The £750m redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station opened its doors to passengers this week after a five-year reconstruction programme.
A new atrium over a passenger concourse five times the size of London Euston’s has brought the station, which handles 170,000 passengers a day, into the 21st century.
Improved entrances and new facilities are part of the new look and Meet Birmingham’s Emma Gray, director of marketing and communications at city convention bureau Meet Birmingham, tells CN: “Birmingham is investing on an unprecedented scale to entice more events to the region and provide delegates with the high quality experiences they need to return.
“The city is already the destination of choice for 34m visitors each year, many of whom travel here for conferences and exhibitions. New Street station’s stunning £750m refurbishment – coupled with our range of venues and our convenient, central location – ensures that we will continue to compete nationally and internationally as a business tourism location, winning more and more major events as a result.”
Above the new station now sits a new Grand Central shopping complex, including a large John Lewis department store.
The 450,000 sq. ft. shopping destination opens its doors today (24 September), creating more than 1,000 jobs and is expected to attract more than 50m visitors a year.
Chancellor George Osborne said the investment to modernise Birmingham New Street was at the heart of plans to use the power of infrastructure to build a more healthy, balanced and productive economy across the Midlands.
“We are committed to build the Midlands engine, set to boost growth by attracting local jobs and investment and the new station shows we are delivering on our long-term economic plan for the region.”
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham New Street station has undergone a magnificent transformation. It has provided one of the best-connected retail spaces in the country. This is sure to have a catalytic effect on further regeneration of the city centre and attracting businesses to Birmingham.”
One of the negatives of the previous station, aside from the poor first impression it gave to delegates arriving in the city, was that New Street effectively divided the city centre.
The Southside area was not accessible from the busy main shopping and business areas, unless you were prepared to go around the station, but the new design changes all that with the main entrance opening onto Southside.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “The transformation of Birmingham New Street station will mark a sea-change for everyone who uses this important gateway to Birmingham. First impressions are important and the new-look station will greatly enhance the experience for business people, commuters, shoppers and tourists who arrive in the city in their thousands every day.”
When it opened in 1854, New Street featured the largest iron and glass roof in the world, but the damage it sustained during World War Two led to its 1967 concrete reincarnation.
More than 6,000 tonnes of concrete have now been removed to allow light to fall on to the concourse.
Photo credit: Network Rail