Not stationary - New Street Station redevelopment update

It has been some time since i've reported on the redevelopment of New Street Station but in construction terms it feels much longer with an amazing rate of progress since my last report on the project.

With less than six months to go before the station and accompanying Grand Central shopping centre opens the focus is on ensuring that everything is complete and ready for the big opening.

Currently there are around 1,200 people on site at the moment which will rise to over 3,000 over the summer during the retail fit outs as stores ready for opening.

The most amazing progress has seen over 6,000 tonnes of concrete under the atrium removed to allow light to fall on the concourse for the first time since the redevelopment of the station in the 1960s.  The 35m (114ft) high atrium has been created by the removal of 4,000 tonnes from the top level of demolition and a further 2,000 from the lower level - the floor of the former Pallasades shopping centre.  98% of this material has been taken away and recycled.

Two photos, reproduced courtesy of Network Rail below, show the atrium roof.

The revelation of the new light filled concourse in February as the concrete was all removed was a beautiful site,, the first light reaching the new concourse in December 2014 as the final layer of concrete was broken through,  The work to remove concrete was delivered by Birmingham firm Coleman and Company who created specialist machinery for the job and were able to get through the demolition stage in six months instead of the 12 originally envisaged,

A time lapse video, reproduced courtesy of Network Rail, is shown below showing the creation of the atrium roof and subsequent demolition underneath to create the light filled concourse:

The project has also been one of the most complex and demanding with all work taking place while the station was still open.  The station is the eighth busiest railway station in the UK according to the Office of Rail Regulation and busiest outside London with more than 40 million people using it annually and the busiest interchange station outside London,

Mick Miller, senior sponsor for the project from Network Rail, said this scheme was "one of the most complex construction projects over a live railway in Europe".
He said it would have been simpler to complete the work by closing the station but it was not practical because it was the busiest English station outside London.

In March it was revealed that since the project started footfall had risen from 140,000 to 175,000 commuters a day with New Street the UK's second fastest growing station in terms of passenger numbers, and even 200,000 passengers using the station in November 2014 with the opening of the German market.

With less than six months work is moving towards the opening with the flooring and ceiling baffles finished in the eastern concourse and moving along in the remaining areas, glazing going in throughout the project and final finishes started throughout.

The complexity of the project has seen innovative ways of working on the atrium with Unusual Rigging, a specialist provider of  rigging and stage engineering solutions, using their expertise to create rigging for work on the atrium structure.  With such dedication the finished atrium should truly reflect the ambition of Alejandro Zaero-Polo who resigned from the atrium project after the smooth white plaster curves of the atrium were redesigned,  The redesign of the plaster curves while controversial reflects the impact of a building that will move, albeit imperceptibly, reflecting the amazing engineering of load bearing out of changes to the original 1960s structure.  Indeed the amazing engineering in allowing for the removal of the concrete and creation of a void for the atrium is described in a New Civil Engineer article that explains the load bearing,

This is an engineering project that follows the transformation of Birmingham that the 2003 opening of the new Bull Ring achieved but will be an engineering project that is talked about and studied in it's ability to work so comprehensively through challenges and sheer volume of people involved.

The impact of the finished station cannot be underestimated with the opening up of the south of the city centre and the transformational effect this will have on those businesses of the Southside,

New Street station is right in the centre of Birmingham, but its low level tracks bisect the city over a length of around 1.5km, with little capability to cross from one side to the other. The result is a north-south divide, as Montgomery says: “The north is affluent and well-to-do, but if you look to the south, it is exactly the opposite. That is because the station acts as a break, and there is no natural route through it.”

As well as the geographical changes to the city the new station and particularly it's adjoining Grand Central shopping centre and new John Lewis will add an increased retail and food offer for both residents and visitors.  Shops that are due to open include The White Company, Cath Kidston, L'Occitane, Tapas Revolution, Crepe Affaire, and Foyles Bookstore which is opening only it's second shop outside of London,

John Lewis is a particularly exciting opportunity for the city and the huge 250,000 square foot store will be one of the largest outside London offering over 350,000 products.  John Lewis' click and collect service will benefit from it's location above the station to offer those passing and visiting the chance to collect items easily; it will be a very exciting time for shoppers,  Indeed the addition of John Lewis makes Birmingham the only city outside of London with a John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams and House of Fraser.

While work will soon take place away from the media gaze to ensure a surprise for the opening of the concourse and atrium, there will be lots of work visible around the site with the stainless steel cladding still expanding across from John Lewis to engulf the remaining station frontages.

The controversial application to change the cladding on the Navigation Street Bridge,, has also seen a compromise with lighter weighted powder coated aluminium replacing the stainless steel of the original design,  I think this is an exciting compromise and ensures the exterior will be a flowing structure that reflects the movement of the station and surrounds and has a contrasting effect to the shiny reflective stainless steel.

Indicative planning images of the new cladding on the bridge are shown below:

The information eyes will also be installed providing community information, commercial advertising and station messaging.  The Signature Outdoor/Ocean Group was announced as the provider of the eyes in April,, and will face an interesting challenge in the curved spans up to 30m in length and 7 metres in height that will house the eyes.

The south and south east eyes will use the latest custom, full colour LED screen technology consisting of over 1000 modules configured in a module matrix to create the complex curve geometry. The north west corner eye at the Navigation Street entrance will use a transparent LED mesh so natural light can still enter the building.

The following images show how the finished station and Grand Central shopping centre will look, reproduced courtesy of Network Rail.

The pictures below were taken during a tour of the station redevelopment very kindly provided by Network Rail.  As an excitable Brummiephile I can say this will follow the Bullring and Library of Birmingham in transforming the city and I cannot wait for time to fly so that the redevelopment is completed and Birmingham provides a welcome that is befitting of the gorgeous city it is.

This will be the beating transport heart of Birmingham reflecting on it's shiny exterior the city as a living organism while inside creating an internal square that will be both a major social meeting space welcoming visitors but also a launchpad for travelling throughout the UK.  The square compliments Birmingham's patchwork of public square and spaces and will be the welcome mat for both workers and tourists alike. 

Spanish steps looking north to entrance doors.

Spanish steps looking south.

Atrium looking north and to escalators.

Laying the flooring in the atrium concourse and the atrium ceiling.

Atrium concourse looking south.

Atrium concourse looking east towards Bullring

Eastern view towards Bullring, formerly the car park and taxi drop off.

Concourse looking north.

View towards eastern eye.

The former Tesco unit in former Pallasades shopping centre, now Grand Central retail level.

The views of the atrium from the new car park and views of the city.

I am very grateful to Network Rail for their hospitality and kind tour of the station redevelopment.


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