Amazed Brummy rail station is not among worst
19-Nov-09by Annie Byrne
MD of the National Exhibition Centre, Kathryn James, endorses the amazement expressed by Birmingham business leaders that the city’s international railway station has not been listed as one of the worst in the country. A list of the 10 stations in need of urgent improvement has been compiled in the independent Stations Champions report, co-authored by former chief executive of Virgin Trains, Sir Peter Hall, and professor of planning at University College London, Chris Green. The report includes seven in the North West but none in the West Midlands and those recommended will received an upgrade as part of a £50m government programme. These include stations in Stockport, Manchester, Preston, Wigan, Liverpool, Warrington and Crewe. Birmingham’s station serves as a ‘gateway’ to the city, providing a link to the NEC and its international airport. “Given it is often the first touch point a visitor has to our region, it really does not convey the image we would wish,” says James, adding that the NEC has been in dialogue for some time with the Train Operating Companies and Network Rail about the station and the quality of the gateway that it gives to visitors. Chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jerry Blackett, says Birmingham International, which opened in 1976, helped to form lasting opinions, but for all of the wrong reasons. "Rather than a welcoming major gateway as it was designed to be, it is now operated as a bland Parkway station for those heading to London," adds Blackett. James says: “The NEC and the Airport have spent considerable sums on upgrading their facilities in recent years so they look, feel and operate like 21st century assets that are welcoming to their visitors. While it is fantastic that these assets sit either side of a connected train station, the train station has become outdated and sub-standard in terms of its look and feel. “The train franchise structure in the UK is flawed as it effectively disincentivises a TOC to do any investment in the last five years of the franchise and that is what we are seeing,” she adds.