The planned £500 million redevelopment of New Street Station will not be good for Birmingham or the country, a leading design engineering firm claimed.

Solihull-based Ove Arup, which designed the M6 Toll Road and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, said the proposal would do nothing to ease over-capacity.

Its criticism came as local campaigner Reverend Dr Dick Rodgers staged a protest out-side New Street Station attacking the city's scheme as providing more shops instead of track.

Critics claim plans for Birmingham Gateway, unveiled by the city council and Network Rail in February, are doomed to fail because they do not increase rail capacity from the current four tracks.

Network Rail said the Gateway scheme had emerged as the best option after extensive analysis and needed to be supported across the city to secure Government funding.

But Colin Stewart, director of global rail projects for Ove Arup, said: "New Street is at capacity now. Over the last ten years we have had 50 per cent more passengers going into it and it is going to grow.

"To spend £500 million on a new shopping centre above a train station without providing more capacity for trains can't be good for Birmingham or the UK.

"If Birmingham clogs up, the whole network clogs up."

Arup, which also did design work on Symphony Hall, the NEC and ICC, is promoting alternative plans to create Birmingham Grand Central to the East of Moor Street Station.

The proposal has been put together with Murray Rayner, a surveyor involved in the initial plans of the Bullring.

They claim the new hub would provide the much-needed track capacity. However, it would mean Birmingham City Council scrapping its plan to build a new park at Eastside.

Mr Stewart said its idea was first tabled ten years ago but dismissed as too costly.

"It would have been about £400 million. But now we are looking at the plans for New Street costing a similar amount to our proposal and it doesn't solve the problem."

The Grand Central option would be linked to Moor Street and see New Street station remain as a local terminus. Mr Stewart claimed another site could be found for the planned new park.

Meanwhile, travellers at New Street were confronted yesterday by Mr Rodgers carrying a placard proclaiming "New Street Station needs more tracks not more shops".

He said: "No one seems to have thought strategically about the rail needs of the country.

"To have only two lines going into one of the main stations of Britain seems potty to me.

"I don't think transport needs have been taking into account as much as having a smart thing in the city centre that promotes commercial agendas."

Birmingham's political leaders have backed Birmingham Gateway and have signed a "statement of intent" to fight for a "world class station".

Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood however expressed reservation over a lack of track capacity in the plans.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The Gateway project will deliver a world class station for Birmingham which is why it's backed by Network Rail, train operators, the city council, Centro, Advantage West Midlands, passenger groups, Birmingham MPs and business leaders.

"It is essential that everyone gets behind the Gateway scheme if we are to deliver the station that Birmingham so desperately needs." ..SUPL: