New Eurostar-Terminal St Pancras in London

From November 14, Eurostar trains will writhe out from under the St Pancras station's unforgettable train shed roof through new tunnels and £5.8bn-worth of newly forged engineering works to reach Paris Gare du Nord in just two-and-a-quarter hours.

When St Pancras was threatened with destruction in 1966, eminent architectural historians - including Nikolaus Pevsner and tireless conservationists, notably John Betjeman - fought a vigorous campaign to shame British Railways and Harold Wilson's government. Only a few years earlier, London had lost the world-famous Euston Arch. This time, the conservation lobby had developed the teeth of a great white shark and the grip of a bulldog. St Pancras was listed Grade 1, the same status as those other great gothic national monuments, Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.

Quality abounds in this extraordinary public space. Rich, scratch-proof timber floors here. Stone flagstones there. No carpets. No McDonald's. The very latest in easy-to-use information technology. All this in Britain, the land of tat, executive homes, chainstore mania and shopping malls.

This is all the more remarkable given the extremely complex nature of the project. Eurostar platforms and undercroft aside, works include a new concrete station beneath St Pancras for the Bedford to Brighton services, connecting the terminus with Luton and Gatwick airports; a modernised and vastly extended London Underground station at King's Cross St Pancras; new regional train platforms for the Midland main line and future services, aboard Japanese-built "bullet trains", to Stratford and Kent; the restoration and extension of Scott's hotel into a five-star Marriott Renaissance; the construction of a new gothic wing by Richard Griffiths and RHWL architects as an extension to the hotel; and flats in the upper floors of the old Midland Grand converted by the Manhattan Loft Corporation.

In its new guise, and despite the security measures necessary to keep Eurostar services safe, St Pancras will remain very much a public building. A common walkway passes through the Eurostar undercroft. Anyone will be able to come here to drink at the champagne bar set alongside arriving and departing trains, to meet beneath the station's new statues of reunited lovers and of Sir John Betjeman. The station will even boast a farmers' market.
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