die belebende Bedenkung

Shortcomings of the Gateway, part two

with 2 comments

Part one

Network Rail’s website states that “When the [Birmingham New Street Gateway] project is completed in 2015, the station will be enclosed by a giant atrium, allowing natural light throughout the station and to all 12 refurbished platforms“.

Network Rail

Network Rail

But the ‘value engineered’ atrium could not and does not allow natural light “throughout the station”, because it makes up only a small part of the roof. At platform level, there is probably less natural light than there was before (because parts of the tracks on the eastern side of the station were decked over, to create the new pedestrian approaches).

New Street station atrium

New Street station atrium: value engineering at its, er, best

Network Rail said that implementing architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s idea for the atrium “would have been impossible, given the amount of movement needed in the roof: the new vaults spring from existing concrete columns, each of which are part of a separate structure and so move by up to 125mm”.

[Birmingham New Street station review: a ‘value-engineered’ icon of compromise, Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, 28 Sep 2015]

Plasterboard would have cracked, they say, or required 14 different movement joints. The contractors simply planned to leave the steelwork exposed, but were eventually convinced to cover it with fabric.

Birmingham New Street Gateway - Never mind the engineering, look at the value

Birmingham New Street Gateway – Never mind the engineering, look at the value


Written by beleben

September 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

2 Responses

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  1. There are a few other bits of detailing which have raised concern, the great disappointmant and already a potential issue is the removal of the step free access between all platforms when the ramps to the West end subway were built over and left with a restricted use lift access, to the subway which appears to be retained as an egress to Station Street. The ramps had a high level of service and offered the option of clearing one or all platforms out rapidly using a route which did not go via the main concourse – rather a useful detail given that coaches can be driven in to Station Street and a large group of passengers from a special train collected. Even in the absence of a ramp, steps would deliver a high capacity clearance compared to the lifts currently forming the only connection.

    I’m also intrigued to see how the escalators and stairs handle passenger flows now that they are all functional. Without the ‘holding pen’ area of the old West end access, the queues for the escalators were backing back on to the platforms, and I notice thet there is a variation in the design of escalators for different platforms. Travel on the Underground and you’ll notice that unlike department stores the escalators have around 4 level treads before the steps rise or fall. his is an key detail on escalators intended to move high volumes of people and also handle those with disabilities and luggage. Step on to the moving treads , get your balance and then have the treads go up or down. To experience the contrast try out the escalators at the NEC – 4 treads coming off the platforms and almost immediate and a steep rake for the escalators from the bridge to Halls 1-5. Curiously and for no readily obvious reason some of the BHM escalators have 4 treads and other drop after barely 2 treads – can anyone explain why?

    Equally staggering are the rather obvious hazards delivered by putting cycle parking had up against the moving traffic lane in the setting down zone – official speed limit 5mph but from observation (as a person who manages a brisk walk at 5.5 to 6 mph) I’d be had pushed to run as fast as the speed at which most drivers take cars through, and because the average UK driver seems to struggle to park a sub – 2.0m wide car in a 2.4m wide parking lane, and passing drivers then cannot keep within the 2.4m wide through traffic lane, it will be just a matter of time before a driver land a car into a parked bike or a bike stand. Clearly an earlier risk assessment knew of the hazard as the pipes and services on the suppot piollras have substantial steel guards – and thse are set firther away from the traffic than the bike stands. The crowning glory is that to parking in the bike parking cyclists need to stand in the roadway where they will be joined by joined by passengers throwing open left side doors and getting out of cars as the drivers door is at the kerb side. The units themselves are surface mounting but buried 10cm in concrete and thus a bit small to really support bikes properly.

    The green wall is great, as is the wheeling ramp from Hill Street to Concourse level but I think a few other bits of detailing may hold problems for the future which should have been caught like the cycle parking (which took a prompt from Norman Baker to even get the first racks installed – full and overflowing the week before they were due to close temporarily to finish detailing in walls and pavement surfaces), by more effective external engagement.

    Dave Holladay

    September 29, 2015 at 12:53 pm

  2. I couldn’t see any significant natural light from above on platforms 9 to 12 when I visited yesterday from Nuneaton. There was also a distinct shortage of depature information at platform level.

    Between Nuneaton and Birmingham the last 25km took about 25 minutes (60kph / under 40mph). One kilometre approaching the New Street tunnel took 4 minutes. If the train had been able to average 100kph by exploiting even a fraction of its 140kph maximum speed for more of the journey it could have saved 10 minutes.

    How much better it would be to improve the approaches to New Street and provide a new through route like is happening in European cities rather than building a terminal station in a remote location at Curzon Street. It could only happen here.


    October 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm

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