So, after all the hype, I've now managed to visit the rebuilt St. Pancras Station no fewer than four times. And I think it's not great. Why?
Well, the structure itself is spectacular - but then we knew that already, ever since 1867. The civil engineering of it is pretty damn impressive too; huge tunnels and bridges, the top of the station undercroft turned into a vast raft to support the new station, a ride at 186mph through the guts of Dagenham, down past the Queen Elizabeth bridge and off into Kent that's even smoother than on the French side.
But the architecture? Ah. I suspect a lot of influential people were deceived by the romance of the great project, and their affection for the original building; because it is nowhere near as good as it should be. On the good side, the device of putting the Eurostar check-in function, the ticket offices, and the security checkpoints under the platforms works, and it creates clear and step-free walking routes all the way along two levels of the building. You can pass very quickly from the Tube into the Eurostar, or from the car parks into the station.
Unfortunately, getting out of the station into the Tube is a lot worse; and generally, transferring is worse than it should be. The problem is that the approach that embodies all the architecture critics' favourite things is the one real people will never take; through the grand main entrance. Nobody really walks along the Euston Road, and the cabs pull up elsewhere, and anyway the entrance is currently blocked by plywood hoardings. (It's not finished, of course.) That one will, indeed, bring you straight into the grand trainshed face to face with the trains, without a shop in sight.
However, the whole point of St. Pancras/Kings Cross is that two main lines, the Eurostar, two regional (Thameslink and WAGN) networks, two suburban networks (Midland and Great Northern Electrics) and six tube lines go into it. If you are catching a train here you have probably arrived on a train; if you are arriving here by train you are probably going to catch another to finish your journey. This way - the way the gigantic majority of its users will come - you are in fact dumped directly into a shopping centre.
Worse, the main flow between St. Pancras and the tube crosses the area where people wait to meet arrivals from the Continent, which is in any case hopelessly under-sized. A concrete staircase abutment opposite the exit guarantees precisely half a corridor width here. There is a closed, locked gateway at least twice its width leading into the spacious area where the Eurostar check-in is located; this is a blunder.
So far I can find precisely two public toilets; one of which (at the tube end, on the main walkway, opposite the arrivals) is missing any sign of which is the gents, so staff have plastered bits of paper to it. The queue suggests that the ladies' is underscaled, as is traditional; the gents is probably too small as well. Signage is terrible throughout; the signs are poorly designed and there are hardly any, and some of them lie. At the taxi rank, there is a sign reading TAXIS with an arrow pointing to the Tube station; someone has plastered a ragged paper sign to a nearby pillar pointing in a direction 90 degrees from it. A small favela of portable signs is already growing.
Leaving the station with all the other people on your train, you find yourself in the Tube; unfortunately there are stairs immediately before the ticket hall and the lift queues extend across the underscaled space in which the crowd makes a 90 degree left turn. Then there is a tiny ticket hall, where the ticket queues fill the available space so the gangway through it is obstructed. There is no visual grammar to this space at all - at least the Underground's signage is better. As far as all public spaces and shared infrastructure go, it seems the architects worked from London & Continental's traffic forecast...the one drawn up for the tax lawyers, not the one drawn up to get money out of the Government. In a sense, the whole thing matches this; it feels like a film set for a station, not a station, a private sector enterprise pretending to be a public space.
For God's sake, let's all hope they don't opt for the stupid version of Crossrail, running south of Oxford Street - this would mean the Northern Line would be permanently dysfunctional, having to disperse all St Pancras passengers to the planned Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station. For all other issues on this, I refer you to these guys.
Oh yes, and the "longest champagne bar in Europe" is a chiz; it's not actually one continuous bar.