UK Railway News (w/e 28/06/2020)

Selected railway news from around the UK this past week. Some links may require a free subscription.

The most exiting news came from the north of England this week, as a new rail charter company has been established. Dedicated to the Settle and Carlisle line, services will begin this summer, and help to boost the industry whilst we tentatively come out of the Covid-19 crisis. Support from Northern Trains, Network Rail and also local support, the new company, ‘Rail Charter Services LTD’ will work with the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company. It will utilise top and tail class 47’s, and cater for the general market, although enthusiasts are of course welcome. The main difference between this and a enthusiast journey however is that it is to be planned as a daily service , rather than a one off. The rolling stock will be ex-Greater Anglia MK 3 coaches, and as such reflect the general nature of the journeys (enthusiast experiences tend to err on the 1st class or luxury coaching stock). Much more detail on this exciting news, including sample pricing can be read both here : Daily tourist trains to serve England’s ‘most scenic’ railway and here : Class 47 locomotives to operate timetabled Skipton to Appleby trains this summer

A new station serving the Cambridge Biomedical Campus came a step closer this week with Network Rail choosing a preferred location alongside the facility. More on this can be read here : Cambridge South station preferred location selected

Facial biometrics are to be trialled at Eurostar’s St Pancras International station. This hopefully will eliminate the need for contact with people or equipment during the check in process. Using a smartphone app, the passenger would take a selfie and then the app would verify against the booking documents. Sophisticated software checks the validity of the photo as a real person, as apposed to just photo of a photo or video. It is hoped the system will go live in early 2021. Read more here : Eurostar to test facial biometrics for ‘walk-through’ check-in

That’s it for this week, many thanks for reading and more news next Sunday.

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London Termini – St Pancras International

A gateway to Europe, the finest of stations, but nearly demolished in the 1960’s. An amazing station, with plenty of history, a huge trainshed and a 5 star Hotel attached. The story of St Pancras is long and full of near disaster moments, but now it stands proud as the main Termini of Eurostar, and with it the first station many overseas travellers will see.

A Brief History

The Midland Railway was desperate to get away from sharing Kings Cross with the Great Northern Railway. So when a bill was passed in 1863 for a railway between London and Bedford, they jumped at the chance to construct a new station between Kings Cross and Euston. It would be known as St Pancras, after the local Parish.

William Barlow designed a radical trainshed for the station, 245ft wide, 689ft long and 100ft high, it was the biggest single span roof in the world for a time.

The void left by excavation works was used to store beer and other goods, and was known as ‘the vaults’. This is now a superb shopping arcade linking the station down its spine underneath the trainshed.

The hotel was built to rival the one next door at Kings Cross, and was a highly flamboyant affair, the architecture lending itself to Italian and Belgian influences. It is often seen as the face of St Pancras. However it never seemed to make a profit and was closed in 1935, only to later be used as crew sleeping quarters and offices for British Rail Catering Division.

A concerted effort by many historians and railway enthusiasts (including Sir John Betjeman) stopped the bulldozers destroying the station in the late 1960’s. This however didn’t stop the station from falling into dis-repair.

Amazingly though, a major lifeline was given when in 1994 the government approved St Pancras as the Terminus for the new Eurostar service. A major renovation project started in 2001, and by 2007 after restoration and modernisation (including a modern extension to the trainshed, if not in keeping with the original), St Pancras re opened fully.


A quick view of the current station

As you enter via Pancras Road, through a huge glass façade, the concourse opens out in front of you. To the left, escalators take you down to the underground station, while a lift to your right either takes you down also, but will take you up to the SouthEastern High Speed platforms.

Moving forward slightly, turning right past a coffee shop, ahead is a new pub restaurant and also 3 sets of escalators. Two sets take you up to the HighSpeed platforms, the middle set taking you down to the Underground.

Turning past the pub, moving forward past a retail outlet on your right and food to your left, another retail unit is in front of you. Turning right here will take you to lost property, toilets and the station office. Turning left and carrying down the corridor you will come back to the main concourse, where a departure and arrival board sits above other retail outlets.

Now turn right and go down towards another exit, this is the Midland Road entrance. To your right as you walk down is a ticketing centre, and at the end on your right, access to the Thameslink platforms, seen below.

Thameslink underground platforms, labelled platform A and B

Back up from Thameslink, go straight on into the old Vaults, which is now a great arcade full of mainly high end retailers, with a few pianos in the centre aisles for the public to use! This area also gives you the first real glimpse of the original trainshed, a glance upwards reveals its vast nature. A quarter of the way down on the left is the entrance to the Eurostar terminal.

A view down into the arcade from the Grand Terrace

Going up a set of stairs brings you to the Grand Terrace, and a statue of Sir John Betjeman. He is looking up, almost encouraging you to do so. The massive trainshed extends out from here and is a superb sight. Looking towards the back, the Hotel can be seen, as well as a clock and an art installation by Tracey Emin. This is part of a series of artworks commissioned by The Royal Academy.

Moving toward the Hotel, another statue is very prominent. This is called “The Meeting Place” and stands at 30ft high. Along its base are castings of various railway events.

Turn 180 degrees and the Eurostar platforms and trainshed are before you.

If you go to the other end of the trainshed on this level, you will come to the platforms for East Midland Trains. Going back downstairs, head back to the back of the arcade and through into the Underground station. Here you will find information, ticketing and entrance to the Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines.

Carry on down this corridor and on your right, you will see a dedication to the Kings Cross fire in 1987.

Following this corridor to the left will take you down to the entrances for the Victoria, Northern and Piccadilly lines. There is also a piano here, if you feel so inclined!

Carry on down the corridor and you will have come full circle if you take the escalators up to the main concourse.

A great station, made better by design, yet old charm can be found if you look for it. Speaking of which, as a little challenge to those who don’t know, try to find this gem in the Underground Stations network of entrances and exits!


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Many thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.