I HAD my first look at the new King’s Cross Railway Station last week and, wow, what a difference.
For many, many years, London’s gateway to Hartlepool had been dull and depressing and, over recent months, a permanent building site.
There’s still a bit to do externally, but all the temporary arrangements have been well worth it now that the new set up and services are in place.
It has even created the ideal pub quiz question in having a link between what I would guess are record breaking licensed premises on rail stations.
The Rat Race pub, on Hartlepool station, must be the smallest around with barely room to swing the proverbial cat, while the new Parcel Yard pub in King’s Cross has enough space for herds of wildebeest to roam.
The new London watering hole will be a dream for grown up train spotters as you can nurse a pint while watching the comings and goings across the platforms.
It’s been beautifully done, with what look like refurbished platform trolleys used as pub furniture – and even the loos bear the name of the legendary Thomas Crapper, who has historical links to toilets..
I was heading back home on a morning train, so couldn’t manage a pint, but there’s a great choice of coffee shops and a lovely crop of restaurants too.
Over the years I’ve known it, this part of London has really changed from a very dodgy and notorious area to a splendid spot.
Now that Eurostar leaves from St Pancras just next door to King’s Cross, the whole area is getting a face-lift with property prices bouncing high too.
Our own station in Hartlepool has come along pretty well too and non-stop nagging in this column about the way it used to look like Godzilla’s Graveyard eventually bore fruit.
We shouldn’t be complacent, though, and it’s a pity that the weeds are coming back on the other side of the lines, spoiling the look of the colourful murals celebrating the tall ships from a couple of years ago.
I’m told that even volunteers are not allowed on the unused platform to tidy up as it would involve crossing the lines.
Of course, it would be perfectly possible to knock a hole in the big brick wall and have a lockable door from the other side, but perhaps that’s too simple?
That huge brick wall represents a missed opportunity which I also nagged about many years ago.
Instead of the back of the cinema peeping over the wall, we could have had see-through railings giving a view of the marina and the sea.
Still the biggest area for improvement is the sight which greets the visitor to the town as you leave the station.
I’ve upset a few shop and bar owners before by suggesting that we could have a bit of a blitz in the Whitby Street and Church Square area, but a bit of open space there would open up a great view of the (Christ Church) Art Gallery and the neighbouring Colleges of Art and Further Education.
The last bit of the re-birth of King’s Cross is in a similar vein with the tatty sixties cladding about to come down to fully reveal the lovely original frontage.
And one final thing the “newest” station in London needs?
Next time we have a few bob, how about a fine poster with a good picture and a reminder that you are only three hours from Hartlepool?