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Transforming New Street

Posted by: Anders Elite

One of the busiest train stations in the UK, New Street Station, Birmingham is undergoing one of the biggest refurbishments in Europe with a £750 million renovation.

The major make-over is expected to be completed in 2015, providing facilities for 250,000 passengers. The city station plays a vital role in the West Midlands; it’s the central hub on the West Coast line for long distance CrossCountry trains and on average sees trains leave every 37 seconds. The reason for this, its first transformation in 40 years is to encourage new members of the public to visit Birmingham, as well as to make journeys easier for millions of passengers by expanding the station to three and a half times larger than the old concourse.

By revamping and extending the platforms, the station will accommodate longer trains, which in turn will relieve overcrowding on the platforms as well as increase the station’s capacity by 50%. With more frequent and longer trains, there will be more passengers but less congestion; a much-needed provision as over 140,000 people currently pass through the station every day.

Preparation for construction began back in 2009 and four years later, the first half of the new station was unveiled on 28th April and is now in use whilst work begins on the second half. It’s not a moment too soon as the reason behind the whole project was the fact that members of the public had grown to hate the station - so much so, in 2003 it was voted the “biggest eyesore” and in 2007, the “worst station” in the UK by readers of Country Life magazine.

Pressure to change the station led to Network Rail devising a plan to make the station into a 21st century transport hub and so work began to make it a place where passengers feel welcome and able to move around with ease. The scheme is set to make the station more accessible for disabled passengers, people with heavy luggage and parents. There will also be 15 new lifts, over 30 new escalators and more space on the platforms for passengers.

The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly said “Birmingham is a key gateway to towns and cities across Britain and this investment will make New Street a more enjoyable experience for the 17m passengers who use it each year.” Passenger Andrew Shelton, 21, a student at the University of Birmingham who often uses the station, said the new concourse was looking "pretty swanky". He said: "It looks a lot nicer. It gives a better impression of Birmingham when you arrive.

But Eilona Savage, 27, from Erdington, Birmingham, said: "To me it seemed like anywhere else - boring. It's got no character, but it isn't finished."

Despite the mixed reactions, the station will be linking up escalators with the Pallasades and Bullring shopping centres, as well as redeveloping the remainder of Pallasades, into a new fashion and lifestyle shopping destination along with a new John Lewis store. In turn this will create jobs with new restaurants and shops opening within the train station and the shopping centre.

Birmingham City Council estimates that due to the new jobs being made, the local economy will be boosted by over £25 million per annum. David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, said: "Network Rail is helping to rebuild Birmingham by transforming New Street. The project is about much more than simply redeveloping the station. This deal is a further sign that our plans are critical to the long term success of the city and will create new jobs and help stimulate economic growth.”

It’s said that up to an estimated 2,200 to 3,200 jobs will be created and act as a catalyst for the economic growth and development in Birmingham. And with jobs being made within the new restaurants and shops, there has been up to 14,000 people working at the site since the development started three years ago.

Councillor Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council said: “…The regeneration of New Street Gateway is seen as the key to unlocking economic and jobs growth within the city and wider region.
“Not only will the project deliver a world-class transport hub at the heart of the city, benefitting business, and the public and potential investors alike, but it will also transform the economic landscape of the city centre by opening up the entire south side to redevelopment.”

At Anderselite, we can’t wait to see the finished product. But we wonder whether the 2015 deadline will be met… only time will tell.
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