Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Deep in the dank, dark depths

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 18 February 2010

I put suggestions for the things I want to write about on here in a little notebook that I always carry with me, because you never know when you’ll be struck with a good idea, and if it’s a good idea then you don’t want to forget it. Sometimes these will be a few lines, sometimes even just a single line. For this particular entry I wrote in my little notebook “Birmingham New Street – Railway Dungeon”. I’ve spoken about Birmingham New Street before, but I visited it recently and was prompted to pass comment about it specifically. And specifically, it is like a dungeon. The train shed is low and dark and dreary and, whenever a diesel powered train comes into the station, even modern ones with advanced exhaust systems, the diesel fumes have no where to rise above the poor passengers crowding on the inadequate platforms, so you end up choking. Voyagers are bad enough, but if you end up standing next to a Sprinter be prepared to cough up your lungs. New Street is the central core of the cross-country network, and so has a lot of passengers passing through it every day, either to Birmingham itself or to change trains. It is cramped, overbearing and a decidely unpleasant place to be. There is a plan in place to redevelop the station as part of the £550m Gateway Plus redevelopment. Will this be enough? There are no plans to increase the capacity at New Street, which will doubtless see more people crowded on more trains, and so any benefits from the rebuilding of the station itself will soon be lost as it soon approaches capacity once again (a situation currently faced by Leeds). If High Speed 2 ends up using New Street, even if only as a branch off the main line, the capacity issue will become even more important. For a station as important as the main one in the country’s “second city”, it is vital that some kind of coherent strategy is adopted to ensure it meets the city’s, and the country’s, growing needs and stops being the railway dungeon.

“Birmingham’s New Street station has been an eyesore for too long”

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