King's Cross forms the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line, one of the UK's major railway backbones. Immediately to the west is St Pancras station, the terminus for international Eurostar trains, and the two stations share King's Cross St. Pancras tube station on the London Underground network.
The reconstructed and restored St Pancras is the new London terminus of High Speed 1 replacing Waterloo International from 14 November 2007. Eurostar trains serve Lille Europe, Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Midi-Zuid, and from 2009 domestic SouthEastern services will serve Kent over the High Speed 1 route.
Considerable regeneration effort has gone into the area in recent years, with the opening of new hotels and office space under construction.
The station is served by routes from the north and east of England and Scotland, connecting to major cities such as Cambridge, Peterborough, Hull, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.
Four train companies currently run services into the mainline station:
King's Cross was originally designed and built as the London hub of the Great Northern Railway and terminus of the East Coast Main Line. It was designed by Lewis Cubitt and constructed in two years from 1851 to 1852, on the site of a former fever and smallpox hospital. The main part of the station, which today includes platforms 1 to 8, was opened on 14 October 1852. It replaced a temporary terminus at Maiden Lane that had opened on 8 August 1850.
The platforms have been reconfigured several times; originally there was only one arrival and one departure platform (today's platforms 1 and 8 respectively), with the space between used for carriage sidings. In later years as suburban traffic grew, space for additional platforms was added with considerably less grandeur; the secondary building now containing platforms 9–11, (which would include the fictional Platform 9 3/4), survives from that era.
When the railways were privatised in 1996, express services into the station were taken over by GNER; though they successfully re-bid for the franchise in 2005, they were asked to surrender it in December 2006. The incumbent operator, National Express East Coast, took over the franchise on 9 December 2007, after an interim period when GNER ran trains under a management contract.
According to legend, King's Cross is built on the site of Boudica's final battle, or else her body is buried under one of the platforms. Platforms 8, 9 and 10 have been suggested as possible sites. There are also passages under the station which Boudica's ghost is supposed to haunt.
The King's Cross fire of 1987, in which 31 people died, was at the adjacent King's Cross St. Pancras Underground station. A major redevelopment of this Underground station (partly influenced by the report issued after the fire) is currently in process. Phase One was completed in 2006; Phase Two is expected to be complete by 2011.
The original "King's Cross" was a monument to King George IV.
In 1972, a one-storey extension designed in-house by British Rail was constructed in front of the station. While the extension was intended to be temporary, more than thirty years later it still stands. Many consider the extension unattractive, not the least because it obscures the Grade I-listed façade of the original station. Prior to the construction of the extension, the station façade had already become hidden behind a small terrace of shops. This extension is scheduled to be demolished, revealing once again the full glory of the Lewis Cubitt architecture, when a new ticket hall and concourse area is built on the station's western side.
On 10 September 1973, a Provisional IRA bomb exploded in the booking hall at 12.24 pm, causing extensive damage and injuring six people, some seriously. The device was thrown without warning into the station by a youth who escaped into the crowd and was not apprehended.
In days gone by, part of King's Cross was an intermediate station. On the extreme east of the site was Kings Cross York Road, with suburban trains travelling south from Finsbury Park calling here, then going underground using the York Road curve to join the City Widened Lines to Farringdon, Barbican and Moorgate. In the other direction, trains from Moorgate came off the Widened Lines via the Hotel Curve, with platform 16 rising to the main line level. Services to and from Moorgate were diverted via the Northern City Line from August 1976.
In 2005, a £400m restoration plan was announced by Network Rail, which was approved by the Camden Council on 9 November 2007. Planned is a thorough restoration of the arched roof of the station and the demolition of the 1972 addition, to be replaced by an open-air plaza. A semi-circular concourse (estimated completion date 2012) will be built in the space directly to the west of the station behind the Great Northern Hotel, which will have some outbuildings demolished. It will replace the current 1972 concourse, shopping area and National Express East Coast ticket office, providing greater integration between the intercity and suburban sections of the station, as well as easier access to St Pancras. The land between the domestic main lines leading from the two stations will be redeveloped with nearly 2,000 new homes, of offices and new roads as King's Cross Central.
Major work is ongoing at the station to link the various entrances to two new ticket halls for London Underground and reduce overcrowding.
In their hit music videos West End Girls (1985) and Rent (1987), Kings Cross Station is used extensively as a backdrop. In West End Girls they are seen walking around the concourse while the song plays in the background and in Rent, the same concourse is used as a meeting point for Chris Lowe and Margi Clarke playing characters who are reunited, in front of the departures / arrivals board. Also in the background are notices stating that engineering work will disrupt services, which at the time, 1987, was actually in progress to modernise the line. It is not known if the station was closed for filming, and it doesn't look like it was at all. Parked outside in the taxi rank of the station is Neil Tennant, who is playing Margi Clarke's taxi driver in the same music video.
The station was also extensively filmed in for the Pet Shop Boys feature film, released in 1988, It Couldn't Happen Here.
King's Cross is featured in the Harry Potter books, by J. K. Rowling, as the starting point of the Hogwarts Express. The train uses a secret platform located by passing through the brick wall barrier between platforms 9 and 10.
Unfortunately, platforms 9 and 10 are in a separate building from the main station; also, rather than being adjacent so that a barrier could be between them, they are separated by two intervening tracks. Rowling intended the location to be in the main part of the station, but misremembered the platform numbering. During an interview in 2001, she indicated that she had confused King's Cross with Euston. In fact, platforms 9 and 10 at Euston are also separated by two intervening tracks, so either she had yet another station in mind or else she simply did not consider or did not remember the physical arrangement of consecutively numbered platforms.
When the movies were filmed, the station scenes took place within the main station, with platforms 4 and 5 renumbered 9 and 10. In the film of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the exterior of the adjacent St. Pancras station was used, as its Gothic façade was considered more impressive than the real King's Cross station.
When the first film was released, a large floor panel was placed on the ground outside platforms 9 and 10 indicating the Hogwarts Express. It was later removed. Within King's Cross, a cast-iron "Platform " sign has been erected on a wall of the station's suburban building containing the real platforms 9 and 10. Part of a luggage trolley has also been installed below the sign; whilst the near end is visible, the rest of the trolley seems to have disappeared into the wall.
"Kings Cross" is the title of the 35th chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where a location resembling the station plays a significant role. The station is also featured in the epilogue of the same book, making it the final setting of the Harry Potter series.
"And what have you gained?"
"A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed a cab. "King's Cross Station," said he.
''"We have a journey, then?"
"Yes; I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All the indications seem to me to point in that direction."
The station name, King's Cross, is seen spelt both with and without an apostrophe: