Five things we already know about Crossrail 2’s Euston-St. Pancras mega-station

Could all this be one station soon? Euston (left), St. Pancras (centre), Kings Cross (right). Image: Google.

Okay, Crossrail hasn’t even finished yet, but there’s no better time to get excited about all things Crossrail 2 than at least 12 years too early.

By far the most impressive sounding of the improved stations it’ll bring is north London’s new, so-called ‘megastation’: Euston St. Pancras. This will involve joining Euston and King’s Cross St. Pancras together as one giant underground station. Some versions of the plans show Euston Square being absorbed into the whole thing, too.

And so, to whet your appetite, here are five (loosely defined) facts about the proposals.

1. It will be the biggest station in London…

At the moment, the south rules, with Waterloo receiving 100m or so entry and exits annually – a number very likely to grow over the coming years.

The proposed Crossrail 2 route.

Fairly impressive, you might think. Not to Euston St. Pancras, which merges two of the busiest train stations in the capital (and, let’s not forget, Euston Square).

Even without considering the capacity increase brought by Crossrail 2 – around 10 per cent, to be precise – a merger of the three stations now would serve a whopping 150m people per year. That’s about 5 per cent of all the passengers on the entire underground network, passing through that station alone.

2. ...so big, in fact, that you might be able to get a train from one end to the other

“This is Euston St. Pancras. The next station is Euston St. Pancras.”

Sure, Bank may be a hellish labyrinth (especially in this never-ending heat) but it’s not quite a 15-minute brisk walk end-to-end. That’s about how long it takes to walk along the Euston Road, from the westernmost proposed entrance to the easternmost entrance of King’s Cross St. Pancras, as it currently stands.

Oh god: an unofficial draft of the 2040 tube map, showing Crossrail 2. Image: Ali Carr.

Just as well then, that Euston St. Pancras may well end up having a tube journey from end to end. Today, both the Victoria line and Bank branch of the Northern line run east from Euston to King’s Cross St. Pancras. If HS2 ends up meaning Euston Square gets in on the action too, that’ll be five different tube lines which will do this. If that’s not the definition of a megastation, I’m not sure what is.

3. Its trains will serve destinations over 1,000 miles apart

Okay, I accept that maybe this is cheating. This isn’t technically a fact about the tube station – although it would be a pretty impressive show of one-upmanship on Crossrail’s Reading-Shenfield record.

It is, however, the distance you’ll be able to travel with just one change in the Euston-King’s Cross-St. Pancras complex. Euston’s Caledonian sleeper can take you up to the capital of the Highlands, Inverness, whilst St. Pancras’s Eurostar service stretches down to Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast in the summer.

Unfortunately, no reliable source could tell me whether Hogwarts is to the north or south of Inverness, so I haven’t been able to account for services departing from Platform 9¾.

4. Euston St. Pancras will finally out-do Liverpool Street for number of lines served

Right now, King’s Cross St. Pancras serves the largest number of lines on the tube network, six. It shares this title with Bank (Central, Northern, Waterloo & City, DLR), if you count Monument (District, Circle). It sort shares it with Liverpool Street (four tube lines, plus Overground and TfL Rail), too.

Thanks to that pesky Crossrail 1, Liverpool Street will soon increase its count to seven – replacing TfL Rail with the proper Elizabeth Line, and gaining a direct link to the Northern line’s Bank branch at Moorgate. But, following a £30bn infrastructure project and three-station merger, Euston St. Pancras will finally leave Liverpool Street in the dust with an unprecedented eight lines – gaining Euston’s Overground coverage and, of course, Crossrail 2.


5. It has a really stupid name

Now, this may sound like an opinion rather than a fact – but hear me out.

King’s Cross is perhaps the most significant station of the three. Firstly, it is the name most associated with that area of London these days, despite St. Pancras’s long history as the rightful title of the area. It thus seems ludicrous to drop it from the name of the station.

Secondly, doing so threatens to reignite a centuries-long rivalry. The original King’s Cross station, home of the Great Northern Railway, used to host its rivals, the Great Midlands Railway, until the latter decided to build the bigger, fancier station just over the road.

Despite the Great Midlands’ best efforts, King’s Cross still stands strong, even beating St. Pancras in passenger numbers. So, let’s not let the TfL naming system glibly allow the neo-gothic flashman of a station finally do in its older, less ostentatious rival.

 

Proposed works in the Euston St. Pancras area. Image: Crossrail 2.

