A tunnel at King’s Cross station that was closed in the 1970s has been reopened, with the first trains passing through just before 5am this morning.

Disused tunnel on the right side (c) Network Rail

The final approach to King’s Cross station is through tunnels, and three double-track tunnels were built, but in 1977, the station was redesigned with a new layout between the tunnels and the platforms and the introduction of bi-directional working in the tunnels, so they closed one of the three tunnels as surplus to requirements.

However, with passenger numbers rising — in pre-pandemic times — and likely to eventually return to their pre-pandemic numbers, the station needs more capacity. Not so much in the station itself, but in the approach tunnels, which are a capacity bottleneck.

A major project to reopen the closed tunnel is being carried out along with a simplification of the track layout to improve reliability.

Edited track layout diagrams based on Network Rail originals

That work has been going on now for over a year, with new track layouts, signalling and preparing the tunnel for reopening. At the weekend, the signalling upgrade was completed with the handover from the old signal box to the York-based rail operating centre.

This morning, the old tunnel reopened, and trains from LNER and Great Northern made a synchronised arrival at King’s Cross.

At part of the wider works, Platforms 0-6 had been closed, but they have reopened today, while Platforms 7-11 have closed to allow the rest of the track layout to be realigned.

When combined with upgrades elsewhere on the route, the East Coast Upgrade will also deliver capacity for operators to run more trains, adding an extra 10,000 seats every day. Apart from increasing capacity on the line, the cleaned-up layout allows the new Azuma fleet to utilise its increased acceleration when leaving the station so journeys can be slightly quicker.

The works at King’s Cross are expected to be completed at the end of this year.

The tunnel ready for trains (c) Network Rail / East Coast Upgrade

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23 comments
  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    Not only this, but the Four Lines modernization has also reached full working on “SMA4” , so only Sloane Square to Bayswater (SMA5) is left to do on the crucial inner circle.

    What with platform 16 and 17 now been long enough for the Crossrail trains, it’s been a good few weeks for trains in Central London.

  2. Peter ALLAM says:

    Are there any proposed solutions to alleviate delays between the Welwyn North & Woolmer Green existing twin track areas?

    • JAM says:

      Virtually the only solution is to close Welwyn North (Perhaps with an alternative parkway station built on a new branch line nearby)- this would be far cheaper than rebuilding the viaduct and four-tracking the existing Welwyn north station.

    • Jon says:

      I think the Mimram Valley and the Welwyn North tunnels would make the cost prohibitive.

    • Maurice Reed says:

      With modern signalling the twin-track bottleneck is less of a problem than it used to be with modern emus have greater acceleration & braking.

  3. Chris Gordon says:

    So Kings Cross has 6 approach tracks with the re-opening of the disused 3rd Tunnel brought back into use at long last when it should never have closed in the first place, but where is the sense in losing another platform and Kings Cross now down to 11 platforms instead of 12 before the work started, seems to me as usual one pace forward and two paces backwards, I thought the whole idea was increased capacity so what do they do? Take a platform out of use!! Absolutely typical of this Country yet again

    • ianVisits says:

      The extra platform closed because the one next to it was lengthened, and the net gain is an increase in capacity.

      Before complaining – check facts.

    • Andrew Haines says:

      Chris Gordon you’re the type of person who doesn’t even half a glass half empty. I bet you smash you’re own glass and blame someone else.
      Opening the tunnel is a great step forward in capacity. Longer trains allow more seats per trip. Numpty.

    • ChrisC says:

      Capacity is more than just the number of platforms. The capacity restriction at King’s Cross has been the tracks not the platforms.

      Capacity is also about efficiency of use of the resources avaiable.

      Taking out one platform enabled another to be lengthened as well as simplyfing the track layout. AS simpler layout is less likely to breakdown. Longer, straighter platforms mean longer trains can be accommodated which also increases capacity for passengers who can also more easily get on and offreducing dwell time.

      Hasn’t the station only had 12 platforms since 2010 when platform 0 was put into service?

      Which other platform(s) has the station lost?

      Ian has written several articles about this scheme. I suggest you read them for the background to the scheme.

  4. Ian says:

    It seems odd that having 3 tunnels feeding 2 tunnels is so much better then 2 tunnels feeding 2 tunnels.

    • ianVisits says:

      Clearly Network Rail think it’s a good idea otherwise they wouldn’t have spent a fortune doing all the work.

    • Julian says:

      Not really – as the lines will be bi-directional it allows a lot of parallel moves, with crossing movements taking place away from the station throat. This means less waiting outside King’s Cross for the road to your platform to come free whilst departing trains cross in front of you.

    • Lionel Ward says:

      If the two tunnels by themselves were the bottleneck then yes it’d be odd.

      But presumably the bottleneck is the number of available routes between platform and line. Looking at the new layout map in the article, there’s clearly added flexibility (more routes) added by the 3rd tunnel that’ll allow more trains to get in and out the station at the same time

  5. Tom Brophy says:

    For those wondering why longer platforms are now more important than the total number of platforms – remember many of the old Slow Line trains now come on and off the Thameslink network and don’t use Kings X at all.

    This is all about making the station more useful for what’s left, and that’s mainly Fast Line traffic.

    Having said that, the weak point in the plan seems to be engineering work. If the Fast Lines are shut, very few platforms are available from the Slows now.

    • Jordan D says:

      That’s incorrect. Only some of the services are Thameslink and come off at the Canal Tunnels. There is a large number of Great Northern services, plus some Thameslink ones (which 3years on, pandemic notwithstanding, have yet to be threaded through the Thameslink Core) which still terminate at Kings Cross.

    • Julian says:

      Eight of the eleven platforms can still be accessed if the slow lines are closed, that should be enough for the weekend service.

  6. Hoobla says:

    All incorrect, platform hasn’t been lengthened.

    Apparently the clearance for passengers between 10-11 isn’t enough and doesn’t meet standards, so one needed to be closed.

    Kings cross throat wasn’t really an issue, much bigger issues on the ECML.

    • Ray Philpott says:

      Anyone with verifiable knowledge care to comment… if right, he has a point?

  7. Steve Bater says:

    Does anyone know why Kings Cross Station has a platform 0. Is this only station in the UK to have a platform 0?

    • ianVisits says:

      Easier to add a platform 0 than rename all the other platforms.

      Yes, lots of stations have platforms 0.

    • Andrew Moore says:

      Cardiff Central, Doncaster, Gravesend, Haymarket, Hooton, Leeds
      Kings Cross, Rainham (Kent), Redhill and Stockport.

  8. Andrew Moore says:

    Nice to see the correct story finally put online regarding first trains through the tunnel…. Not the self-promoting publicity stunt and lies LNER, ITV etc.. decided to publish.

  9. James Ellis says:

    You forgot Platform 9 & 3/4’s 🙂

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