Newcastle Central Station’s portico will be sealed for ever tomorrow as a £20m revamp gets under way.
The move marks the first step in multi-million-pound redevelopment around the city centre transport hub – but means disruption and changes for many people arriving and departing by road. Currently tens of thousands of people every year take taxis from underneath the grand entranceway, which was built in 1863, or drive through it to reach the station’s short stay car park.
But from 7am tomorrow the route will be blocked to allow Network Rail and East Coast to begin work to glaze the 150-year-old landmark, creating new shops and jobs, and boosting the area’s economy.
East Coast spokesman John Gelson said: “The closure of the portico at Central Station to traffic marks an important stage in the redevelopment of this historic building, to create an impressive new gateway to the city of Newcastle and the wider North East.
“It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of the station and will see the creation of a dramatic new public and retail space in a fully enclosed environment.
“The station project will play a key role in the wider regeneration of the city centre. We’re working closely with partners including Network Rail, the city council and local business leaders at every stage of this scheme. This landmark redevelopment will accentuate the heritage and history of this iconic Grade I listed building, one of only six such stations in the UK, and will act as a visually stunning gateway to this great city.”
Externally, the plan for the Regional Growth Fund, Newcastle City Council, NE1, East Coast and Network Rail-funded project is to dramatically improve the area at the front of the station, including altering how people access the station. The area will be transformed with wider footways, space for pavement cafes and improved pedestrian access to the station.
Pedestrian crossings will also be provided on Neville Street and lower Grainger Street and a two-way cycle track will be created at the west end of Neville Street, south of St Mary’s Cathedral.
Efforts will also be made to improve traffic flow at the front of the station, with alterations to ease congestion in the area, while maintaining the public transport links and drop-off and collection points.
But the main changes will see taxis no longer able to enter the portico. Instead they will use a pick-up area just to the east of the portico.
And drivers heading to the short stay car park will have to drive past the station and then loop round to cross Neville Street, with new traffic lights being installed.
A Newcastle Council spokesman said: “The improvements will dramatically improve the experience of people using the station and show the city in the best possible light.”