The first of the Monopoly board’s four stations, King’s Cross is your gateway to the north. But gateways are often awkward to negotiate with a bike.
But the train companies operating from here – four of them, soon to become five – all allow bikes (except for certain rush-hour commuter services). The AtoB website has a regularly updated Bike Rail page with the latest (often complex) situation for each company.
And hooray for National Express East Coast, the main company based here, whose website lets you book tickets on any British train service and reserve a place for your bike! With attitudes like that I’m sure their future with this franchise is assured… oh.
Bike parking at King’s Cross has always been a problem. To make things worse, current redevelopment works (the concourse is being completely reworked) have put most of the supposed 418 cycle parking spaces out of action, as well as most of the concourse shops and pub. The parking on platform 8 (below right) is always jammed full, with some desperate cyclists chaining their machines to the metal benches.
Just to the right of these bikes is ‘Platform 9 ¾’, a jokey installation of half a trolley disappearing into the wall, in homage to the Harry Potter books. It isn’t a bike parking facility. When you visit, you’ll see some giggling Japanese students or posy American backpackers being snapped pretending to push the trolley. There’s something appropriately make-believe and fantasy about the sign next to it, too, which promises more bike parking further up the platform (no there isn’t) and on platforms 9 and 11 (no there isn’t).
Right outside King’s Cross, on the left overlooking the junction, there’s the odd sight of a lighthouse. Nobody seems to know quite what it was ever meant to be. Perhaps they could use it as a lookout tower to try and find bike parking.
Monopoly’s King’s Cross Station costs £200. What could this buy you there? Book well in advance on National Express’s website and choose your times carefully, and you could get six returns from King’s Cross to Inverness, including bike reservations, and still have enough change (£14) for a few cans of beer to enliven the journey.
On the other hand, if you buy a walk-on first-class single at rush hour from King’s Cross to Skegness and hand over your £200, you’ll probably get just £6 change back – about enough for a coffee and roll from one of the concourse sandwich shops.