The British Library has shown off its final designs for a large expansion of the library to the north of the current building, including early works for Crossrail 2.

Proposed extension – Source: British Library planning application

The proposed development would involve extending the northern aspect of the existing British Library to provide library accommodation; commercial space designed to cater for knowledge quarter uses (including life sciences, cultural, scientific and heritage collections and data sciences); retail space; and the Crossrail 2 works at basement level.

The extension is being designed to sit on a large plot of land that’s been reserved for it ever since the library was moved to St Pancras in 1998, and that plot is about 40% of the size of the current library site. The new building will however be taller and have a lot more floor space, so it adds considerably more space to the library than it seems at first glance.

In addition to the extra office space, there will be new events spaces for public events, and doubtless to be rented out to earn income. And to increase income for the library, the upper floors of the new extension are designed to be used for commercial rent, either as offices or medical labs, tapping into the area’s growing cluster of medical research firms.

It is anticipated that a decision on the planning application will be made by Camden Council in autumn 2022.

Proposed extension – Source: British Library planning application

Although above ground, this can be described as a grand, but otherwise fairly conventional office development, it’s what’s going on underneath that is interesting, as it will sit right on top of the planned Euston/St Pancras station for Crossrail 2.

Although Crossrail 2 is currently on hold, it hasn’t been cancelled, and the site that the library extension will sit on has been safeguarded for Crossrail 2. To avoid problems in the future, the library extension will include the facilities for Crossrail 2, although they will then sit there as empty voids under the building until the railway needs them.

Schematic of old and new site and Crossrail 2 – Source: British Library planning application

This sort of long-term planning has happened before, with offices often being required to adjust piling or basements to accommodate expected railway upgrades often a decade or more before the railway needs them.

The British Library site will include a deep shaft at the western end of the site, descending from street level through 6 underground levels, to the future depth of the railway tunnels. The shaft will connect to the running tunnels and platform of the new station, and house ventilation, escape and vertical transport infrastructure facilities, including escalators, when CR2 is eventually commissioned.

There will also be a basement space, to accommodate a series of plant rooms, including a large ventilation fan chamber, connecting to the deep shaft, along with surface access to these facilities.

They will also build an underground pedestrian passageway connecting east-west across the site to provide a route for passengers between the new Crossrail 2 station platform and an expected ticket hall to be built in the future under Midland Road.

Schematic of Crossrail 2 station – Source: British Library planning application

There is a certain appropriateness in part of the site being used for railway infrastructure, as it was once the huge Midland Railway goods yard sitting next to St Pancras station.


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  1. Basil Jet says:

    Three bits of the Fleet Line alignment from Charing Cross to Fenchurch Street and Lewisham were built but never used… the (Jubilee) tunnels at Charing Cross actually run on to Aldwych, a building in Cannon Street had tunnels built through its foundations and about a mile of tunnel was built in the New Cross area.

  2. alistair twin says:

    It really shows what a miss-step the original british library was, it could have been much higher and not had a negative impact. plus the square at the front is woe-fully under used and leaves more of a blank frontage to the street than anything else. It had a troubled begining and took so long that things really had moved on even by then.

    i wonder if they will try to use the undergroond structures for ground source cooling, since they have to go that deep anyway. Also I suspect they wont build the tunnels, as that would more likely be disruptive to the TBMs than helpful. just the shafts and voids.

    • Chris Rogers says:

      The current volume and massing of the Bl was conditioned by planners. Height was limited to avoid blocking daylight to the Ossulton estate to the west and the big set back was due to the need to keep sightlines along the Euston Road to the Midland Grand Hotel and Shaw Theatre.

  3. Rob Adamson says:

    The back of the British Library is an excellent location for accessing St Pancras’ platforms – but the uncomfortable truth is that the Crossrail which Euston needed was the first, not the second (p303 of ‘Crossrail – The Whole Story’). CR2 and Euston are ill-suited.
    So now, plenty of existing capacity east of Euston and Euston Square should be released – first by extending the DLR to Euston via Farringdon (that also gives good relief for the Central line from Tottenham Court Road).
    To release more Euston – KX St P capacity, a tube shuttle from Euston to Chancery Lane with Holborn is needed. Continuing that shuttle – to Waterloo, Vauxhall (or Stockwell), and one of the Claphams that has an island platform – would address morning peak northbound congestion on the Northern and Victoria lines. The number of journeys that require interchanging twice would be markedly reduced and CR2, freed from needing to serve Balham, Tottenham Court Road and Euston, can become a superb line, serving one branch through Tottenham Hale and one through Leytonstone (relieving the Central and Elizabeth lines west of Stratford). (From Victoria, CR2 should serve Waterloo, Farringdon, Old Street, Hoxton then one fork to Homerton, Leyton, Leytonstone and existing stations to Epping, the other fork to Tottenham Hale.)
    Instead of the New Southgate CR2 branch, a new tube line should start at Manor House with cross-platform interchange from the Piccadilly line. The line should link Finsbury Park and Camden to Bond Street. (For cost, compare this distance with that from New Southgate to Stamford Hill, rail gauge). This plus the CR2 trains to Victoria from Tottenham Hale and Homerton would address southbound Victoria line congestion.
    Related to Bond Street, imagine if a route were reserved for the West Brompton line from Wimbledon to dive below Earl’s Court station and continue under Hyde Park to Bond Street (for the Elizabeth line). That would wipe out a lot of congestion north and east of Victoria.

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