- 2018年03月09日10:33 来源：互联网
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Urban planning——Rail ambition
Cities used to think modern art could save them. Now it's railway stations
IN JANUARY commuters voted Birmingham New Street one of Britain's worst railway stations. Each day nearly 150,000 people move through a structure built for half as many. But by next year it will be transformed, with 400 tonnes of undulating steel cladding and a vaguely eyeball appearance. The station will have “the wow factor”, boasts Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham city council. It will also show how much attitudes to railway stations have changed.
Railway stations are the chief exception to the rule that Britain invests too little in infrastructure. Of the 17 big termini managed by Network Rail, the owner of Britain's tracks, 11 are being redeveloped or have recently been completed. Five other stations, including Reading and Northampton, are being spruced up by local councils and Network Rail.
Some simply need to be expanded: the number of train journeys has risen by 35% since 2005. But the design of New Street suggests aspirations well beyond more easeful travel. The building would not look out of place in Dubai and is striking, if slightly incongruous, in the grey West Midlands. City planners wanted something monumental, like Grand Central station in New York, says Sir Bernard Zissman, chairman of the independent design panel.
“Twenty or thirty years ago business people were more likely to arrive in a city by car,” explains Jon Neale of Jones Lang LaSalle, a property specialist. Town planners duly carved out motorways and roundabouts to entice them. In 1962 a local politician claimed that a new design for Birmingham, involving an inner ring road, would make it “one of the finest city centres in Europe”.
Cities now measure their appeal by their stations. Businesses cluster around them: at King's Cross, a once-grimy part of north London, a postcode has been created for all the new buildings around the station, which was redeveloped in 2013. John Lewis, an upmarket department store, will open in the mall above New Street (which is indeed called “Grand Central”) along with 60 other shops. The council hopes it will pull in visitors to the city.
Such ambition recalls the stations of the 19th century. Those structures “spoke to the corporate sensibility of a city,” says Tristram Hunt, an MP and historian, by combining commerce with the sheen of civic pride. The first New Street station, built in 1851, had the largest single-span roof in the country at the time. It was torn down by enthusiastic 1960s town planners. Now some of its original lustre may return.