New Street Station rebuild gets go-ahead
Feb 12 2008 By Jonathan Walker, Political Editor
The long campaign to rebuild Birmingham’s New Street station celebrates victory today as Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announces the Government is committing almost £400 million to the project.
Ms Kelly will announce the go-ahead for the historic rebuild in Birmingham itself, this morning. The Government’s decision is a major boost for Birmingham and promises to transform the gateway to the nation’s second city for 17 millions of rail passengers each year.
It follows a major campaign which has united the city council, MPs from all parties, business leaders, Network Rail and train operators including Virgin.
Ms Kelly said: "The Government is making a major investment in Birmingham New Street and it is now up to Birmingham City Council and its partners to transform this station into one of the best in our country."
The economic importance of the project was underlined by Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton, who predicted the new station would bring added prosperity to employers across the West Midlands.
Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), the Minister for the West Midlands, described the announcement as "a vote of confidence" in Birmingham and the region.
The Department for Transport will be providing a further £160 million to improve the station, in addition to the £128 million already set aside in last year's Rail White Paper. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has agreed to fund £100 million, bringing the total Government spending on the scheme to £388m.
It follows months of protracted and sometimes bad-tempered negotiations between the city council and the Government.
Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby hailed the announcement as great news for the city. He said: "As chairman of the Gateway Project since 2004, I'm so pleased that, 'speaking with one voice', we've convinced the Government of the importance of this project, that we've cleared the final hurdle and are moving forward to deliver the Gateway station that Birmingham and its city region deserves.
"This underpins and will drive the economic regeneration of Birmingham and the city region, enhancing the UK's reputation for first class public transport.
"The West Midlands spoke with one voice and we thank people for backing this important bid for funding.
"With the support of business, local politicians and most importantly the general public, the Government has responded to our call for a better station for Birmingham."
Ms Kelly announced an initial £128 million in July last year, 14 months after initial funding applications were submitted.
But the celebrations following her announcement were followed by months of uncertainty, as the Department for Transport demanded that the council review the plans to ensure they represented value for money.
However, the Government has now agreed to provide all the funding requested, and the disputes of the past 18 months are likely to be forgotten.
Ms Kelly will today insist that the protracted negotiations have ensured the station represents the best possible result for the people of Birmingham.
Although the rebuild has been known as the Birmingham Gateway scheme, Ms Kelly will today announce that the proposal she has approved will be known as Gateway Plus.
The station redevelopment focuses on relieving the congested conditions, making it easier for passengers to reach platform level.
This investment will also help accommodate increasing passenger levels, forecast to increase by around 30 per cent in the next 10 years.
The scheme will double the size of the station concourse and all platforms will be served by escalators, which increase from five to 31, making it more accessible for disabled people, passengers with heavy luggage and parents.
There will also three new entrances to the station from the city centre, and a new public square.
The Government says it is supporting Birmingham's economic growth and reflecting its key role in the rail network as a gateway to towns and cities across Britain.
Ms Kelly added: "Birmingham is a key gateway to towns and cities across Britain and this investment will make New Street a more enjoyable experience for the 17 million passengers who use it each year.
"This scheme has been in development for some time and has improved immeasurably so that it can now meet the needs of passengers and deliver a much needed boost to capacity."
The £100 million provided by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform will be channelled through Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency.
Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton said: "This development will both improve facilities for businesses in New Streetand bring huge benefits to the local economy.
"This is why Advantage West Midlands has made their largest ever funding award to this exciting project, which will propel Birmingham and the more than 350,000 businesses of the West Midlandsto greater prosperity."
West Midlands Minister Liam Byrne added: "This is simply fantastic news for Birmingham and the West Midlands.
"I want to thank Ruth Kelly and John Hutton for their huge vote of confidence today, and to Birmingham and its partners who worked so hard to sweat the details since last summer.
"I said a new New Street was my number one priority as Regional Minister. Today is proof that the West Midlands can get huge deals done when we set ambitious goals and pull together as a team."
Birmingham New Street Station opened in 1967. It was designed to cater for 650 trains and 60,000 passengers per day. It currently caters for 1,350 trains and over 120,000 passengers.
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