Moorgate is a curious station. It is far bigger than it seems from the perspective of a user of any of the lines that pass through or terminate there. While Bank, just down the road/line really does feel like a massive labyrinth, Moorgate has none of that sense and yet it has at least ten platforms – that’s bigger than the main railway stations of many European cities. On the surface too, Moorgate takes up a substantial amount of space with entrances on both sides of Moorgate itself and again on both sides of Moorfields, the road that runs parallel to Moorgate. Before the Thameslink modernisation project got underway some Thameslink trains terminated here. As with other First Capital Connect Thameslink stations there are no Thameslink signs anymore but you can still see signs for trains to Bedford and Luton; though there haven’t been any for a few years. The Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines all pass through here, as does the City Branch of the Northern Line. More interesting than all of these is the terminus of the only ‘tube tunnel railway’ in London that is not run by London Underground. This is the First Capital Connect service running to Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and other points north of London. These services only run to and from Moorgate on weekdays and only until about 10:00 pm. Though there is no mention of it and no trace of the original signage this line was once part of the Northern Line, called the Northern City Line and linking Moorgate to Finsbury Park. On 28th February 1975 a Northern City Line train ran into the buffers here without decelerating: the precise cause has never been established. Forty three people were killed and the line was never again run by London Underground; it was handed over to British Rail (as it then was). Until 2014 there was no memorial plaque or other indication of the disaster on the station. I am very grateful to Richard Jones (see his comments below) for updating me that a memorial plaque has now been placed on the wall outside the station.
One Sunday morning in July 2013 I was passing on a bus and saw a gathering of official looking people in a park just across the road from the station. A few days later when passing on foot I realised that what I had seen was the unveiling of a memorial to the disaster. Why did it take 38 years? I don’t know and, as Richard explains below, many relatives of those that lost their lives were unaware of the unveiling. The memorial came about as a result of campaigning and fund raising by the Richard Jones, all credit to Mr Jones for doing the job that occialdom declined.
First Capital Connect which now runs the service on what was the Northern City Line would, based on appearances, be much happier if they could run all their services into Kings Cross and if they didn’t have to bother with this branch. Their platforms are dirty and uncared for, announcements are laughably unhelpful and often rude, services are erratic and unreliable, signage is dreadful and sometimes consists of handwritten messages pinned to the wall and the platform indicators seem to be designed to frustrate an urban commuter’s need for information (perhaps the communication model they use is suitable for a rural train service). All of this is in stark contrast to the service and information systems on the rest of the station which are provided by London Underground. When I find myself irritated and/or annoyed by the regular failings of the Tube I find it helpful to remind myself of how much worse things could be, and indeed are, where companies like First Capital Connect have managed to get their snout into the public transport trough. It is instructive too to remember that London Underground remains in public ownership (despite Gordon Brown’s best efforts) while First Capital Connect represents the admired private sector. I tend to attribute the generally grotty feel of this station to First Capital Connect though, perhaps more fairly, it might be a bit neglected pending massive Crossrail adjustments which, judging by the scale of the building work underway, will probably result in Moorgate effectively being incorporated into Liverpool Street.