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U.K. Rail Station Project Reaches Milestone

Night rendering of the Birmingham New Street redevelopment project
The façade of the expanded and refurbished station will be clad in stainless steel panels. During construction, the station has continued to see approximately 140,000 passengers daily—twice its intended maximum. Network Rail

The Birmingham New Street redevelopment project, which began in 2010, has reached its halfway mark. Next week will mark the grand opening of the first half of the new concourse.

April 23, 2013—Birmingham New Street station is the busiest rail station in the United Kingdom outside of London: 140,000 passengers pass through the station daily, more than double the station’s intended maximum, and trains depart every 37 seconds, according to the station’s operator, Network Rail. While these numbers are the reason the station is undergoing a £600 million (U.S.$915 million) redevelopment and expansion, the fact that this passenger volume has continued unabated during the project is a testament to careful planning as well as the importance of public rail to the city, its surrounding areas, and the wider national rail network.

The last station redevelopment in Birmingham took place in the 1960s, according to Chris Montgomery, Network Rail’s project director for the redevelopment, who wrote in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

“The station is dark, overcrowded, with poor access into the concourse and down to the platforms,” he said. “[It] provides a poor first impression of Britain’s second city, and its position in the city center has hindered economic development on the south side of the city.”

The redevelopment is designed to correct these issues, and will expand the concourse to 3.5 times its size, improve access points throughout the station, and add a new 450,000 sq ft shopping center above the station. A new multistory parking garage and ground-level public plaza will also be built; the number of bicycle parking spaces will be expanded from 24 to 160. 

 Rendering of a new shopping space and multistory parking garage that will be built atop the expanded rail station

 A new shopping space and multistory parking garage will be built
atop the expanded rail station. Network Rail

The redevelopment will support the extension of the Midland Metro tram system, which will terminate at the station, according to Network Rail. Ultimately, the expanded station will be capable of handling twice the daily passenger traffic that it currently experiences.

Prior to the commencement of the work, the station sat adjacent to the Pallasades shopping center and a large multistory parking garage. The project reimagined the use of these spaces so that the concourse will expand into a portion of the retained parking structure as well as into the former Pallasades space.

Once the project is completed in 2015, a 3,300 sq m atrium carved from the center of the Pallasades shopping center will allow natural light to penetrate the concourse and platform levels. Like the train station, the Pallasades shopping center will remain open while approximately 20,000 metric tons of concrete are removed from its center and roof. Lightweight, self-cleaning ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, will be used for the atrium’s roof.

The new shopping space will be built atop the existing station and the Pallasades building and will be rebranded Grand Central Birmingham upon its opening in 2014. The new retail and dining space is being touted as a shopping destination for the city and region as a whole, and will be anchored by a full-line John Lewis department store covering a whopping 23,226 sq m. An additional 18,580 sq m of retail space will be available for lease to other retailers.  

To cap off the work, the entire 16,000 m sq facade of the expanded and refurbished station and retail area will be clad in curving, reflective stainless steel panels so that the exterior appeal matches that of the interior upgrades. As part of the process, the existing exterior concrete panels have been removed so that fixture points for the new cladding can be identified. Supporting steelwork has been attached to the building, to which the cladding is being attached. (A visual flythrough of the redeveloped station and retail area may be viewed here.)

 Interior rendering of the station's spacious, light-filled atrium

 When it fully opens in 2015, the expanded Birmingham New Street
station will include a spacious, light-filled atrium carved out of an
existing building on the site. Network Rail

“The project will help stimulate regeneration and economic development in the city by creating new pedestrian links and public space linking the south side of the city to the station and city center,” Montgomery said. In conjunction with the new retail space, the rail station redevelopment is anticipated to create 1,000 new jobs once the project is completed.

At the halfway point on April 28, all passenger traffic will shift from the original station to a new concourse space built in a portion of the retained adjacent parking garage; all the existing rail station entrances will be closed and three new entrances opened. As part of this phase, 36 new escalators and 15 new elevators to the platforms will be unveiled to move passengers from the new concourse to the train platforms. While the concourse opening next week is only half the size of its 2015 iteration to come, it will nevertheless offer more space than its 1960s counterpart.

Work has been choreographed so that only one platform has had to be closed at a time, enabling normal train service—and passenger circulation into and out of the city—to continue. Work on the project proceeds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a total of 1,000 workers involved on the site, according to Network Rail.

The redevelopment project is funded by Network Rail; the Birmingham City Council; the Department for Transport; the development agency Advantage West Midlands; and Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive and Authority. The project team managing delivery includes Network Rail; the contractor, Mace Group, headquartered in London; the global design, engineering, and project management firm Atkins; and architects AZPA, based in London and Barcelona.


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