Epic Birmingham New Street 'shows economic power of infrastructure'

Birmingham New Street’s stunning new look station was completed today with the opening of the Grand Central shopping complex, a project cited by the Chancellor this week as an example of how infrastructure can help reshape local economies.

Grand Central Birmingham houses 66 retailers and restaurants, as well as one of the biggest John Lewis stores in the UK - a 250,000 sq. ft., four-floored space that comes complete with a spa and its own restaurant. Major stakeholder partners include Birmingham City Council, Network Rail, Centro and John Lewis Partnership.

Opening of the shoppin complex cam after client Network Rail unveiled an iconic new atrium over a huge passenger concourse - five times the size of London Euston’s earlier this week. The station has been rebuilt while trains continued to run as normal for the 170,000 passengers a day who use it.

Mace was delivery partner and principal contractor for the five-year, £150m transformation with Grand Central now sitting above the new £600m New Street Station that opened earlier this week.

For Chancellor George Osborne the project was a breathing example of how infrastructure can be used to reboot an economy. “This £750M investment to modernise Birmingham New Street station is at the heart of our plans to use the power of infrastructure to build a more healthy, balanced and productive economy right across the Midlands,” he said.

“We are committed to build the Midlands engine, set to boost growth by attracting local jobs and investment and the new station shows we are delivering on our long-term economic plan for the region.”

"Birmingham New Street station is at the heart of our plans to use the power of infrastructure to build a more healthy, balanced and productive economy right across the Midlands" - George Osborne

Highlight of the development is the newly unveiled atrium that overlooks New Street station passenger concourse. 

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin could simply enjoy the scale of the transformation.  “The improvements made at this important transport hub have made it into a truly impressive building that passengers and the people of Birmingham can use and enjoy,” he said.

At the centre of the work was Network Rail’s delivery partner and principal contractor Mace, creating a space that has increased passenger capacity from 32M per year to 52M.

At the same time it delivered brighter, de-cluttered platforms, improved entrances and a range of new facilities. And with an abundance of natural light over the new concourse what has emerged is one of Britain’s busiest interchange stations that is also a retail destination in its own right. 

The new station has 43 shops at concourse level and above it sits the new Grand Central shopping complex, including one of the UK’s largest John Lewis department stores. The 450,000 sq ft shopping destination will create more than 1,000 jobs and is expected to attract more than 50 million visitors a year.

Back to the Birmingham New Street Station hub content

For visitors the first thing to notice is the creation of a new station concourse that is five times the size of the original station with a striking triple height atrium. This is topped with a ‘bubble’ roof made from ETFE that forms the centre piece of the project. The new roof transforms a once dark station into a light-filled, modern space fit for the 21st century and has created a new gateway to the UK’s second city. 

Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The arrival of Grand Central provides even more shopping and dining choice for people in the city centre. With its stainless steel facade wrapping around the entire building, Grand Central makes an impressive impact on Birmingham’s ever improving architectural landscape. The creation of over 1000 jobs in retail, hospitality, catering and customer service also provides a significant number of opportunities for local people.”

One of the other key developments within the statoion has been the introduction of dual platform access including new escalators and lifts. This has significantly improved passenger accessibility and provides much more capacity as the demand for rail continues to increase.

The project site ran for 24 hours a day seven days a week and saw up to 3,000 workers on site at peak. A range of innovative construction techniques were used throughout. Technical achievements including successfully completing a load transfer of 200t of steel onto the existing station concrete structure to form the new roof, extensive demolition works totalling 13,500t and using ‘lean’ construction techniques as well as BIM to shorten the length of works on site.

“The scale of the works that we have undertaken at New Street is epic,” said Mace project director Martyn Woodhouse.  “And all the while we kept the station operational. We have faced many challenges along the way from there being no plans in existence of the old station to finding high levels of asbestos that needed to be removed. I am very proud of all our team and the subcontractors involved and the way that everyone has worked together to produce this spectacular station.” 

For Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne Birmingham New Street is an example of what the operator can achieve on the UK rail network. “Birmingham New Street sits right at the heart of our rail network and the transformation which has taken place here is nothing short of stunning” he said. “The station is now bigger, brighter and better able to meet the needs of the growing number of people who use it each day.

“The scale of the works that we have undertaken at New Street is epic. And all the while we kept the station operational" Martyn Woodhouse, Mace

“As Britain’s second city, Birmingham deserves a station of this calibre and, along with Grand Central, the investment we have made will help support the local economy and regenerate large parts of city centre.

“Rebuilding one of the busiest stations in the country without impacting on passengers’ journeys has been a major challenge, but I’m extremely proud to say that Network Rail and our partners on this project have done just that. That’s a significant achievement for everyone who has helped build this fantastic new station of which they, and all of Birmingham, can be very proud indeed.”    

Jason Millett, COO for major programmes and infrastructure at Mace, said: “Complex projects have always been a key part of our business, and Birmingham New Street has been a landmark in our delivery for rail infrastructure. This has been a fantastic project. It shows that stations can be a catalyst for change and it is already delivering on its aims of regenerating the south side of the city.”

In construction

The vision for the station was to transform it into a 21st century hub for the entire region.

Phase one

First phase of construction was to develop a new west concourse to improve the passenger experience and increase capacity. To make way for this concourse major demolition work was necessary including that of a multi-storey car park, which had to be meticulously sequenced to ensure that the station remained operational and posed no health and safety risk.

For the demolition Mace implemented an innovative ‘track and hoyer’ system – a two stage cut-and-lift process involving crane rails, which ran the length of the building as the ‘track’ and a gantry crane acting as the ‘hoyer’.

Once in place, 7,500 tonnes of concrete was removed from the car park and adjacent Pallasades shopping centre, clearing the space needed to form the new concourse, complete with escalators connecting to the platforms.

Phase one of New Street opened successfully in April 2013. 

Phase two

The opening of the west concourse enabled the closure of the old station east concourse, making way for the demolition works required for phase two of the project. The demolition of the east station concourse was challenging due to the age and condition of the existing 1960s building and the accuracy of ‘as built’ drawings for the live services and internal structures which demanded a comprehensive programme of surveys be commissioned.

Asbestos surveys were carried out on a phased basis once live services could be fully isolated and access permitted. The surveys identified significant quantities of asbestos that had to be removed prior to commencing demolition works.

Another technically challenging aspect of the project was to transfer the load of the atrium roof onto the existing station structure.  Covering the concourse the 3,300m2 steel and ETFE structure was designed to flood the new concourse with natural daylight and create an attractive, open retail environment.

The next key milestone was the demolition of approximately 6000t of reinforced concrete sitting below the atrium structure, creating the feature space – the size of a football pitch - that has drawn so many plaudits when the new station is opened on 20 September.  


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