Today, it's different. Today, it's the London end of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and dear lord have they made a good job of it.
I went through there for the first time in a very long while a few weeks ago on my way to Nottingham for FantasyCon. Going out, I was a bit late and hurrying for my train, but coming back on the Sunday afternoon I was staggered. The dark, grimy, decaying old station I remembered was gone.
Or rather, not gone, but given one of the most intelligent makeovers I can remember a public building having. Firstly the brickwork has been given a good clean, which always makes a difference. Then the roof has been reglassed and the ironwork repainted. The platforms have been raised a good forty or fifty feet and what is basically a whole station built onto the end of the platforms to accommodate the longer Eurostar trains and the average Midland Mainline commuter trains (also, I have to report, much improved since I last travelled north on British Rail)
People have been using the words `cathedral-like' to describe what St Pancras is like now, and that really is the only way to describe it. The dirt and darkness disguised just how sodding big Barlow's original Victorian `shed' (in its time including the largest single-span roof on Earth) really is. Now it's been cleaned up you can see, and it's huge.
I popped in on the way home last night, with about seventeen hours to go before the first Eurostar left, and it is not finished. A lot of the franchises aren't in yet, and won't be until next year, and there is still a lot of hoarding about. But, my hand to god, I think it's the most impressive building in London. I just stood there gawping. If you're going to have £800 million, you might as well use it to do something like this. I like Waterloo International - whose future is still uncertain - a lot, but St Pancras just gets mediaeval on Waterloo International's ass. It's an extraordinary thing. Really. A truly fitting international terminus for London.
And then, of course, the international traveller leaves St Pancras and finds themselves on the Euston Road...