As a group we’ve often criticised the New Street redevelopment on the grounds of it costing a lot of money and it being a large shopping centre. With the half-time switchover of the station has come other problems, worse linkage with bus services and criticism that the new bike racks are in the wrong location. However, David Gaussen offers a slightly different perspective, saying it may not all be doom and gloom.
On Sunday 28th April, something quite exciting happened in the centre of Birmingham. Yes, really!
Phase 1 of the new station development opened and has brought about a huge improvement to the experience of visiting New Street station
Previously the 2 main entrances were either from Smallbrook Queensway, via the taxi and car drop off area, or via a detour from New Street up the ramp into the Pallisades shopping centre and then down an escalator to the ticket office. It seems that when New Street was re-built in the 1960’s, it was felt that its purpose as a railway station was to encourage people to walk past lots of shops to boost their revenues. It was almost as though the station itself was an afterthought. The architecture was very typical of the 1960s grey concrete style, although no doubt it was seen as bold and original at the time. The past 40 or so years have only made the station look worse and worse.
Access to the station is now greatly improved. The main entrance is now on Stephenson Street, quite near where the original entrance to the 19th century station used to be. There is now a much larger passenger concourse and many more escalators and lifts to provide access to the platforms below.
However, for me, one of the most uplifting parts of the changes is the new passageway from Smallbrook Queensway down to Stephenson Street. For it is here that someone has delivered a beautiful effect by lining the long wall with green plants. And – as if in a long awaited answer to cyclist’s prayers – we even have an indoor set of racks for 40 bikes..
There is more and better to come for New Street station in 2015, the second part of the development will be opened: this promises a very large open space for passengers with a high atrium allowing natural light into the concourse. At the same time, the Midland metro will then be running into Stephenson Street.