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Our iconic Birmingham Curzon station scheme ‘music to the ears’ for HS2 chiefs, insists city planner

Our iconic Birmingham Curzon station scheme ‘music to the ears’ for HS2 chiefs, insists city planner

🕔31.Mar 2014

Initial proposals for the Birmingham Curzon Street high speed rail station resembled a “very simple box” and were not good enough for a project of international importance, the city council’s chief planner has admitted.

Waheed Nazir defended a decision to object to the design for the Birmingham Curzon station as it appeared in HS2 Ltd’s Phase One Environmental Statement.

He was joined by the West Midlands transport executive Centro, which also criticised HS2’s poor design “which does not meet our requirements for a world class interchange facility, fit for the 21st Century which is iconic and admired across the globe”.

The city council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, backed by Centro, put forward an alternative far grander scheme for the station in the Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, which was launched recently at the MIPIM trade fair in France.

The Masterplan envisages a 141 hectare regeneration scheme with a Midland metro tram extension running through the HS2 station and a park on top of the Duddeston Viaduct. HS2’s original utilitarian box-like shed structure is replaced by a sweeping modernistic glass roof.

The council has taken care to discuss the masterplan with the HS2 Growth Taskforce. Mr Nazir said the proposals for an improved Curzon Street station were “music to their ears”.

The three principal aims of the Masterplan are:

To promote the city’s expectation of Birmingham Curzon HS2 station as a world-class 21st century landmark building that further strengthens a positive image for Birmingham and its economic role
To ensure the station is fully integrated into the urban fabric of the city centre and opens up accessibility between the city centre core, Eastside and Digbeth
To set out the key requirements for the station design and proposals to ensure that high quality and efficient      walking, cycling and public transport connections continue into and throughout the city centre.

Public consultation on Centro’s route proposals for the Metro extension to Eastside and Curzon Street closed on March 28. Consultation on the Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan is open until April 24.

Mr Nazir told the Railway Technology Magazine that the station as envisaged in the Birmingham Curzon Masterplan would be more expensive, but that HS2’s budget would be “topped up” by the council, GBSLEP and local businesses in order to deliver a station design of “international standard”.

He described the beefed-up version of Birmingham Curzon as similar to the New Street Station redevelopment, where Network Rail’s early plans were “upgraded” once the city council and John Lewis came on board as partners.

Mr Nazir accepted that HS2’s base budget “will not have the ability to fund a station with a quality of design that we are talking about” and added that Birmingham was not prepared to accept the original “very simple box” design.

The Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan has been developed in-house by a design team working under Mr Nazir, who told the magazine: “It may not ultimately be delivered exactly as the design we’ve set out, but it has to be something that gets international recognition. This will be an international station, and I’m not happy to accept, Birmingham’s not going to accept, a boxy, standard station which doesn’t meet the international standard we want.

“The architects are my staff, this whole masterplan has been done in-house by the city council, and it’s something I’m very proud of.”

He said HS2, up until now, has focused on ensuring the plans for Curzon Street are technically feasible – but that it is the city council’s job to help deliver something “much more than just what is technically feasible, and something that helps regeneration and growth on the east side of Birmingham”.

He said: “HS2 have been involved with our masterplan, which I presented to the HS2 Growth Task Force. It is music to their ears, to be frank – the opponents of HS2 are very loud. This gives an opportunity for a city to show some leadership and show what HS2 can actually deliver.”

West Midlands passenger transport executive Centro has also been critical of part of HS2 Ltd’s plans for the new Curzon Street station, chiefly on the grounds of lack of connectivity with other stations and transport modes, and poor design.

Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip said in a formal response to the HS2 Phase One Environmental Statement: “Given the volume of people expected to interchange with Birmingham New Street station, it is disappointing to see the lack of provision or mitigating measures in place to ensure the quality of the environment and the time taken for the Curzon St – New St. interchange does not reduce the benefits to passengers of the faster journey via HS2.

“There is still no acknowledgement nor measurement in the environmental statement of the interchanging time between Curzon Street and Birmingham New Street particularly for those with mobility difficulties, or heavy luggage, who may be unable to walk the significant distances between these important stations.”

“A proposed pedestrian link between Curzon Street and Moor Street stations does not meet our requirements for a world class interchange facility, fit for the 21st Century which is iconic and admired across the globe.

“Centro understands the physical constraints in the area. However, providing a bridge as means of linking the two stations is not a fit for purpose solution. A fully integrated station design is required which effectively treats Moor St Station and the HS2 station as a single entity and facilitates seamless transfer between the high speed and domestic platforms.

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