Shopping threatens to stifle our railway stations’ rebirth
A host of British cities are enjoying multimillion-pound makeovers of their railway stations; it’s a pity that retail opportunities seem so high on the agenda
Should you look up as your train approaches Liverpool Lime Street you will witness an astonishing man-made canyon, hewn out of red rock as if by giant hands, an industrial Petra. Arriving at Birmingham New Street was, until recently, a matter of creeping through a seemingly endless warren of dingy platforms and tunnels, which eventually, begrudgingly, released you onto the street. The two stations perform identical functions, but give entirely different messages. One is romantic and heroic; the other speaks of a pragmatic but pedestrian place.
Stations have a particular ability to speak of their places and times, the more so because their symbolism is at least partly inadvertent. It is difficult to imagine New York without Grand Central; in London the huge vaults of Paddington speak of westward adventure, and the rivalrous double act of St Pancras and King’s Cross, one fanciful and the other plain, defines a whole urban area. Their grandeur was helped by the practical fact that steam trains needed high roofs to spread the smoke and steam, but even after electrification the habit of height (as in the concourse of Grand Central) tended to remain.
Source: Guardian Transport