Then what should we end up calling it?

Perhaps we can add another fact to the list with the most convoluted name: Euston Square King’s Cross St. Pancras. Or opt for the subtler Somers Town, the home of all three stations, from the Great Northern-Midlands rivalry until now – and the place shaped most by this monumental project.

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What’s behind the rise of the ornamental restaurant toilet?

Toilets at Sketch restaurant, London. Image: Nik Stanbridge/Flickr.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the toilets of a zeitgeisty new Italian restaurant in east London called Gloria. As with so many contemporary restaurant toilets, those in question were an aesthetic extension of the establishment’s soul. The inventive menu was matched by two-way mirrored toilet doors.

The setup was this: cubicle occupants could see out while the unisex crowd milling around the taps could check their outfits on the exterior mirrors. All fun and games, I thought. But then I found myself mid toilet with a guy peering into my door to change his contact lens. Either he had spectacularly bad manners or he was unaware of the two-way door thing. (Let’s hope it’s the latter.)

Gloria’s toilets aren’t unique in their attempt to be distinctive. The loos at nearby Mr Fogg’s Maritime Club & Distillery are adorned with specimen boards of dead spiders. Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s The Sun Inn invites patrons to pee in buckets, and trumpets double as urinals in The Bell Inn in East Sussex. Men can wee into the vista if they’re dining in the Shard. And Sketch’s ovum shaped loos are the stuff of urban legend.

Further afield, transparent doors become frosted only after they’re locked at Brussels’ Belga Queen. In Otto’s Bierhalle in Toronto, diners can press a button to activate their own private rave. And the toilets in Robot Restaurant in Tokyo have gold-plated interiors and dancing robots.

What’s behind this trend? Are quirky toilets just a bit of fun – or an unnecessary complication to the simple act of going for a wee and checking you don’t have tomato sauce on your chin?

Yotam Ottolenghi’s London flagship restaurant Nopi crops up often in conversations about restaurant bathrooms. A hall of mirrors glitters enticingly ahead of loo-bound diners. “The bathroom needs to be the nicest part [of] the whole place because that’s where you’re on your own,” says Alex Meitlis, the designer behind the space.

But no one is truly alone in 2019. If surveys are to be believed, nearly 65 per cent of millennials take their phone to the bathroom with them. Mike Gibson, who edits the London food and drink magazine Foodism agrees that the bathroom selfie – searches for which, incidentally, yield over 1.5m results on Instagram – is part of the reason that contemporary lavatory design is so attention seeking.


“Any new venue that's opening will be super aware that there's probably not an inch of their restaurant that won't be photographed or filmed at some point”, he says. But bathrooms like Nopi’s predate this trend. Indeed, Meitlis believes he has created a haven from the smartphone obsession; Nopi’s mirrors are angled in such a way that means you have to seek out your reflection. “You can choose whether to look for yourself in the mirror or not.”

Another driving force is the increasingly competitive restaurant landscape. “It’s almost like there’s some sort of ever-escalating competition going on amongst new openings, which makes every visit a faintly terrifying experience”, says food writer and New Statesman contributor Felicity Cloake. Gibson agrees. “Restaurants want an edge wherever possible, and design definitely comes into that.”

So novelty bathrooms get you noticed, promote social media engagement and entertain diners who are momentarily without the distraction of company. (Although, it must be said, quirky bathrooms tend to make the loo trip a more sociable experience; a Gloria spokesperson described the restaurant’s toilets as somewhere you can “have a good laugh and meet people along the way.”)

Nevertheless, I’m not the only one who finds bathroom surprises disconcerting.  One TripAdvisor user thought the Belga Queen loos were “scary”. And a friend reports that her wonderment at the Nopi bathroom was laced with mirror maze induced nausea – and mild panic when she realised she didn’t know the way out. Should restaurants save the thrills for the food?

“I think it's important not to be too snarky about these things – restaurants are meant to playful,” says Gibson. Cloake agrees that novelty is fine, but adds: “my favourite are places like Zelman Meats in Soho that have somewhere in the dining room where you can easily wash your hands before sitting down and tucking in.”

So perhaps we should leave toilets unadorned and instead ramp up the ornamentation elsewhere. Until then, I’ll be erecting a makeshift curtain in all mirrored toilets I encounter in future. An extreme reaction, you might say. But, as I wish I could have told the rogue contact lens inserter, it’s not nice to pry into someone else’s business.