New passenger bridge erected over the Christmas break at Birmingham New Street.
As with Heathrow Airport, Birmingham New Street has been operating at capacity for the last few years and has had a bay platform added to increase capacity. With the West Coast Route Modernisation bringing more trains through the station, the decision was taken to spend £600 on a complete rebuild of the station.
It was last rebuilt nearly 50 years ago when the Victorian station was demolished to be replaced by a concrete structure which generates a dark and gloomy atmosphere on the platforms with no natural daylight except at the extremities.
The project was granted planning permission in February 2012 and is due for completion in 2015 when the only concrete example of 1960s architecture to remain will be the Grade two listed Signal Box! It is all part of the Birmingham Gateway scheme which is designed to improve facilities at and around the station increasing the passenger capacity.
The project is being delivered while keeping the station available for traffic which requires very clever and detailed planning. This is why the Christmas no-trains period is so important and why the bridge was put in position while no trains were running. A 700 tonne crane was used over a 72 hour period. This is an example of a real enhancement rather than some of the other work carried out across the network at the same time.
The last year has seen one platform at a time taken out of use and renewed with all scrap materials being taken out by train on easily accessible low sided wagons. These have shuttled to and from a yard at Bordesley a few miles out of Birmingham city centre.
Over the Christmas no-trains period, a new footbridge was positioned over the tracks serving platforms 10 to 12 replacing the existing one which formed part of the Navigation Street Bridge. The new facility will not open until the end of this year but will create for the first time, a station entrance at Hill Street and a direct link to platform 12.
Preparations for the work, a very visible part of the Gateway Scheme, meant the old bay platform was closed which had been used in the past as a motorail loading bay and a place to stable a station pilot locomotive.
Other work to take place over the holiday period was the provision of new train crew facilities, the removal of a footbridge linking a shopping area and several other structures not required for the upgrade.
This will combine to allow the first half of a new concourse to open next Christmas when passengers will start to realise the first benefits of the project. The station was designed 50 years ago and opened in 1967 for 60,000 passengers a year but is now handling 140,000 passengers so the requirement for expansion is obvious!