Birmingham’s new £60 million Olympic swimming complex could have its own train station, delivering a long-awaited public transport boost to the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and Brindleyplace.
City council officials believe the site for the 50-metre pool, on land behind the NIA and next to the main line from New Street, is ideal for a new halt.
They plan to talk to Network Rail about funding for the station, for which the council has been campaigning since the ICC opened in 1991. It is likely that the firm winning a contract to build the pool will be required to make a contribution toward the cost of a station.
The possibility of a rail link was confirmed by Ray Hassall, the cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture. Coun Hassall (Lib Dem, Perry Barr) said a sound business case could be put to Network Rail on the basis of the “many thousands” of people who already visit the ICC and NIA and additional visitors who would flock to the Olympic pool complex.
He added: “I very much hope Network Rail will take this on board because our intention is to develop a major tourist attraction.”
But his comments, delivered to a scrutiny committee, did not impress Labour councillors who said they did not believe the council’s Tory-Liberal Democrat leadership was serious about building the pool in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
They pointed out that only £30.5 million has been identified towards the £85.5 million cost of the 50-metre pool, the replacement of Harborne Pool and the refurbishment of Stechford Cascades. The additional running costs of the Olympic pool, estimated at £400,000, may have to be met through cuts in the leisure services budget and the possible closure of other swimming pools.
Councillor Muhammad Afzal (Lab Aston) said: “There is no transparent means as to how the funding gap is going to be bridged.
“It is being said that the council could raise money through selling land but, in the current economic climate, that is unlikely.
“I doubt whether the controlling group has any real intention of building a 50-metre pool. They are just playing with words.”
Coun Hassall said the pool would indeed be built if he could convince cabinet colleagues that the project was affordable.
He added: “I have to get a business case together and if I don’t, it will be a hatchet in the back of Hassall’s head, which is not a happy prospect.
“It has been an aspiration to have a 50-metre pool ever since I came on the council and I am trying to turn this into reality.”
The lack of public transport links between the ICC, NIA and the city centre has been a bone of contention since the complexes opened.
A tram line is planned for Broad Street as part of the Midland Metro extension, but the project has failed so far to win government approval.