Tubewatch (31)King's Very Cross It's the most complicated interchange on the tube network, where six different lines intersect. It's undergone a massive revamp, adding several new passageways and a couple of additional ticket halls. It's a huge improvement on the restrictive space that was here before. It's the new King's Cross St Pancras station. And it's been designed by sadists, seemingly intent on making passengers walk far further than they have to. Let me explain further, with the aid of this cutaway diagram and two different interchange journeys.
King's Cross Nightmare 1: mainline station → Victoria Line It used to be simple. You alighted from your train down from Peterborough, Edinburgh or wherever, and an entrance on the main concourse directed you down to the ticket hall at the top of the Victoria line escalators. Not any more. That entrance has been filled in and replaced by seating, and a new entrance opened up in a wall to the west. Come this way, it beckons, seductively. And then at the foot of the stairs there's this illuminated sign, installed by utter bastard sadists. Hammersmith & City, Circle and Metropolitan lines to the left, and Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines to the right. So you turn to the right, because you trust signs like this. Big mistake.
Start the clock... 0:00 A terribly long corridor stretches off in front of you, eventually leading to the the new Northern ticket hall 0:40. Double back through the barriers 1:00 and down the escalator, then turn left along a long and winding tubular passageway 1:30. After a while 2:30 you'll reach the turnoff for the Piccadilly line but you're not going that way, you're carrying on. At the end of the tunnel 3:45 turn right down the last set of steps and you'll finally be on the Victoria line platforms 4:00. Four minutes in total, and that's the fastest I can do it as an able-bodied pedestrian unencumbered by luggage. Most people take longer, and elderly passengers with suitcases take so long you almost want to hug them at the end and say well done. What you should have done, of course, is to have ignored that evil sign and turned left 0:00. You'd soon have reached the top of the old escalator 0:30, headed down to the passageway below 1:00 and been on the Victoria line platform soon afterwards 1:30. It takes far less time, and requires considerably less physical effort. But no, the bastards send the unwary to the right, on a journey almost three times longer than necessary.
King's Cross Nightmare 2: Victoria Line → Northern line Here we are at the end of platform 3, near the back of any arriving northbound Victoria line train. How do you get to the Northern line? Look left and there's a sign directing you out into the passageway, a sign that's been there for years. But look ahead, from here or from anywhere else along the platform and there's an evil arrow on the wall directing you to the right. The sadists definitely want you to go to the right, and presumably most unwary passengers do. Big mistake.
Start the clock... 0:00 From the rear of the train walk along the entire length of the platform and up the far stairs 1:00. Oh hell, it's that bloody long passageway again. Set off along it, passing the knackered looking pensioners and breathless tourists with rucksacks. Pass the Piccadilly line turning 2:15 and continue to the foot of the main escalators 3:15. Here turn left, down a further set of escalators 3:45 and along another winding passageway to the Northern line platforms 4:30. Nearly five minutes, on a good day, to change lines. Whereas when I followed that solitary sign out into the passageway 0:05, I found a set of direct stairs 0:25 through to the top of a short escalator 0:45, and strode down 1:00 to the Northern line platforms direct 1:10. The sadists want you to walk the long way, presumably to ease congestion, whereas the direct route takes only a quarter as long.
King's Cross and St Pancras are two very spread-out mainline stations, so walking between their extremities will always take time. The tube station is much more compact, focused linearly along the Euston Road... not that you'd guess now it's been transformed into an underground assault course. There is, I suspect, some method to this madness. King's Cross mainline station is undergoing a major revamp, due to be completed in 2013, and its entire centre of gravity is shifting. See this diagram pictured here, with St Pancras at the top and King's Cross below. Currently the main entrance to King's Cross station is from the Euston Road, past WHSmiths and the indicator board, but all that's soon going to be blocked off. Instead everyone will enter via a huge protractor-shaped atrium on the St Pancras side which'll have lots more space and (of course) lots more shops. This western concourse is already under construction, should you wander along and take a look, and it's located directly above the new Northern ticket hall. When most of us start entering King's Cross tube station via this angle, all the newly-dug subterranean passageways will make a lot more sense. Until then, sorry, the sadists are in control. Do try to resist their evil trickery.