MD of the National Exhibition Centre, Kathryn
James, endorses the
amazement expressed by Birmingham business leaders
that the city’s international railway station has not been listed as one of the
worst in the country.
A list of
the 10 stations in need of urgent improvement has been compiled in the independent Stations
Champions report, co-authored by former chief executive of Virgin Trains, Sir Peter Hall,
and professor of planning at University College London, Chris Green.
includes seven in the North West but none in
the West Midlands and those
recommended will received an upgrade
as part of a £50m government
programme. These include stations in
Stockport, Manchester, Preston, Wigan, Liverpool,
Warrington and Crewe.
Birmingham’s station serves as a ‘gateway’ to the city,
providing a link to the NEC and its international airport. “Given it is often
the first touch point a visitor has to our region, it really does not convey the
image we would wish,” says James,
adding that the NEC has been in dialogue for some time
with the Train Operating Companies and Network Rail about the station and the
quality of the gateway that it gives to visitors.
executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jerry Blackett, says Birmingham
International, which opened in 1976, helped to form lasting opinions, but for
all of the wrong reasons. “Rather than a welcoming major gateway as it was
designed to be, it is now operated as a bland Parkway station for those heading
to London,” adds
James says: “The NEC and the Airport have spent
considerable sums on upgrading their facilities in recent years so they look,
feel and operate like 21st century assets that are welcoming to their
visitors. While it is fantastic that these assets sit either side of a connected
train station, the train station has become outdated and sub-standard in terms of its look and
“The train franchise structure in the
UK is flawed as it effectively
disincentivises a TOC to do any investment in the last five years of the franchise and that
is what we are seeing,” she adds.