Birmingham City Council and Network Rail respond to criticism by MPs of the redevelopment of New Street Station.
The deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Paul Tilsley, is insistent in his defence of the £600 million New Street Gateway scheme.
“There is no Plan B, this is the only plan there is,” he said. “If they [the Government] start prevaricating over the development of New Street it will completely crock the whole rail network, as it is at the cross-roads of the West Coast Main Line and Cross Country routes.”
It was only last week that the city council started sending out compulsory purchase orders to businesses affected by the redevelopment. If approved by the Government, the CPO scheme will allow the city council to acquire the land it needs to deliver the new-look station by 2014.
The council has also revised upwards the number of new jobs likely to be created by the Gateway scheme, from 5,000 to 11,000, and Coun Tilsley was defiant that that would not be put at risk.
“We’ve jumped through every hoop that the Government have asked us to jump through,” he said. “We got the go-ahead for New Street this time last year, so I’m beginning to wonder if this is something to do with the financial situation they find themselves in right now.
“All partners have been signed up and I do think it’s a bit rich that this is coming out now, seeing as we’ve completed sending out compulsory purchase orders.
“The Birmingham Grand Central idea died some time ago after the land was sold on Eastside, so there is no Plan B. The alternative died a death some time ago, so we must get on with the redevelopment of New Street.
“I think the conclusions reached in the Transport Select Committee’s report are somewhat out of date.
“The situation is such that we need to have urgent discussions with Liam Byrne on the future of this project to find out what, as Minister for the West Midlands and the most powerful person in the region according to The Birmingham Post Power 50 list, he can do about it.”
Dominic Pendry, Network Rail’s spokesman for the New Street Gateway project, also defended the scheme against the claims in the Commons transport select committee report that the redevelopment is “cosmetic” and not “adequate” to meet mushrooming passenger numbers.
He said: “The New Street Gateway project is exactly the right thing for Birmingham, which at the moment suffers from massive overcrowding, as it will enable the station to take in more people which is the biggest problem at New Street, not rail capacity but getting people onto the trains.
“We’ve got backing from across the rail industry, MPs and the passengers all support ours – and the Government’s – decision to go for this.
“In the longer term we do have ambitious plans to get more people onto the railways and this will not be a panacea to all the network’s problems. We’re looking at doing our own report into what the network will need in say 30, 40 years’ time but it’s far too early to suggest there’s a need for a second station or hub in Birmingham.
“When the new timetables are introduced at the end of this year there will be more trains coming in on the West Coast Main Line as a result of the works that are being done at the moment. Passenger numbers have been on the rise, in fact more people are using the rail network than ever before, and that will create certain challenges.
“But this report’s findings will not put a spoke in the wheels of the New Street Gateway project. We don’t agree with the report’s conclusion that New Street is not the right solution. It is exactly the right solution.
“It’s not just Network Rail saying that, there’s a groundswell of support behind this project, which will deliver a station that is vastly better than it is now.”
NEW STREET TIMELINE:
July 16 2008: Details of the biggest compulsory purchase order for nearly a decade made by Birmingham City Council, to buy up all properties, including the Pallasades Shopping Centre, over a 14-acre site, to acquire land needed to deliver a new-look New Street Station by 2014
February 12 2008: Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly confirms Birmingham will get almost £400 million from the Government.
November 24, 2007: Council leader Mike Whitby receives letter from Transport Minister Tom Harris demanding further financial information about New Street scheme with a December 10 deadline.
October 5, 2007: Birmingham City Council hands over final documentation setting out the case for the New Street Gateway to the DfT and Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
July 24, 2007: Ruth Kelly announces it has approved the first wave of funding, £128 million, for the long-awaited refurbishment of New Street
February 27, 2007: Tony Blair gives his personal backing to the redevelopment of New Street station.
February 12, 2007: Developers Ove Arup urge the Government to scrap the New Street Gateway plan in favour of “Birmingham Grand Central” scheme at Eastside.
December 22, 2006: Birmingham City Council lodged a formal funding submission to Advantage West Midlands for £100 million towards the cost of transforming the outdated station
November 30, 2006: City planning officials grant the ambitious project outline planning permission
June 2, 2006: Network Rail chiefs order a review of proposals for a new Birmingham Grand Central Station to take the strain off New Street
April 19, 2006: Rail bosses confirm Birmingham will get a new rail station, but not until 2046 at the earliest, and that they wish to build a Grand Central hub at Eastside
February 16, 2006: The Post publishes exclusive images of what a refurbished New Street will look like, boasting airport-style lounges, a high-tech transparent roof, better platform access and a new, expanded concourse area.