Nottingham station is unusual in a couple of ways. For a start, it is comparatively new. Whilst many of Britain’s major stations were built in the middle of the nineteenth century, the current Nottingham Midland station didn’t open until 1904, which makes it Edwardian rather than Victorian.
It was known as Nottingham Midland as there were several other Nottingham stations at that time. Nottingham Victoria was opened by the Great Central Railway (GCR) in 1900, designed by Albert Edward Lambert – the same architect that the Midland Railway employed a couple of years later for their own project. Perhaps the GCR’s impressive new station shamed the Midland into rebuilding theirs? Nottingham Victoria is now the site of the Victoria Centre shopping mall.
The Great Northern Railway had a station at London Road, just at the eastern end of the current Nottingham station and now a health spa. When Nottingham Victoria opened in 1900, the Great Northern moved there and the London Road station declined. Passenger services ceased in 1944 and it finally closed as a parcels office in the 1970s.
The other oddity is that, for a station which serves London in one direction and Sheffield and Leeds in the other, it is orientated almost exactly east/west. This is all down to the triangle of tracks between Nottingham and Derby which surround Trent Junction. With lines coming in from Birmingham, and going out to Newark and the Lincolnshire coast, it is as much a cross-country station as anything else.
Be that as it may, Nottingham’s station on Carrington Street is overcrowded for passengers and complicated to use for train operators. Too many tracks cross or interfere with each other to make for efficient operation, and this causes delays and restricts the timetable.
A recent overview
Nottingham currently has six platforms which run parallel to Station Street. An earlier station building was accessed from this street, hence the name, before the 1904 building moved the entrance around the corner and onto the Carrington Street overbridge.
The northernmost platform is an island. Platforms 1 and 3 are the two through faces and there is an eastern- facing bay platform which is used by train services to Skegness, Newark and Boston.
The second, central island forms platforms 4 and 5, and there are two through roads between 3 and 4.
Platform 6 is the northern face of the southern island. The platforms are quite long and are split into A and B zones. However, the track layout means that departing trains often have to cross other lines and that two trains cannot leave at the same time as they will foul each other.
The station building runs across the western ends of the platforms on the Carrington Street bridge. It consists of three major areas.
Fronting the street is the porte-cochère, or ‘coach gate’. This is a high- roofed area with four entrances, two on Carrington Street and one at each end, where carriages, hansom cabs and latterly taxis could drop off passengers in the dry. The glass roof allowed a lot of light into this space.
From the porte-cochère, passengers would move into the concourse, a smaller area which included the ticket office and more open space. Both of these were constructed in a mixture of red brick and terracotta tile in a flamboyant style.
Beyond the concourse is the wooden dispersal bridge, giving access to the three island platforms. Partway down those platforms is a second footbridge which not only interconnects them but is also a public right of way across the station footprint. This walkway was moved from a third footbridge, even further down the platforms, which was demolished in the 1990s.
Just south of the main station buildings is a brick ‘house’ which is the British Transport Police (BTP) building. Further along Queen’s Road,
on the south side of the station, there was rough open-air parking outside what had been the Red Star Parcels office.
The trams are coming
The last hundred years has taken its toll on the building. Although it was cleaned several years ago, the acid wash had left marks on the terracotta tiles and there were buddleia growing on the roof.
In addition, the trackwork through the station and the nearby Mansfield Junction to the west did not make for easy operation.
Nottingham City Council introduced a tram network to the city in 2004. NET (Nottingham Express Transit) operates one line from Hucknall and Phoenix Park to the north-west of the city, through the centre, to Station Street. The tram terminus is on the opposite side of the road to the station and a footbridge connected the two.
Plans were drawn up for a second phase of the tram network as early as 2006. Funding was approved in 2009 and work started in 2011.
The new plans would extend the line southwards, over Nottingham Midland station and out to Clifton and Toton. The Great Central Railway had also run over the Midland station on a 170 foot long bowstring bridge which was removed in the 1980s. However, it offered the perfect alignment for the second phase of Nottingham tram.
So a new bridge had to go in over the top of Nottingham station (not Nottingham Midland any more as it’s the only one left). The tram stop would then be moved from its site on the north side of Station Street to the middle of the new bridge, right over the station and linking with it to form a transport hub. There was no point in doing that without reworking and remodelling the station buildings to accommodate the extra traffic, and while that was going on it made sense to modify the track layout and make the whole thing more user-friendly.
Three projects in one
Plans were drawn up for three separate packages of work all interlinked into one overall project to deliver Nottingham Hub. The three partners working together to deliver it are Network Rail, East Midlands Trains and Taylor Woodrow (Vinci Construction). Nottingham City Council is funding the tram work and the Railway Heritage Trust is also contributing.
The tram bridge was one of those three packages. A two-part bridge was built adjacent to the site and slid into place over two weekends. The first was described by Chris Parker in issue 101 (March 2013) and left the bridge suspended halfway over the station while the second half was attached to the first. When that was complete, the bridge was slid the rest of the way in April.
At the same time, Taylor Woodrow started work on the station buildings. A temporary station was built on the south side of Station Street, the first time the station had actually been on that street since 1903. The cabins used to construct the temporary ticket office were recycled ones previously used for the regeneration of Farringdon Station.
The porte-cochère was closed and is being refurbished, cleaned and completely glazed to form a new pedestrian area with enhanced levels of retail. In future, taxis will make use of a remodelled Station Street rather than enter the station buildings themselves.
The existing concourse is undergoing the same restoration process and the ticket office is being relocated to a more centralised position in the refurbished concourse. The dispersal bridge remains open and can also be accessed using a protective pedestrian tunnel from the front entrance, through the worksites of the porte-cochère and the concourse.The BTP has been relocated from the building on Queens’ Road to a temporary location further down the street whilst the new southern concourse is built to connect the new multi-storey car park, Platform 6 and the dispersal bridge.
To increase capacity, a new platform face will be constructed by stepping Platform 4 out to one of the through roads part way along. This will create a new, shorter Platform 4, and the remaining western end of Platform 4 will be been fully glazed, were rebuilt using corrugated steel in the 1970s. This has left the platforms somewhat dark, so glazed panels will be reintroduced partway through the canopy span, adjacent to the buildings, to brighten everything up.
Most of this work has been taking place over the last few months while the station remains open. However, the new stepped Platform 4 will be constructed between 20 July and 25 August when the whole station will be completely closed for trains running westward (to Derby and London) and partially closed for eastbound trains (Newark, Lincoln, Grantham and Skegness). During this period, passengers for destinations on the Midland main line will be bussed to East Midlands Parkway.
The track layout and signalling at Nottingham station and at Mansfield Junction will be radically overhauled at the same time, but that is to be the subject of another article. (page 77)
By Monday 26 August, when Nottingham will fully reopen, the new platform 4 will be in operation as will the revised track layout, and further platform work will have been done. However, there will still be much work to do. The obvious change, so far as passengers are concerned, will occur early in 2014 when the main station buildings will reopen and the East Midland’s leading city will once again have a station of which it can be proud.