New Street is the busiest rail station outside London and is used by 140,000 passengers a day, more than double the amount it was designed to handle.
As well as being dark, drab and unwelcoming, it also suffers from poor access and all in all presents a bad first impression, not only of the railway, but of Britain’s second city.
But now, a £600 million redevelopment project has reached its halfway point and stunning new features and changes are emerging while the station remains open for business as usual.
Around 1000 construction workers are currently on site bringing about changes that will double passenger capacity by 2015, including:
• a new concourse three and a half times bigger than present and enclosed by a giant atrium
• improved access for all
• refurbished platforms
• a new Moor Street Link pedestrian route alongside the concourse
• regeneration and economic growth through new pedestrian links in the city centre and new job opportunities for the local workforce during construction (opened up by Network Rail)
• a new 20,000 sq m stainless steel station facade, consisting of 8,000 reflective panels, each one unique to adjust to the peculiar geometry of the building, weighing 1,100 tonnes in total.
Network Rail and Birmingham City Council have also overseen the upgrading and remodelling of the Pallasades shopping centre above the station, which will be re-named Grand Central Birmingham. The reconfigured complex will consist of 150,000 sq ft of high-quality retail space located next to a new 250,000 sq ft John Lewis department store, scheduled to open in autumn 2014.
The project is being managed in two distinct phases. The first part saw half of the new concourse being built so that passengers can move across and start using it, and this ‘switch over’ will take place next month. After that, the existing concourse, which has been in use since the 60s, will be revamped. When the second phase is complete in 2015, both halves will be linked up and New Street will be complete.
A total transformation
The redevelopment is backed by Birmingham City Council, Network Rail, The Department for Transport, Centro and Advantage West Midlands. Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council described it as a ‘vital project for the city, stimulating economic growth and regeneration and, in the newly-named Grand Central, it will provide one of the best-connected retail spaces in the country.’
Rail Minister Simon Burns said: ‘Birmingham New Street has long had a reputation for being dingy, and in recent years it has struggled to cope with the unprecedented growth in passenger numbers. This is why the government has contributed £160 million towards transforming the station into a modern, bright 21st century gateway.’
Birmingham City Council, John Lewis, which is providing three-quarters of the 1000 jobs available, and Network Rail have signed a jobs and skills charter setting out how they will ensure Birmingham’s diverse community, including young unemployed people, have access to the opportunities created by the development.