The New New Street Station
For nearly all of the six years I have been living in Birmingham, one of our three stations has been receiving a major face lift. New Street station, one of the busiest in the UK with, I hear, 170,000 passengers going through it daily (twice what it was built for in 1967), previously functioned and had the essential facilities. But it didn't fit the 21st century, needed a lick of paint and frankly, Birmingham deserved better!
So come Sunday morning, opening time, I had to go in for a glimpse of my new station, immediately if not sooner!
Amazingly, the station stayed open during the five years of construction, and now look at it! Apart from just the amount of space us train travellers have been given, I'm excited to see a better variety of shops and cafés. I'm particularly thrilled to see Hema. What was a supermarket 'for the budget conscious' when we saw it in Amsterdam appears to be a little corner shop in New Street. They already have a couple open in London stations and we were honoured to be the first customers in after they cut the ribbon!
We were standing outside the station waiting for the 7.30am opening so a coffee was our first point of call. Well, after half an hour of walking around taking pictures and saying 'amazing'. The welcome we received from Joe's was exceptional, not just a greeting (which I would expect from any café) but we were greeted like family. The same again when we went to Leon's for breakfast. Mine was full English in a pot and coffee for £3.95 - what a deal!. They are corporate chains and their training is on on another level. They seem more than ready to compete when the other half of the refurbishment - Grand Central shopping centre opens later this week.
I thought the new New Street would remind me of Kings Cross, with the airy, bright atrium but actually I found myself thinking about St Pancras on first visit. Until now, the only station I go to just for fun. Partly because of childhood memories of getting the train from Bedford to London line and because of the fantastic array of shops and cafes. But I have to say, I had tears in my eyes when I saw what us Birmingham residents have been given. I've not even spent 3 hours in St Pancras but I did not want to leave New Street!
I'm looking forward to going back for breakfast on Thursday, before I cast my eye over Grand Central, which is opening at 11, alongside the flagship new John Lewis. I never thought I'd get this excited about Lewis's - after all I'm an M&S lifer but that's where I go to play with and buy my tech from. And they have a day spa. And loads of Scandi clothes we don't see in this country. And a café with a view....
Let me know if you're coming @RickieWrites