Sunderland station’s new southern entrance will be a gateway to the city that rail’s greats would be proud of says the project’s development team

When it comes to Sunderland’s rail history, the architectural merit of Monkwearmouth Station, built in 1848 by railway great George Hudson, stands uncontested.

But times change and, while the city’s former main station, a beautiful Grade II structure just northwest of the city centre, is now a Sunderland football museum, the opportunity has now arisen to give the city another station which will stand as proud as Monkwearmouth.

A £26 million redevelopment lead by Sunderland City Council, Network Rail and train operators Nexus, Grand Central and Northern Rail is now underway to create a new landmark station that benefits Sunderland’s city status. BAM has been appointed as the main contractor for delivering the works, with AECOM undertaking the technical design for the new southern entrance.

The main feature of the new entrance will be a large glass wrap-around design and will include a ticket office and reception, retail and cafes and a mezzanine level with office space for rail staff.The proposed wider six-year project will also see the northern entrance of the station revamped and platform-level works undertaken to increase the capacity of the station, with four tracks and four platforms to separate Tyne and Wear Metro from mainline services.

This year, the existing southern entrance will be demolished, clearing the way for the construction of a new building overlooking Market Square. The new station design will optimise the use of the existing structure, avoiding the need to replace it with a new set of piled concrete retaining walls. By reusing what is already there, the project team can avoid carbon emissions and reduce costs whist working towards 2050 net zero carbon targets.

The current station, known as Sunderland Central until 1969, serves a railway which lies in a cutting running north and south. Over the years it has seen changes including a new roof and buildings at the southern end in 1953.

The new design will provide a 21st Century station fit for the architectural merit of Sunderland’s rail history. AECOM’s design team reviewed the historic background to the station and assessed
earlier designs for the station and new foundations.

As part of understanding the structure, the team undertook a point cloud survey to gather all the necessary geometry information and accurate colour information of a building and its systems. This dramatically reduces the amount of time spent surveying large structures such as stations and eliminates errors and improves accuracy and integration of the new structure.

Working together, BAM and AECOM have balanced both the capital costs associated with construction with the forecast ongoing operating costs, including maintenance, repairs, and renewals. These calculations help to assess affordability and the potential whole life cost of the development. It also allows the development team to make design decisions which can minimise carbon emissions.

While considering the design requirements, the development team has been in close contact with stakeholders, including the train operators using the station. It’s important to work through how the station will be required to operate services and this type of engagement from the start is a key component in informing the design – again producing a design with passengers at heart.

As the design has progressed, the team has identified the key risks, particularly where it makes use of pre-existing support structures.

Extensive previous experience with railway infrastructure has helped the team to create solutions which mitigate these risks. It was particularly important to develop structural and geotechnical
design calculations to clearly demonstrate that the existing historic retaining walls can be reused to support the proposed station building.

With the demolition of the old station building about to get underway, anticipation is building for the new station to emerge. It will be a fairy-tale transformation for one of Britain’s least-loved stations and the development team can’t wait to see the final building constructed. It will, once again, provide a railway station that the people of Sunderland can be proud of.