The following guest post has been written by Centro Head of Strategy Alex Burrows. Alex was one of the speakers at Infrarail 2012 yesterday (May 2), (International Railway Infrastructure Exhibition) alongside Birmingham Airport’s John Morris, Marketing Birmingham’s Ian Taylor and Solihull MBC’s Paul Watson.
The opportunity to talk about Birmingham Interchange station was too good to miss.
The HS2 station will be located by junction 6 of the M42 about a kilometre away from hall 3 of the NEC where Infrarail took place.
The site is precisely halfway between Coventry and Birmingham – 8 miles in either direction. Along with the nearby West Coast Main Line, the heart of the motorway network close to the M42, M6 and M1 and next door Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Interchange station is going to be a very important strategic transport node at the heart of the national transport network.
It is interesting to note that research shows that Interchange will take between 40 and 50 per cent of passengers (shared with Birmingham city centre’s HS2 station).
My focus is on how we can turn this node into a strategic transport node predominantly accessed by public transport. To this end, it is vital to have a clear vision for access and connectivity which means passengers have options, by train or by tram or by bus, along with reliability, high frequency, comfort and world class information.
We also need a range of strong links to cover a wide area including Coventry, Solihull, Coleshill, Birmingham Business Park, Chelmsley Wood and East Birmingham, Tamworth and Bromsgrove. Accessibility is crucial to the success.
I want to pick up on a really interesting question that was asked about the design of the station. The £600m investment in New Street station that is currently going on was our chance to create a real gateway to Birmingham and the West Midlands. This has set the bar for what we expect from our major stations.
Interchange station needs to marry both form and function. From my perspective I want to see the passenger experience being the focus for design – so good and clear information, easy way-finding, appropriate retail and also marketing of the West Midlands for business and leisure tourists is key.
My final point was pragmatic. There has been criticism in some quarters about the distance between Interchange station and the Airport. I gave the examples of North Greenwich and of Chatelet Les Halles in central Paris. The former unifies and guides people between the tube and bus stations as well as the river boat, the O2, the cable car and the millennium village.
Good design, signage and information facilitate the flow of people around the area. Chatelet is the biggest interchange in Paris mixing a number of Metro and RER lines with a number of tunnels to interchange. What is crucial is how the space is designed to help people move around.
That is the point for Interchange – not just a place where people will start or finish their journey but will be switching modes, transferring, moving from one phase to another of their journeys.