it.
Visit www. kingscrosslondon. com for the current situation
Kate Trant is an exhibition and media consultant based in Kings Cross, e-mail katetrant@ktprojects. demon. co. uk
PROJECT TEAM PRINCIPAL CONTRACTOR - PHASE 1 Costain Taylor Woodrow Joint Ventures
LEAD DESIGNER Ove Arup and Partners
ARCHITECTURE Allies and Morrison
PROJECT MANAGEMENT Hornagold and Hills
PUBLIC RELATIONS Capital Project Consultancy Limited
QUANTITY SURVEYOR Franklin and Andrews
CONSENTS CJ Associates
INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT MANAGER Infraco Sub-Surface