Network Rail has plans to expand the number of ‘destination stations’ across the country that could attract visitors in their own right, along the lines of King’s Cross and London Bridge.
Two-thirds of a brand new concourse at London Bridge, Britain’s fourth-busiest railway station, opened to passengers this week as part of a major and controversial redevelopment that started four years ago.
To mark the opening of the concourse section, Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive, revealed that there were plans to transform more stations including London Euston, York, Leeds, and Manchester Piccadilly.
The idea is to make these stations attractions in their own right and help boost income for the cash-strapped Network Rail and local economies. At London Bridge, more than 80 retail units will be available when the development is complete in 2018.
The work at London Bridge brought criticism for Network Rail due to the massive disruption it caused and a lack of contingency planning, with the national rail operator being fined £2m in 2015 for its poor performance.
Work involved untangling the complex maze of tracks on the approaches to London Bridge station to reduce the time trains wait, as well as expanding the station and opening it up to more destinations including Cambridge and Peterborough.
Mr Carne said: ‘We are essentially rebuilding Britain’s fourth busiest station – the tracks, the platforms and the infrastructure which enables trains to run – while keeping the station open and doing our best to keep passengers moving.’
Throughout the redevelopment Network Rail and construction partner Costain worked with train operators Southern and Southeastern to keep the station open for the 56 million passengers who use it every year.
However major failures in delivery of the project, left passengers at times crushed against barriers as the station had to shut down access.
London Bridge in more difficult times:
Mr Carne admitted that Network Rail had learned its lessons from the debacle, stating that the operator needs to be more careful in future about managing expectations over the level of disruption that could occur from such works.
He added that it was ‘much more challenging’ rebuilding 1960s stations than Victorian ones.
‘I have to say the Victorians built things a lot better than we did in the 1960s… Rebuilding 1960s stations is in a way much more challenging. They used a lot of asbestos and some of the concrete was rubbish. The Victorian stuff might be 180 years old but it is still absolutely fantastic.’