BBC News reports that Birmingham New Street station has received government funding towards a well needed revamp. Local press are no doubt celebrating this news because New Street is a bit of a 60s and 70s nightmare in places. The on platform waiting rooms are too cold in winter and too hot in summer, the walkways are lethal when wet and there are pigeons everywhere.
(If you’re not familiar with Tom Lehrer’s song “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park” then please enjoy this video and share the irritation of this regular commuter.)
More importantly the provision of stairs and escalators at New Street is awful and needs major improvement. I dread to think of the chaos and injuries that would be caused purely around the stairwells in the event of a major disaster. So yes, please bring it on and drag New Street into the 21st century.
A word of warning, however. Renewing, replacing and rebuilding one station, however good it may be, will not solve many of the issues that plague the train traveller. Too often information about cancellations, delays and platform alterations is not passed on to the paying passengers in good time. Too often services from New Street are cancelled because the train is late and it has been decided to start the service at a later stop to try and keep performance figures up.
Showing trains as being “On Time” when the time is 10 minutes past when the train should have left and no information has been forthcoming is frustrating, wrong and creates a bad impression. The services and performance all round need to improve, not just the station building.
I speak as a regular train traveller who has had poor service experiences on a number of train companies’ services and as something of a train nerd. Not much of one but when you have a relative who worked in public transport all their life you pick the odd bit of useful information up here and there…
I’ll be interested to see if transport commentators like Christian Wolmar have anything to say about this story. Is it merely style to cover up poor services?