Old railway tunnel at King’s Cross

The ‘Widened Lines’ (or what is left of them) are rail tunnels between St Pancras and Farringdon now used by Thameslink. The tunnels were a joint venture between the Great Northern and Metropolitan Railways and completed in 1866. Historically the lines also linked to King’s Cross mainline station as well as terminating at Moorgate, and serving depots at Farringdon and the Smithfield markets.

This is a view of the old tunnel ramp at Kings’ Cross in its last days before disappearing completely. Trains from Moorgate emerged into the long gone platform 16 (later renumbered 14) at King’s Cross via what was known as the Hotel Curve. By that time just part of the retaining wall leading to the tunnel existed. These pictures were taken in May 2005.


In the foreground is the top of the tunnel.

Attempts have been made to keep any potential urban explorers from crawling through the remaining gap in the tunnel towards the old King’s Cross Midland (now the disused Thameslink) station.

The pictures below are embedded from Flicker and show the same scenes in the 1970s. Both my 2005 and the 1977 view taken by loosegrip99 clearly show the same brickwork above the arch of the tunnel.

London Kings Cross Widened lines tunnel 3rd July 1977

A DMU, possibly bound for Welwyn, is seen at Platform 14 having just emerged from the Hotel Curve tunnel sometime in this 1970s view by std70040. On the right can be seen a pair of workmens’ escape arches. The top of one of these (not the same one though) can be seen in the picture I took in 2005. Look at the one showing the tunnel entrance in 1977 – the top most of the penultimate arch next to the tunnel entrance is that shown in my 2005 view.

King's Cross Hotel Curve platform

The last trains ran either in November 1976, or, as some sources say, March 1977. After that all the remaining Widened Lines services – ie those to Bedford – started from St Pancras and became known as the ‘Bedpan Electrics.’ There would be no more Widened Lines services via King’s Cross. It is said the old tunnel was later used for access in order to upgrade the remaining section of widened lines between St Pancras and Farringdon for the introduction of Thameslink in 1988. I assume after the opening of Thameslink the tunnel became totally redundant and was then mostly filled in.

The other direction from Bedford to Moorgate was via the suburban station at York Way. That has also disappeared though some minor traces remain, whilst the tunnel under York Way and the Regent’s Quarter did at one time carry service pipes. To this day it still carries some electricity cables.

The following picture was taken in April 2017 and shows the same location today. Everything has been concreted over. The only indication of any presence of the former Hotel Curve tunnel slope seems to be the two sealed pipes in the foreground. This tunnel is certainly driveable and access is needed to maintain some service pipes.

UPDATE 24 AUGUST 2017:

The renovated access to the widened lines for maintenance work clearly passes beneath the area shown in the picture above before entering the old tunnel bore itself.

As well as being used to upgrade the remaining lines for Thameslink, I had read in an engineering magazine the old King’s Cross tunnel had been used to enable engineering vehicles to access the widened lines for engineering works, and thought this had been a temporary measure. It’s clear this has been made a permanent feature.

A new access tunnel has been built  which slopes down into the old  section of railway tunnel. This also gives access to the west side of the King’s Cross station throat and in due course will service the basements of the new Google ‘groundscraper’ Headquarters to be built at this location.

The following pictures show the new vehicular passageway that give access to the basement of Google’s offices, as well as King’s Cross station throat and the widened lines themselves.


The new vehicular entrance on Goods Way. The slope down to the station throat and old widened lines is evident.


A side view of the new vehicular access at the point  where it gives access to King’s Cross station throat for maintenance work. This picture was taken from a train running into the suburban platforms.


View from King’s Boulevard showing the vehicular access as it gradually drops down to the old widened lines tunnel.


From Goods Way one can see how the entire vehicular access passageway gradually drops until it meets the old railway tunnel portal illustrated in the early part of this article. Google’s new headquarters will be built on top of this roadway.

No Comments

  1. Hello,
    These photos are superb and are just what I’ve been looking for, for months now ! I could kick myself for not having visited that site (presumably next to Cheney Road) ten years or so ago 🙁

    One question though; You state that the DMU would have been bound for Bedford, but unless I’m mistaken the Hotel Curve platform led up to the Eastern region only, therefore towards Welwyn, Hatfield and Hertford. Services towards Bedford on the Midland line would have carried on slightly further westbound before curving northwards under St. Pancras and joining the Midland Line south of Kentish Town; ie through the present St. Pancras International station ?

    Great photos though, and thank you !

    1. Author

      Thanks for the comments. I took the pics because redevelopment was in the pipeline, but wish I done a proper project covering the area in more depth at the time. Sorry I wasnt thinking when I said Bedford! That’s where they go from the Widened Lines now. This one may have been going to Welwyn. Have corrected it.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your message. I looked at that New Civil Engineer article. What is not mentioned is that both tunnels were indeed used as roadways as well as for service pipes, although the Hotel curve apparently now only carries the main service conduits. I’ll put that in the text of the article.

      I thought the York Road tunnel wasnt accessible for vehicles anymore (but maybe it is in part if there is still access.) Hotel Curve certainly is driveable. Here’s a thread where a railway worker informs these can be driven down https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/kx-thameslink-old-tunnel.52880/

      The York Road curve was certainly in use as roadway for a number of years https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/uk.railway/gThu_UEmdT8

      I’ve seen pictures of the York Road tunnel with large service pipes (probably temporary) see links to images at bottom of page http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/k/kings_cross_york_road/index1.shtml and one can also this day see electricity cabling strung along the sides of the York Road tunnel as seen from the Regent Quarter shopping area eg http://here-is.com/gasholder/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2015/05/York-Road-Tunnel.jpg

  2. The 1977 photo of the tunnel takes me back. I don’t know what year it was (I was born in 1950 and was quite small) but I was standing with my father in just that spot on the platform shown in the foreground when somebody lost hold of one of those old heavy station trolleys on the slope leading down to the platform. Much shouting and father dragged me to the back of the platform. The trolley swerved onto the line just as service we were waiting for came out of the tunnel. Not sure how much damage there was to the engine but we certainly did not catch that train back to Potters Bar. Still vivid in my memory – fascinating to see a photo of the spot!

    1. Author

      Lol hope the engine was okay! I cant remember much about these old suburban platforms I was more familiar with King’s Cross Midland. The LT pannier tanks as they stormed through King’s Cross en route to or from Croxley tip fascinated me and remember them as they passed through the newer Met station. There was a good view of King’s Cross Midland (and most of London’s skyline) from the rooftop where my aunt lived. Many hours were spent just watching the trains on the Widened Lines.

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