Newcastle’s Central Station is set for a radical £8m makeover. Rail chiefs are set to pedestrianise the taxi rank outside the station entrance as they prepare to create an impressive new entrance to the city. The entrance will be the centrepiece of £8.6m worth of work which will see the arches glazed over and the currently gloomy entrance turned into a traveller-friendly area. As part of this the walls of the station will be sandblasted and new lights fitted. Inside the main station the current ticket office will be reduced in size and the space handed over for shops, with booking facilities moving to a new site just past the Sainsburys shop.
East Coast, which manages the station, says it wants to double the amount of space for shops and food stalls at the station as a result of the Department for Transport grant. It follows years of talk from business groups, council leaders and rail firms eager to turn the underused station into a more impressive “gateway” to the city. The changes, set to be in place by April 2014, will need planning consent for the Grade I listed building. Planners also want to see the car park space outside the Centurion pub pedestrianised. Taxies will still queue up from Orchard Street with a new pick up point made near the Station Hotel.
East Coast station director Tim Hedley-Jones said: “Newcastle Central station is a key part of the history and future of both the city and the wider North East region. The improvements will accentuate the important heritage of the Grade I listed building, one of only six such stations in the UK, and act as a stunning new gateway to the city for visitors. We believe the project will play a key role in the regeneration of the city centre and help to demonstrate that Newcastle and the North East are very much open for business.”
The changes have been backed by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, vice chairman of the all-parliamentary rail in the north group. He said: “I think it is vitally important that the regional hub that Newcastle is has this investment. It is important because this is a gateway to the region and we have to be able to say to people, particularly business visitors, that this is what we are like, so yes, these really are very exciting proposals.”
Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes has welcomed the news. He said: “It is important that visitors to Newcastle get an immediate impression of the confidence and ambition we have as a city and a world class destination for business and tourism. The transformation of Central Station will create an instantly memorable experience for visitors and a 21st Century transport hub worthy of one of Europe’s great cities.”
Newcastle Council will itself spent more than £4m to improve the area immediately outside the station in the coming years. Metro bosses at Nexus were recently turned down in a bid to Government for a multi-million pound refurbishment of the Central Station Metro stop. The station improvement work is due to begin in May, and is expected to be completed in April next year. The station will operate as normal throughout the works.