The Times profiles the newly-refurbished St. Pancras station in London, opening in November 2007 as the station that will handle passengers on the international Birmingham-London(St.Pancras)-Paris-Brussels route. We can apparently thank the old poet laureate John Betjeman, for saving this fine neo-Gothic station from demolition.

“Gilbert Scott and Barlow didn’t just build a mechanism for fast travel — revolutionary enough though that was in the 1860s — they built one whose very shape fast-tracked the imagination. … St Pancras, though, was romantic — neo-Gothic, but from a time when neo-Gothic wasn’t just nostalgic. Combined with high technology of iron and glass, it was weirdly (to our modern eyes) futuristic too, despite the fact that most Victorian architects at the time were still dithering over whether iron was respectable enough to be out in polite society, let alone combined with godly Gothic. … The carvings are crisp: you will never see more wrestling dragons on a building … No bones about it, Barlow and Gilbert Scott made St Pancras to be the greatest station in the land. No, not a station — a cathedral, its Gothic pointed shed, the widest single-span arch of its age, apeing lofty medieval Gothic naves, and piled high with allusive decoration to stoke the imagination, and gird the loins for the adrenalin rush of newly fast travel and the future. Stripped of soot, all this is back with a mighty bang.”

Sounds great; so it’s a little disspiriting to remember that because the government has sold all Birmingham’s Eurostar trains to the French

“A fleet of high-speed trains built to connect cities in the Midlands and the North with Paris and Brussels has quietly been handed to France. The 186mph (300km/h) trains, which cost the British taxpayer £180 million, will be used to carry French passengers between Paris and Lille.”

… that means travellers from Birmingham will be forced to rather un-romantically trundle into the station on a “semi-fast” Midland Mainline shuttle, before getting off and changing onto a Eurostar. Although the change-over will give cultured Brummies a little time to admire the fab architecture of the station, so it’s not all bad.