After watching the TV series our architect visits the station for the first time and pays tribute to its saviour
I‘ve now watched the last four of these programmes and I could do with learning a bit more about the money. Our money. How much does that huge statue cost ? It’s not that I think it’s not worth it, it just seemed to me that the key person in the statue making business is the sculptor, and the second key person is the foundry making it.
It has been quite clear that Paul Day has been leaned on to produce something he is not very happy with, and the head of the foundry was the classic example of the subcontractor who hasn’t done what you asked for, but hasn’t done it in such a way that there is not enough time for him to have to do it again.
You can see the scenario. Sculptor (who actually knows what he is doing): “I think £120,000.00 is a bit over the top, but £80,000.00 really isn’t enough, I’d take the quote of £100.000.00 anyway I like their work”
Head commissioner: “Well they say they can do it of £80,000.00 so I think we should give the a chance”.
Why the hoo-haa?
What £800m railway station is about is not the wonders of modern construction, it is about how PR and marketing are taking over the world. Why do we need any publicity hoo-hah at all? It’s a railway station. When they closed Waterloo, would-be continental travellers will got the idea quite quickly on their own. It’s not as if they had any choice is it?
Bernard Hill’s gloomy voice over may boom away trying to inject some non-existent tension into the fact that the shops are going to be THREE WEEKS LATE! But who actually gives a toss?
And why is it the Queen has to open it. She doesn't know the answer.
And why get the Queen to open it at all? She obviously didn’t know the answer. And was it Nigel West’s finest hour. What these stunts do is demonstrate how hard working practical people working in the construction industry can be emasculated by PR stunt organisers who can’t tell the difference between a miraculous nineteenth century barrel vault and a glass balustrade.
What proportion of the £800 million funds all these people? (there seem to be hundreds of them). Nobody seemed to say “ It maybe a hundred yards long but to be perfectly honest I don’t think the champagne bar is very exciting”
Less hype, more building
When people tell me things are on time and on budget (something we heard a number of times) I sometimes wonder if the budget wasn’t too big and the time allowed too long. Perhaps if they spent a tad less on the hype (perish the thought) they might have spent a bit more on the building. Sorting those staircases out for a start. Making the whole thing easier to understand. Getting a bit more light in through the new roof.
One thing that didn’t seem to have been mentioned was the fact that if it hadn’t been for decades of tireless effort by one man, in the face of an increasingly phillistine transport authority, St Pancras would have been razed decades ago. That man was the poet laureate John Betjamin.
Having seen the TV programmes I thought I ought to go and see the station itself and the modest naturalistic statue of the great man (by Martin Jennings) sited casually among the passengers on the upper concourse is worth a visit in its own. It simultaneously conveys the marvel of Barlow’s arch, and the thrill of continental rail travel.
Quite a good station. Shame about the TV PR programme.