London Life

Battle For London Is On

All Change At Kings Cross

ARCHITECT John McAslan, 58, has designed a concourse at Kings Cross station which took 15 years to build at a cost of £400m.

Described as a fundamental reconstruction of one of the thorniest logistical and architectural problems in London, his work has culminated in the opening of a striking new western concourse – a semi-circular building joined to the western side of the Grade I – listed Kings Cross train shed.

McAslan says that it is the longest single-span station structure in Europe, measuring 54 metres from centre to circumference and covering an area of about three Olympic swimming pools. Inside, its architectural expression is like some kind of reverse waterfall: a white steel grid that swoops up from the ground and cascades over one’s head towards 16 perimeter columns in a flurry of 1,200 solid and 1,012 glass triangular panels.

Underneath this huge concourse is a new Tube ticket hall. The steel castings at the top of the perimeter columns weigh 1.5 tonnes each. The concourse is capable of handling 55 million passengers a year – as many as Heathrow Airport.

So hopefully there won’t be so many cross passengers at Kings Cross in the future!


The Mall is due to shut down for more than three months for the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics, promising fears of a summer of traffic gridlock and discontent.

The road’s unprecedented closure is part of a wider lockdown because of the Games, with half of St James’s Park, also within a 32-acre no-go zone, in the heart of the capital.

Mayor Boris Johnson spoke of his anger over the restrictions, which were given planning consent last year by Westminster Council, and he ordered London 2012 organiser, LOCOG, back to the drawing board to minimise disruption.

Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Downing Street home overlooks the affected site, has personally stepped in and told Olympic planners to keep any traffic disruption to a minimum.

An official source said “Mr Cameron said that he wanted everything possible done in order to reduce disruption. He was very clear that London residents and businesses must be able to carry on normally as much as possible.”

Games chiefs will seal off the Mall and park from June 20 with a 10ft high security fence. The London 2012 workforce will then move in to erect a 5,000 capacity grandstand finish on the Mall for the marathon, cycling and race-walk finishes.

The team will also be setting up the 16,000 seat beach volleyball court, the third largest Olympic venue, in Horseguards Parade.

That treatment of the Mall should confuse them all!


Stansted Airport has been told that a new rival at Southend will give it a serious run for its money.

The challenge came as the first passengers passed through its new terminal following a £100m makeover.

EasyJet will fly to nine European destinations, including Barcelona and Malaga, from as little as £24.99.

The airline’s Chief Executive, Carolyn McCall, claimed that it could offer passengers faster and cheaper connections to the capital than its Essex rival. At the opening of the terminal, she said “Stansted is always going to have much more capacity but this is a great airport, designed really well, point to point, and I think it is going to give Stansted a real run for its money.”

London Southend can currently take two million flights a year, but this could triple, she added. EasyJet will start with 70 departures a week, to Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Faroe, Ibiza, Jersey, Malaga and Majorca. An Irish carrier, Aer Arann, is already operating up to 10 flights a week to Waterford. Stansted-based Ryanair acknowledged the challenge.

Southend has now increased its reputation from a seaside resort to an airside resort.


The Queen shunned the Royal Train for the launch of her Diamond Jubilee tour of the UK in the latest sign of how the Monarchy is coping with the “Age of Austerity” – by letting the ordinary train take the strain.

Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Duchess of Cambridge, she travelled from St Pancras to Leicester by East Midlands Trains – the first engagement in a four-month tour of every UK region.

Unfortunately, they could not be joined by Prince William, who was on his latest tour of duty in the Falklands.

While in Leicester, the Royal party toured schools, shops and factories and met many local people and local dignitaries. One young lad at a school said that although he was pleased to see “Kate”, he really missed not meeting Prince William, which is rather surprising – I would’ve preferred Kate!


Tea at the Ritz – the traditional afternoon treat, has been popular for more than 100 years – until now.

For the first time since it opened in 1906, the hotel is ringing the changes and ditching “foreign” features, such as French pastries for “Best of British” items ahead of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic Games.

Victoria sponge, lemon meringue pie, Eton Mess, custard tarts and strawberry creams are among the sweets on offer, while the savoury ingredients have also undergone a revamp to give a contemporary British twist, with caraway seed bread, shallots and horseradish.

Hotel bosses said that Tea at the Ritz – at £42 per person for traditional and £54 with a glass of champagne – remains one of the most “quintessentially British” pastimes.

The Ritz Manager, Guillaume Marly, said that the change was part of a move to act as guardians of British traditions, which will carry through to other parts of the hotel and its cuisine. He said “I want the food to bring back memories of a British childhood.”

It seems that at the Ritz you can have your cake and eat it too!


One Man, Two Guvnors will have competition from The Ladykillers at this year’s Olivier Awards, as the hit West End comedies bagged five nominations each last month.

Their potential haul is dwarfed, however, by the musical Matilda. The Roald Dahl adaptation has a total of 10 nominations, including a collective one for the four young girls who share the title role.

Kristin Scott Thomas, Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are all in the running for awards at the Royal Opera House next month, along with James Corden for best actor in the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors, which he is taking to Broadway.

Other nominated productions include the Old Vic’s Noises Off and the revival of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path. English National Opera is up for outstanding achievement, against Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new ROH work, Anna Nicole.

Akram Khan’s rivals in the dance category will include the streetdance show Some Like It Hip Hop by ZooNation.

The awards will be held on April 15.


Secret doors and toxic plants feature in the design of Sherlock Holmes’ film director, Guy Ritchie’s, £6m period home.

Interior designer, Nicola Fontanella, who is overseeing the project, says “Ritchie has asked for a series of features befitting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to be built into the Fitzroy Square property – not far from Baker Street.” They include concealed doorways and secret spaces hidden behind panels, while a room patched with exotic and poisonous plants is also said to be on Ritchie’s wish list.

Miss Fontanella said “He wants everything to look like it does in Sherlock Holmes films.”

The project, which also includes adding a basement and solar panels, should be finished by the end of the year when Ritchie is expected to move in with model Jacqui Ainsley, 30, who gave birth to their first child in September. Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes was a hit in 2009 and the sequel, A Game of Shadows, came out last year.


Notice in a suburban cemetery: Visitors are forbidden to pick flowers except from their own graves. That, I would think, would be an impossibility, but perhaps in the spirit world, anything is possible.


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