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This way to HS2, part three

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Part two

The St Martins Queensway tunnel, one of several examples of substandard urban design to be found in Birmingham city centre, is little more than ten years old. How and why the developers of the Bullring shopping centre were able to take control over so much public space around St Martin’s church, remains a mystery, but the mess they created is plain to see.

St Martins Queensway tunnel

The state of St Martins tunnel was of little interest to Birmingham city council and Centro until the HS2 rail project was announced. The government decreed that the high speed station should be located at Curzon Street, remote from the city’s main station at New Street, and so the direct route between the two would entail walking through the tunnel. Centro adopted a “bipolar” stance, sometimes claiming that the remoteness of the two stations wouldn’t matter at all, and then proposing Metro links and cable cars to bridge the gap.

Reality appears to have bitten, at least in terms of understanding what funds are actually available to improve the link between Moor Street and New Street. According to GBSLEP’s “One Station Strategic Economic Plan/Local Growth Fund Transport Scheme Business Case“, ‘One Station’ is focused on refurbishing the existing tunnel at a cost of £7 million, with about 90% of the bill being picked up by the public sector.

St Martins tunnel visualisation, GBSLEP

St Martins tunnel visualisation, GBSLEP

The visualisations in the business case are not very clear, but it seems that the ‘One Station’ is, in essence, little more than a painting-and-decorating job. Short of demolishing the Bullring complex, there is no real way to fix the underlying design shortcomings.

The business case has a higher-than-average nonsense quotient, including claims that One Station ‘addresses social exclusion’ (because the city centre happens to lie in Ladywood ward, one of the most deprived areas of the city) and ‘the lack of streetscape quality’. Of course, deprived people actually living in Ladywood district, on the other side of the city centre, are not the beneficiaries. And fixing a few yards of narrow pavement outside New Street station would do nothing for the poor ‘streetscape quality’ just around the corner, in Moor Street and Park Street.

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Written by beleben

July 24, 2014 at 8:23 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

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