Rail Industry Focus

24.06.16

Paving the way for a modern Glasgow Queen Street

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

Ahead of the major redevelopment of Glasgow Queen Street station next year, Rodger Querns, programme director for the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP), runs through the ongoing preparation works taking place at the tunnel and throat.

With just over a month to go until deadline day, the work taking place around Glasgow Queen Street station – in preparation for a station makeover next year – is still progressing on time and budget. 

When Rodger Querns, programme director for the huge £742m EGIP, in which the station plays a major role, spoke to RTM, there were only 47 days left to go with regards to the £70m tunnel works. “One line in the tunnel has been completed, and the other line is now about 35% complete as well,” he told us. 

Work to break up over 10,000 tonnes of track in the tunnel is an essential precursor to the rebuild of the station itself, particularly in terms of lengthening and rebuilding platforms and track layouts to accommodate Scotland’s upcoming eight-car Class 385 electric fleet. The high level station was closed on 20 March to give engineers 24/7 access to the tunnel’s 918m length. 

Renewing the throat and tunnel 

During this time, engineers have been tirelessly renewing 1,800m of concrete slab track – or PORR slab, Querns says, which is a slightly different Austrian system – and rebuilding platforms, as well as remodelling the throat to “maximise train performance and functionality within the station”. 

When RTM went to the printers, Network Rail still had to install Furrer+Frey’s conductor bars, as well as 4,000m of new rails, telecoms and complete the signalling work – which will all be entirely digital, controlled from the computerised IECC (Integrated Electronic Control Centre). All the new switches and crossings in the throat, however, had already been completed. 

“We’re working round the clock,” Querns said. “We have 450 workers on the tunnel each day working 24/7 doing lots of different things. We’re actually digging out the station concourse to extend the platforms to an eight-car length: they basically do six-car just now, but they’re doing preparation to excavate the station concourse in preparation for expanding the platforms to eight-car. We’re putting in overhead line bases just now and erecting the signalling systems within the throat and tunnel, and we are preparing to put the platform surfacing down just now, and furnishing the platforms with new passenger telecommunication systems as well.” 

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Two-phased approach 

The station building itself is not yet under redevelopment because Network Rail, in partnership with ScotRail, has carried out careful planning to ensure the project was delivered in phases, thus keeping disruption to a minimum. The £112m tender contract for the station’s rebuild was issued earlier this year, but a contract decision is only expected in November, with a view to start work next year in time for a March 2019 deadline. 

“We’re working very closely with the TOC to make sure we’ve got a safe system of work which allows the station to be redeveloped at the same time as passengers can pass through the station,” said Querns, when asked about the difficulties in working in a live environment. 

To ensure the 19 million people who pass through the station each year aren’t intensely affected, Network Rail carefully planned each phase of the station’s construction with the intention to “facilitate the safe egress and access of passengers”. Together with TOCs and key partners, the infrastructure owner spent a total of two and a half years designing the job before it kicked off.

Letting the green in 

It has been almost two years since Network Rail unveiled the design plans for the station, which Querns described as “dull and tired” in its current form. Asked what the infrastructure owner was hoping to achieve with the new look, the project manager said: “Queen Street station sits in the most prominent part of Glasgow – the absolute epicentre of Glasgow, at George Square which is the main square in the city. But the station itself is tucked away – very low-key – and unfortunately, the best way to describe it is tired and not appealing to passengers or indeed the local community or the business community. 

“So our main focus is to give the station the prominence it deserves at the heart of Glasgow city centre. Prominence and visibility: that’s certainly a couple of the key aims that we want to achieve via design.”

He added that the design is “very contemporary”, making use of massive glass panels to bring the station closer to the environment enveloping it – similar, in some ways, to what Network Rail did with Manchester Victoria last year. 

interior final edit

“Really, what we’re trying to do with the glass is use it in the design to bring the station and the passengers within the station and connect it with the green space that Glasgow George Square has – trying to bring the station onto the square and the local environment, but also bring George Square into the station; a seamless connection between the station and the heart of Glasgow’s civic business and community centre,” he argued. “That’s really what George Square is: it’s where Glasgow City Council is based, but it’s also where the big businesses that operate in Glasgow are, it’s a premium location. “We’ll try to make it an airy and open space without obstacles so passengers can get about the station quickly and get to their trains in a much smoother way. We also want to make sure that the station is appealing to everyone: the design is diverse and inclusive, it has step-free access to and from the station which we don’t have just now.” 

In terms of retail offerings, Querns said Network Rail is currently “designing and building various retail amenities” that serve the station’s growing passenger numbers, with footfall expected to grow by 30% over the next 10 years. 

“We want to make sure that our retail facilities meet demand and serve the needs of our customers,” he explained, adding that this won’t necessarily be the same as what you’d get in a London station. “Glasgow Queen Street serves a different type of passenger.” 

Public reaction 

Although Network Rail is activating an instrument of compulsory purchasing through the Transport and Works Scotland Act to be able to demolish the Millennium Hotel’s 1970s extension hanging over the station, Querns said that, for the most part, the public has reacted positively to planned changes. 

“We have done extensive liaison through Network Rail and through the TOC with all relevant stakeholders, customers and new neighbours. There’s been a huge consultation exercise undertaken. In the case of the hotel, we’ve used a statutory compulsory purchase order to acquire the rights to demolish it, and that’s one of the first things we do in November,” he said. 

“Apart from that, everyone seemed very accommodating and understanding – because the greater gain here is serving the community and improving the economic lot of the central belt of Scotland, because we want to run more trains, longer trains, and transfer more people quicker between Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

 

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