Published: 24th November 2015
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the modernised Birmingham New Street on November 19 arriving in The Royal Train. Her Majesty unveiled a plaque marking her first ever visit there and was met by Sir Peter Hendy and Mark Carne, chairman and chief executive respectively of Network Rail.
They were treated to an exhibition depicting the station’s history which was initially built by the London & North Western Railway in the late 1840s. The Royal party then met many of those involved in the rebuilding project and some of the station staff.
The station is used by 170,000 passengers a day, over double its mid 1960s modernisation design capacity following electrification of the West Coast main line. New Street now has a huge shopping complex (called Grand Central) and a passenger circulating area under a soaring naturally lit atrium, a huge improvement on the last 50 years. This is where the opening event took place with speeches from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Ray Hassall, and Sir Peter Hendy before her Majesty unveiled the special plaque which will take pride of place within the station.
The Queen also attended dedication led by the Bishop of Birmingham, The Right Reverend David Urquhart, for the PALS War Memorial. The PALS were volunteer soldiers from Birmingham who volunteered for army at the outbreak of war in September 1914.
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “It was an honour to welcome The Queen to Birmingham New Street and be part of a very special day for Birmingham. For such an impressive and transformed station, it was fitting that it was officially reopened by Her Majesty.
“Birmingham New Street is helping to boost the regeneration of the city centre as well as provide the millions of passengers who use it with a modern, 21st century station. With the Grand Central development above it, it is a unique station which is vital to the continued development of Birmingham and the wider region.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who attended the reopening, said: “Birmingham New Street is a truly remarkable development that is not only providing better journeys for passengers, but also driving economic growth and regeneration across the West Midlands and beyond.
Chris Montgomery, Network Rail’s project director who oversaw the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street, said: “The Queen officially reopening Birmingham New Street station is the culmination of many years of hard work by thousands of people involved in the project. This is a proud day for the project team, for Network Rail and for Birmingham.”
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "Birmingham New Street station has undergone a magnificent transformation and, together with the Grand Central development, has transformed the gateway to our city.
Network Rail eyes. The station has been fitted with what are called ‘media eyes’ and the Royal visit was broadcast on these so the public could watch while others also gathered inside the new atrium over the new concourse which is five times larger than Euston’s.
The platforms have been made more user friendly and along with improved entrances and more facilities, Birmingham New Street has now become a retail destination with 43 shops plus the Grand Central shopping complex with its flagship store, John Lewis. Network Rail says that Birmingham New Street is used by four train operating companies and is the busiest station outside London, and the busiest interchange station in the UK with a train timetabled to arrive or depart every 37 seconds. Maybe the station manager at Clapham Junction would argue this claim though!
The new passenger capacity is 300,000 (five times the 1960s capacity) and today is used by 170,000 passengers a day. These will use the 36 new escalators and 15 new lifts making the station fully accessible for the first time. These were provided with teams working seven days a week, twenty four hours a day while passengers used the station. This was carried out by an average of 1200 workers and a maximum of 3500 at the end.
Tens of thousands of tons of rubble were moved out by train saving 10,000 lorry journeys by road. This concrete and other material was removed to create the space for the new station and 98% was recycled. Where did the concrete come from? 7500 tonnes from the old car park, 20,000 tonnes from Stephenson Tower, a 22-storey tower block, 20,000 tonnes from the centre of the Pallasades shopping centre to create the space for the new atrium.
An estimated 20,000 sq metres or 1,100 tonnes of steel make up the façade supported by 800 tonnes of steelwork. The station was finished with around 8,000 stainless steel highly refelective panels fixed by over half a million fixing structures. Every panel is unique in order to adjust to the peculiar geometry of the building and designed not to reflect sunlight into train drivers’ eyes.