Friday, 9 October 2015

It's New, It's Neat; It's New Street

Puzzle picture?
When fbb were nobbut a teenager, he worked selling ice cream etc. at Billing Aquadrome**. Another company in the group was Mixconcrete Ltd (sold out years later to Amey?). An (un)imaginative venture was to sell cast concrete buildings (garages, garden sheds, coal bunkers etc.). The (un)imaginative slogan was "It's New, It's Neat, It's Newcrete."

The company and its products soon disappeared.

But the happy memory gives fbb an appropriate slogan to rework for the recent opening of Birmingham New Street Station.
Like St Pancakes, Kings Cross, Reading and (eventually) London Bridge, the changes in Brum are spectacular. So much so that it is hard to work out what has happened to the 1960s station.

Perhaps the simplest view it to realise that everything that was built on the raft above the platforms has been stripped away and replaced.

Daylight now enters the concourse area via a roof of giant bubble wrap ...
... hopefully impervious to the pecking of pigeons and more waterproof that that over Newport station in South Wales!

Underneath the concourse is about four times bigger that that which it replaced. The most used access to the concourse was via the Pallisades shopping centre (always busy) ...
... down a set of escalators (always crammed) ...
... and into a confusing concourse (always jammed).
From here you went through the "gate line" (rarely staffed) and on to the bridge linking all the platforms. It simply wasn't big enough!

There is much more room now!
And there is plenty of clear information.
For an old crock like fbb, access to the platforms needs a little explanation. There are THREE "gate lines", each leading to a block of platforms. This would imply that, if you are changing trains, you might be drawn to the "wrong" set of escalators and have to fiddle with tickets and luggage twice.

See how this might happen.

If you come in via the old "main" entrance ...
... little used except for car and taxi drop off, you will have two blocks of gates. One block leads to the "A" (eastern) end of platforms 1 to 5 ...
... and the other to the other As.
Opposite these "zones" is the way into the "B" platform sections. One for 1 to 5 again ...
... and the other for the rest of the Bs.
Northampton correspondent Alan told fbb that these "zones" are colour coded and called "lounges". Weird; there's nowhere much to lounge!

So, if you are changing trains and wish to avoid two lots of gates, transfer via the "B" escalators and you will not need to show tickets to the awkward and completely unnecessary machines. The cramped ramped entrance that was used by 99% of passengers to get to the old New Street ...
... has been replaced by level access from right next to the soon to be opened tram terminus.
Helpfully and reasonably obvious, here is the Centro multi-mode enquiry office (except they will probably send you to the rail desk for rail?)
Sadly, little has changed at platform level. Clutter has been removed and lighting improved; the cunning plan being to encourage passengers to shop, wait and "lounge" in the main concourse and only descend to Hades just before the train is due.

Of course it was all so much better in the good old days.

And fbb hasn't even mentioned the improved shopping facilities at "Grand Central" and John Lewis. Sadly, the old man is well behind the times and only uses railway stations as a means of boarding and alighting from trains! Just a reactionary old man!

P.S. Don't try finding information about the new New Street from the Network Rail "standard" station information site.
The web site gnomes haven't realised that the station is now complete. No rush chaps.
The puzzle picture at the head of this post is of passengers using the new old entrance from Queensway as reflected in the shiny cladding of the station building. Spooky!

** Billing Aquadrome : Then privately owned, now part of Hoseasons (?), it was a caravan park, lake and "fun" facility built on and in old gravel pits. The only on-line picture of fbb's time there (mid 60s) is of the train ...
... which he occasionally drove and once derailed spectacularly!
First Bus Sheffield Update
New timetables from 1st November appeared on the First Bus web site yesterday, co-incidentally on the same day that fbb blogged that there were none there! But, in the true spirit of the Sheffield Bus Partnership and where services are joint with St*g*c**ch, only First's journeys are shown.

For example:-
Service 1, operated by partner St*g*c**ch, doubles the frequency between High Green and Hemsworth.
Comment on Sheffield
reprinted from Thursday's blog
 Next blog : Saturday 10th Octoberber 


  1. Annoyingly all the toilets are on the platform side of the barriers so if meeting friends/family and needing a pee - no toilets available other than wandering off into the depths of John Lewis.

  2. There are also some toilets next to Carluccio's, at the top of the single escalator leading up from Stephenson Street.

  3. Back to Sheffield! I've just caught up with recent posts and comments and have a few of my own to add:-

    The repeated reference above to the autocratic Dave ('Mr') Young amused me because I'm not sure he has too many 'mates'. Certainly there are those within the PTE who do his bidding, but the top brass at the operators have quite skilfully manipulated him and his ego to take the 'credit' for the partnership - THEIR cuts are now seen as cuts by the partnership led by the PTE and supported by the city council (cuts to PTE-supported services are relatively few; the big cuts are to the commercial network, and especially the part of it run by First).

    DY has now been variously deputy/acting/interim Director General for the best part of three years, but will he survive this fiasco and the newly emerging one of the tram-train project? Watch this space.

    As to the cuts to the commercial network, is the present network really unsustainable, or merely unsustainable in the hands of the present operators (the dominant one in particular)? Would more capable operators who really understand how to attract and retain passengers and offer a high quality service at a reasonable price have the same difficulty? I doubt it. And I'm not sure that I can accept fbb's assertion that there are too many buses in Sheffield - just too many for the passengers they currently succeed in carrying. If First can't make enough money in Sheffield to replace life-expired buses (and brand new ones are not the only option), perhaps they should just give up and leave the market to an organisation that can?

    I will now try to make sense of the new network, difficult though that is without the right tools produced by the partnership or any of its constituent bodies!

    And what about all the claims of success for the initial partnership when it was launched just three years ago. To remind yourselves have a look at Were we told the truth, or was it all spin (or fantasy)? If it was the truth, what went wrong? Obviously it was more than just the ground that was broken!

    1. Totally agree with what is said here - it concurs with my own comment which FBB has kindly repeated in his blog. First should go and leave it all to Stagecoach or Arriva or .....anyone really. Their drivers are largely surly, dis-interested and take no pride in what they are doing - passengers are often seen as an inconvenience. I once heard Sir Moir Lockhead describe his customers as "self loading freight" and that is exactly how the travelling public in South Yorkshire are seen. Sad, but true.