Work at Nottingham’s station has been continuing apace. Although last covered only in issue 106 (August 2013), it was already time to go back and see how far the works had progressed. Writes Chris Parker
A lot of work has been carried out behind the hoardings which have been a feature of the station for some while, and the project team, an alliance of Network Rail, East Midlands Trains, Nottingham City Council and Taylor Woodrow, were very keen to show what they had been up to.
The works are a key part of the Nottingham Hub which, besides the station enhancement and refurbishment, also includes the Nottingham Area Resignalling project and the NET (Nottingham Express Transit) Phase 2 tramway works. The Hub is intended to increase transport capacity, integrate transport modes, improve performance, initiate regeneration of the area around the station and generally to inspire the City of Nottingham.
The total funding of the Hub is around £150 million. Of this, around £50 million is going into the station redevelopment works which have been in planning since the turn of the century.
A key objective for the alliance has been to make use of local suppliers and labour, and there has been significant success in this with 40% of sub-contracts let to local firms and 35% of the 1,500 actively-involved people being from the greater Nottingham area.
The alliance identified six key phases to the project. The first was the 950 space multi-storey car park completed some time ago. Then there is the new southern concourse that will link the car park and Queen’s Road ‘kiss and ride’ facility with the NET tram station and the old concourse and dispersal bridge of the railway station. A new canopy has now been erected on Platform 7 (the former Platform 6) where there was none before.
All of the platform buildings are being refurbished, including some that were disused before, and new glazed areas have been installed in the existing platform canopies to allow daylight into areas that were previously rather gloomy. Some of the platforms are to be resurfaced. The Grade II* listed porte-cochère and concourse of the original station are being fully and sensitively refurbished. Lastly, there is the NET tram station being built on the big new bridge across the station.
Works not already completed are on schedule. The platform buildings and modified canopies will be returned to normal use in January 2014. The refurbished main station buildings (porte- cochère and concourse) will reopen in April 2014, together with the new south concourse on Queen’s Road. The NET tram station is due to come into operation fully by October next year, though trams may begin operating before this date.
There are some interesting things to be seen already as a result of what has been done thus far. The porte-cochère, like most of the old station, dates back to the 1903 reconstruction of Nottingham Station by the Midland Railway Company. It features much beautiful old terra cotta and a large, fully glazed roof. The whole is about 100 metres long by 20 metres in width and is surmounted by a pepper-pot- style clock tower. One of the notable features is the multiplicity of fine arched openings into the space, each decorated with ornate terra cotta work.
The original roadway inside this area sloped significantly from north to south in order to tie into the roads outside. This is no longer necessary since the whole area is to be pedestrianised and enclosed. The floor, as it now becomes, has been levelled by raising the south end. This floor is being laid with carefully selected terrazzo.
The roof has been entirely refurbished; the original ironwork has been cleaned, repaired and repainted, and the glazing has been replaced with laminated glass.
All of the terra cotta has been cleaned, damaged areas being repaired or replaced. This work has been expertly done by the best possible people, the local Hathern Terra Cotta company, which was responsible for the original terra cotta in 1903. They have been able to use some of the original moulds from that work to manufacture replacement sections, and they are making matching arch pieces for the new archway that will lead from the porte-cochère into the south concourse.
This opening has been cut very carefully as a rectangular hole through an existing brick wall, using a steel portal to support the structure above. The new terra cotta arch will be erected (on timber centring) under the structural steel, and the brickwork will be reinstated around it to hide the modern structure. This should fit in well with the original arches already mentioned.
The 1903 concourse is being restored with equal painstaking attention to detail, and the roof and ceiling already look impressive. Further improvements are taking place on the adjoining dispersal bridge. All in all, there will be a huge volume of sympathetically restored space for use by customers and station visitors within these buildings on the Carrington Street side of the station. There are to be retail units in this area, including a significant one in the former ticket office. The ticket office itself will be re-positioned to a more prominent and customer-friendly location, roughly on the site of the old W H Smith.
Immediately adjacent to these old structures will be the new south concourse. This will be the heart of the hub as it will link to the station, the multi-storey car park, the NET tram station and the “kiss and ride” and taxi exchange in Queen’s Road. There will be lifts, stairs and escalators linking Queen’s Road street level, station concourse level one floor up and the NET station a further floor above. This will be the key interchange area of the new facility, and should be a major improvement for all users.
The platform building refurbishment works are well under way, and they have thrown up quite a surprise. In the former buffet on the platform 4/5/6 island, the removal of the false ceiling and wall cladding revealed that there was a clerestory roof above and that much of the plasterwork of the room had originally featured decorative plasterwork. The plaster frieze immediately below the glazed lights of the clerestory had been badly damaged, but fortunately it was possible to restore it.
Alaways of Lincoln carried out a good deal of the specialist building restoration and working for them were a pair of expert plasterers who had the skills and knowledge required. They were able to clean and restore undamaged panels, then take plaster casts from these. Using these casts they were able to create new panels, exact replicas of the originals, and with these they were able to replace the irreparable sections of the frieze. Only a few of the stained glass panels were in good enough condition to be restored, and so new panels were made by copying these, allowing the whole clerestory to be reglazed exactly as it was originally. Railway Heritage Trust funds were key to enabling this work. It should delight customers when they see it after it reopens shortly.
The key challenge for the alliance in managing the project has been maintaining an operational station whilst the works proceed. Whilst there were opportunities to carry out certain works during the station closure that was arranged for the parallel remodelling and resignalling project, most of the time the facility has remained open to customers. The co-operation of East Midlands Trains has been crucial in this. For example, the company was very supportive of the decision to close the whole of the buildings on Carrington Street rather than attempting the works in separate phases in different sections of the buildings.
Shaun and his alliance colleagues were all keen to deliver the vision of the project, which is to make the station into a real transport hub for Nottingham City but also to turn the Carrington Street buildings into a destination in its own right, with retail units and meeting places that will attract people from the city and surrounding area for their own sake. Shaun mentioned the way in which St Pancras International has become a small town and its own attraction, and he clearly aspires to seeing
a smaller version of this at ‘the Hub’ in Nottingham. The quality of the restoration works is an encouraging augury.
Given that improvements are due to continue, with journey time reductions in the forthcoming timetable (fastest journey to London 91 minutes for example) and Midland main line electrification due shortly, things are looking up for Nottingham station. Locals have long wished to see the beautiful old buildings here restored sympathetically, and now it is happening. With a foot fall of around 6.5 million each year before the current works began, and increasing too, it is not before time.
Many thanks to Shaun Kearney, Network Rail alliance director and project manager, John Hartley, Taylor Woodrow; Andy Moore, East Midlands Trains head of stations; and Sarah Alton representing Nottingham City Council, for their time in showing off the works being undertaken.