April 29th - Birmingham New Street - new start? Well, it’s bright, and smells of resin, I suppose. It also smells heavily of engineering compromise, forced retail opportunity and bodge.
My first experience of the much vaunted new station access way was this morning, and after all the hype, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s very much unfinished, and some aspects of the project show quite bad judgement.
This is no longer a station, but is a shopping centre with railway platforms. Everything is quite a bit longer to get to than before, and the access points funnel crowds carefully past the new shop units. The platforms themselves remain as narrow and cramped as ever, but with new escalators and lifts that go direct between concourse and platform, instead of via the subway. Sadly, they’re tiny, unable to accommodate a bike and pushchair at the same time, or my bike lengthways. This is dreadful.
The new concourse is nice, the light is pleasant and it’s quite airy. I’m not keen on the stone flooring, but each to his own. The cafe looks nice, and the information up there was good, unlike the platforms where a mixture of old, incorrect signage and new stuff just confused people.
The ticket barriers are much better, and access with a bike is OK even when crowded. However, the exit in Stephenson Place is bizarre, and doubles the length of the journey to Moor Street, meaning I’ll no longer make tight connections.
My advice to anyone planning to park a bike in racks there and travel is don’t do it. There are woefully few racks, stuck in a dark corner of the Moor Street access subway, a while away from the station. Although covered by CCTV, the Sheffield stands are only bolted down. An industrious pair of scallies with a spanner and some bottle could clear those stands of bikes in minutes. This is unforgivable.
On the whole it’s nicer, but functionally more awkward in many ways. It’s much more walking to get in and out, and I wouldn’t fancy it with limited mobility. The architecture is nice, and they’ve worked hard to make a space with no natural light more human-freindly. But the pokey lifts, poor access to Moor Street and focus of retail jarr with me a little too much.
It’ll be interesting to see how things develop.