Author: Cyril Richert
Clapham Junction vs Birmingham Station
Clapham Junction Station nowadays
Each day about 2,000 trains, most stopping, pass through the station, more than through any other station in Europe. At peak times 180 trains with about 135,000 passengers per hour pass through of which 65% stop. Interchanges make some 40% of the activity and by that count too it is the busiest station in the United Kingdom. Over the year, about 22 million passengers use Clapham Junction Station, i.e. 60,000 a day and TfL estimates to 10,000 users between 7am and 10 am only. The station has 17 platforms (platform 1 should welcome the tube by 2012) and is managed (franchise) by South West Trains on behalf of Network Rail. Clapham Junction station is often described as a utter disgrace, dangerous and users consider consider refurbishing the station as the most important priority.
Birmingham Station nowadays
Birmingham New Street is a name of one of the busiest railway stations in the UK outside London with about 35 million passengers a year. The railway station is formed by 13 platforms and also The Pallasades Centre next to the station. The station is managed by Network Rail. New Street is frequently derided as one of the most run down and unwelcoming of all the major stations on the British railway network.
But all similarities stop here: Clapham Junction Station has be left aside in the latest financing perspective for Network Rail to 2014, while Birmingham enjoys a £600 million project redevelopment, focused on the railway station.
Birmingham Station redevelopment
On 12 February 2009, the government announced that the Department for Transport will be providing £160 million on top of the £128 million that is to be provided through a government White Paper named Delivering a Sustainable Railway. A further £100 million will be provided by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and will be channelled through the regional development agency (Advantage West Midlands). The announcement brought the total amount of Government spending on the project to £388 million as it agreed to meet all the funding grants sought by the different stakeholders, including Birmingham City Council and Network Rail. It is believed to approach £600 million with additional investment from private sector.
The submitted projects were received by the end of January 2008 and a short list of 6 architects was announced in February 2008. It included Foreign Office Architects and Rafael Viñoly Architects along with CRAB Studio, IDOM UK, LAB architecture studio and UN Studio from 47 entries from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US.
The subject of the competition was described such as:
Expressions of Interest are invited for the appointment of a Concept Designer to develop the overarching vision for the building envelope and atrium roof that will define the external form to the £550m redevelopment of New Street Station, Birmingham. Its design will need to act as the catalyst for the transformation of the station, such that it is seen as more than just a functional entity, but becomes an integral part of the city and reflects the aspirations of modern day Birmingham. The Concept Designer will also be responsible for the building’s integration with the surrounding area, generating ideas for the station’s new central atrium roof, since it is likely to be surrounded by tall buildings, as well as informing the brief for new public spaces and possible art works associated with the redevelopment.
A provisional sum of £30m (Q2 2005 prices) has been allocated for the atrium space and external façade works. Although the external envelope may help to inform the interior, the detailed reconfiguration of the station, its organisational structure and operation has been the subject of a previous contract. The Concept Designer will be required to develop their vision in conjunction with an Integrated Project Team that will primarily comprise Network Rail, a Delivery Partner and a Lead Consultant. The Lead Consultant will be an engineering led company.
The selection process is open to registered architects / designers. Candidates will need to demonstrate their ability to lead the design vision for the redevelopment of a major UK railway station. The successful candidate will need to be capable of producing (within the specified budget) an exceptional and functional design that will portray the dynamic, international character of modern day Birmingham. The Expressions of Interest will be assessed on the basis of the design / architectural practice. However, teams going through to the second stage may wish to include other appropriate professionals/consultants amongst their members, which might include a structural engineer, lighting engineer etc.
The jury consisted of members from the participating organisations, Network Rail, Birmingham City Council, Advantage West Midlands and Centro, as well as Christophe Egret as RIBA architect adviser (the competition organiser). RIBA declared the name of the winner mid-2008: after over five years of preliminary planning, international design consultancy Atkins (hired to oversee the development) in collaboration with Foreign Office Architects (FOA, Alejandro Zaera-Polo winner of the competition for the design of the station) will be the joint designers of the New Street Station, to be known as the New Street Gateway.
Details of the project
The redevelopment will
- increase passenger capacity to 52 million a year (more than double the current users),
- remove a notorious congestion in the rail network,
- include re-modelling the platforms,
- construct a contemporary concourse with a 2,800m² atrium to bring in natural light,
- improve pedestrian links to the city centre,
- re-defining the image of the building using stunning architecture.
The project will be redeveloped in two phases enabling the station to continue to operate throughout construction. This will minimise disruption for passengers and make it possible for Gateway to deliver the first half of the project by early 2011.
Birmingham council estimates the station will lead to £2bn of economic benefits.
CABE (the government’s architecture body) said:
“We reiterate our support for the aspiration to enhance the existing train station, to make it a European standard interchange and to produce a coherent piece of city. The project is complex and the constraints of the railway operations and the site are great; it is more than ‘just a railway station’ and the project demands collaboration with other partners, including the City and the retail operators who have air rights over the station.“
However they cautiously highlighted some concerns related to clarity of the diagram of the building, the impact of the south entrance, the shopping centre at the expense of the experience of taking a train.
It is noticeable that the project will include also 2 towers of 30 stories, one residential and the other one for office space. However the project was mainly focused on the station redevelopment and the designer of the station was not associated with the towers. CABE is not supportive of the towers which they consider have indeterminate design but will have a huge impact on the city.
Website of the project: http://www.newstreetnewstart.co.uk
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The Birmingham development seems very exciting. But as so often with these projects in the UK seems to leave out the needs of cyclists. The new St Pancras station is great in so many ways, but the opportunity was lost to help cyclists use it.
In European stations there is often excellent cycle parking, with signs and ramps to help people get their bikes on to trains. Combined cycle/train journeys are great both for commuters and leisure travelleers, great for the environment, and potentially a good source of income – so it’s important to remind planners of this.