MAKING TRACKS

New-StMetro-EZsmallArriving in Birmingham by train has, for as long as we can remember, been a fairly unremarkable event. New Street station has few auspicious qualities as an entry point to the city, from its basement platforms to its daylight-free main concourse, even the station’s entry and exit points. There’s no sense of arrival at – or departure from – any sort of discernible building, a state in stark contrast to not just London’s many termini, but also, say, Bristol Temple Meads or Manchester Piccadilly.

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Well, you’d had to have been living under a very distant rock indeed not to have noticed how that long-standing lamentable state of affairs is nearing its end. A process is underway that is seeing New Street station transform, out of all recognition, into a true city gateway with an exterior that quite literally reflects a radically remodelled surrounding skyline and an interior concourse that is daylight lit in extremis.

So far so good, but what happens you’re actually out on the street? That’s hardly been a fanfare of beautiful urban planning and transport connectivity. Once you’re in the city centre, getting from one side of it to the other has been a somewhat 1970s-style affair of random queues and buses, blocked streets, and jerky, cramped on-board misery. Well that too is about to change with the extension of Birmingham’s tram line, set to link New Street and Snow Hill stations on a pleasant glide along Corporation Street, Stephenson Street and Bull Street.

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The new trams will each have a capacity of 210 people (that’s about 3 to 4 buses worth) and not only do they look really cool, they’ll also stay cool as they’re fully air-conditioned (Winter worriers fear not, there’s heating too). Add to that low level accessibility, fast in and outs with 6 sets of doors on each side and multimedia screen updates, and you have a far more joyous experience all round for Brummies and visitors to Birmingham.

Everyone’s downing tools about now to allow for the Christmas shopping and Frankfurt Market craziness, but works commence again early in January. Happy new year to that!