Tuesday 21 May 2024

Gleaming The Tube

Yesterday Merseytravel sent out a press release about Baltic station.  No, they're not finally building it, don't be silly.  They were in fact beginning a consultation process to get people's opinions on the new design and get on with it.  This is why there's a housing crisis in this country; everything takes twenty years to build because they're consulting and engaging with stakeholders and get on with it.  Is there anyone who thinks this station is a bad idea?  No.  Is there anyone going to be disturbed by building work?  No; it's all industrial units and commercial properties around there, apart from the people who live in the flats further down Parliament Street, and they literally overlook a six lane highway.  Is there anyone whose life is going to be made fundamentally worse by this station?  No.  Get.  On.  With.  It.

Anyway, along with the consultation they released some fancy new CGI representations of what it'll look like.  As a reminder, this is what they produced as indicative of the design:

The new look is ever so slightly different.

Suddenly it's bronze.  Suddenly there's artwork and a pedestrianised square.  Let's take a look from above, shall we?

Incredible.  This is what a station in the centre of a major city should look like.  It should impress and invite you in.  It should declare its presence.  It should be large and accommodating.  It needs to cope with increasing development.

Inside we've got a ticket hall - with a ticket office! - that's in nice earth tones, natural light, fully accessible.  Plenty of gates, which I hope are future proofed to accept e-tickets when Merseyrail finally gets round to introducing them sometime in 2077.  

Platform level isn't quite as impressive - they've limited space to work with I guess.  Robert pointed out that the departure board has Ormskirk listed as a destination, which may be a designer getting overambitious, or may be an indication of future services.  Certainly it doesn't matter so much if the platforms are a little narrow if you've got eight trains an hour streaming through to sweep up the crowds.  There are still escalators, too.

The accompanying press release giveth and taketh away.  The consultation is starting in June, and promises a VR walkthrough, but it also says they're hoping to get spades in the ground in 2025.  That'll give an opening date of 2027, ish, which is frankly ridiculous.  The first time I wrote about reopening St James station on here was in 2008: sixteen years later and all we've got to show for it is some designs that solely exist in a computer at Mann Island.  I'm also cynical enough to imagine that all that fancy wood and bronze and art will be value engineered out of the project long before it's built.  Until it's actually under construction I'll be waiting for the news that the clock tower has been cancelled and there aren't any ticket offices and actually would you mind lowering yourself down onto the platform with a rope and pulley and then we don't have to build any stairs at all?  Thanks.

The press release also mentions that My Close Personal Friend Steve Rotherham has plans for three more stations: Woodchurch on the Wirral, Carr Mill in St Helens and Daresbury in Halton, "with work to begin on all three by the end of the decade".  Wow, stop, you're really spoiling us.  No mention of anything to serve the new huge Everton stadium at Bramley Moore Dock, even though the Northern Line passes within half a kilometre of it; no further info on how and when they're going to sort out Liverpool Central.  

Part of this is political; the press release says when all they're completed there will be a new station in every Liverpool City Region borough (Headbolt Lane in Knowsley and Maghull North in Sefton having already opened).  Never mind farming out crumbs to the provinces, Steve-o, build what's needed.  I wish there was ambition in our regional mayors.  I wish they were standing there and promising genuinely transformative projects - new lines, new ways of getting about, opening up public transport to everyone.  Instead they're colouring in the margins, working with what we've got, making do.  It's so depressing.

Still: lovely pictures.  Now get on with it.

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