Transport Correspondent Campbell Docherty looks at the history of Birmingham's New Street Station which carries the unenviable title of the country's worst rail bottleneck...
For many years, transport bosses have been concerned about the dwindling capacity for trains on the West Midlands network.
Not only is local commuter patronage significant and rising, the network represents the crossroads of the UK rail network.
Sir Alistair Morton, former head of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, said in 2000 that the West Midlands was the worst bottleneck in the country's network.
Hence his willingness to talk about a £1 billion tunnel underneath New Street to take local trains away from the intercity trains up top.
But it soon became clear, when the shadow SRA became the full-blown version - in the aftermath of the Hatfield disaster - that £1 billion was not going to come from the Government.
At the same time, one of the men behind the new Bullring, architect Murray Rayner, and engineering consultants Ove Arup produced a plan for a Birmingham Grand Central Station - a new hub that would solve the capacity problems and keep New Street open as a central city drop-off station.
However, until now, such an idea had few friends in the public sector.
Although it appears Grand Central specifically is not being looked at yet, the idea of a new station is being explored by the Department for Transport.
As plans for upgrading New Street's look and 'people capacity' have progressed since 2002, it distracted the gaze from what remains a Sword of Damocles hanging over the West Midlands and UK rail network.
The 1960s rebuild of New Street saw the Pallasades Shopping Centre which, along with a large multi-storey car park, was built over the tracks. Queen's Drive disappeared, eliminating the pedestrian route from Hill Street/Navigation Street to the old Bull Ring, causing pedestrian movement around the city centre to be blocked.
The 1960s had seen a huge increase in car ownership and the development of a national motorway network, as well as the Beeching cuts which radically cut back the rail network.
The demand for rail travel was declining, and it was assumed that New Street would be able to handle all of Birmingham's requirements and so Snow Hill and Moor Street stations were closed for a number of years, before the folly was recognised.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the rise of road congestion and environmental awareness during the 1970s and 1980s, the assumption that the future of Britain's railways would be one of 'managed decline' continued until the end of British Rail.
Nevertheless, by the 1980s there was rising concern about overcrowding and the poor environmental quality of New Street.
The 1970s had seen a revival of local rail services promoted by the West Midlands Passenger Rail Authority, notably with the creation of the Cross-City Line.
By the early 1990s, with the city's physical renaissance well under way and the inner ring road identified as public enemy number one, dissatisfaction with the station and its impact on the city's image was building steadily.
Following a conference promoted by the city council, a committee was set up to look at the future of New Street, but the impetus faltered after just one meeting because of the uncertainty surrounding forthcoming privatisation.
In the last years of British Rail, a number of major station rebuilds and refurbishments were carried out in London, while railways across Europe were coming to be seen as the transport of the future as well as the past.
The advent of privatisation coincided with an apparently unexpected surge in public demand for rail travel.
While the station itself received only cosmetic treatment, New Street benefited during the short- lived Railtrack era from a major remodelling of Proof House Junction, the bottleneck where three major routes from the east converge on New Street.
With Cross-City trains now up to six an hour each way and Virgin introducing a huge increase in its long distance services via New Street, a radical plan to divert Cross-City and Walsall trains into a tunnel, with an underground station serving both New Street and Moor Street, was adopted as official policy by the city council and Strategic Rail Authority, but with no clear commitment.
Apart from train congestion, people congestion was now becoming a problem at New Street, to the extent that safety was threatened at peak times.
The current £350 million facelift plans will quadruple concourse space and open up the through access for city pedestrians. Although the final design is yet to be made public, it is understood it will be a landmark building with a glass roof to open up a notoriously gloomy station.
Whatever the plans are, it is a fair bet they are not as radical as the first draft prepared by architect Will Alsop.
In the famously ambitious mind of the noted architect, New Street had become something resembling a flying saucer landed in the centre of the city.