26th April 2022
An £82 million face lift to transform Coventry’s railway station has just been completed. It certainly looked eye catching from the media coverage I’d seen so I paid a couple of visits last week to take a look for myself.
£40 million of the funding came from West Midlands Combined Authority’s Devolution Deal and snother £27.5 million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund as well as a contribution from Coventry City Council whose Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change (his role certainly ticks the boxes), Councillor Jim O’Boyle, excitedly explained to the media: “Coventry station is now perfectly equipped to meet the needs of our residents, visitors and businesses. There are improvements for cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and bus users too. All with the aim of encouraging people to choose public transport for some of their journeys.”
It’s good to hear everyone stands to benefit from these improvements, especially the point about “encouraging people to choose public transport” but I’m not sure bus users (who I note are at the end of the list of beneficiaries) have done as well as drivers and cyclists.
Let me show you around the revamped station to explain the point.
The newly extended building is certainly a much welcome improvement on the rather brutal concrete dominated original station buildings which are marking their 60th anniversary this year. Although even that’s been given a spruce up. Here it is ‘before’ on Google maps ….
…. and here it is ‘after’ the makeover.
The most prominent eye catching feature of the £82 million development is a new 627 space multi-storey car park. You can’t miss it.
It’s got 14 parking levels.
It’ll certainly be very handy for rail passengers arriving by car especially as it’s been built very close to the station entrance.
Although when I had a wander around last Friday one of the lifts was out of order (luckily I found a second lift at the other end of the building which was working) and if you don’t have a blue badge you have to drive up to at least the fourth level to find a space.
Mind you the spaces are very generous on err, space – you certainly get your money’s worth per square foot of parking.
I’m not a car park fanatic, but I reckon these spaces must rank as the best per square foot in the country – maybe reflecting the prominence of four-by-four luxury ‘Chelsea Tractor’ type cars in nearby Warwickshire?
The new car park is operated by Coventry City Council whereas the original concrete low rise multi storey affair sited on the other side of the original station entrance is run by Avanti West Coast, well, actually, NCP on their behalf.
Whereas Avanti charge a flat daily rate of £12 on weekdays and £5 at weekends…
… the super duper new one has graduated charges with an £8 all day Monday to Saturday charge (so cheaper on weekdays but more expensive on Saturdays) and only £1 on Sundays.
There’s also plenty of secure bike storage conveniently located by the car park exit.
Leaving the car park on foot, you’re right in the heart of the newly created “Station Square”– a rather attractively landscaped area conveniently located adjacent to the original pedestrian entrance to the station, which has had the full ‘public realm’ makeover treatment.
Passengers arriving by taxi or being dropped off by a friend or family member are also well catered for by set down points around “Station Square”…
… complete with varnished wooden tops making for a handy seat while you wait to be picked up on a sunny day.
You’re close to the original entrance, gate line and stairs to the footbridge taking you to platforms 2, 3 and 4.
So all good for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and those arriving by taxi or being dropped off.
Then there’s access for bus passengers.
Prior to the revamp many bus routes, including those for the city centre, would divert off Warwick Road and stop right alongside that brutalist main entrance and the taxi rank ….
….. while other buses travelled direct along Warwick Road bridge over the railway with pedestrian access to these via a footway and steps. It was a bit of a route march to reach them.
The taxi rank is still there ….
… but in the new scheme of things buses have been banished from stopping right outside the station entrance and instead have been given a new four bay bus station on the far side of Warwick Road.
It’s very spacious with new bus shelters at each stop ….
….. with rather nice designs on them ….
… complete with real time departure information on smart pod type things by each stop.
There’s a machine selling ‘Swift’ smartcards and an electronic sign showing upcoming bus and train departures.
Although it wasn’t showing any train departures on my first visit.
But was on a second visit.
It’s all rather nice….
… with lots of room for buses …..
…. including layover bays in the unlikely scenario of any new bus routes in the future terminating at the station.
There are also two bays for rail replacement buses …..
Beyond the bus station there’s plenty more car parking spaces (making for station car park number 3)…
…. and the whole thing is adjacent to the “Central Six Retail Park” with its own car park ….
There’s a handy diagram to show you where everything is ….
… and a misleading yellow sign showing the route to take to the station – with an arrow pointing to the retail park rather than the station ….
As you can see from that little map diagram, it’s the other side of Warwick Road and a fair walk to and from the railway station entrance.
Much further than motorists parking their cars in the swish new multi storey car park have to walk; and even further than anyone being driven by car or taxi and being dropped off in the newly landscaped “Station Square”. Or where buses used to set down and pick up outside that original concrete entrance.
Let me show you the route from the original station gate line to the bus station …..
… you have to pass by the new “Station Square” (above) towards the new multi-storey car park and enter under the large double arrow symbol beneath the red sign …. then walk along a long corridor with a helpful sign to let you know you’re going the right way….
…. here’s that sign with my annotation to show what’s where….
Beyond which is a brand new gate line, you’ll pass by if you used the old one (it’s obviously much better to use the new gate line if you’re a bus passenger) ….
There’s ticket machines on the wall opposite the gate line if you’ve come from the bus station, but if you want the ticket office you have a much longer walk back towards the old gate line.
Here’s the rest of the corridor towards the bus station after you’ve passed the new gate line, towards the end of it, you’re actually walking under Warwick Road (which passes over the railway) …..
… and here are the automatic doors that lead out to the new bus station….
… and finally you arrive at the new bus station.
But if you want buses for the city centre, although some depart from two of the four bus stops in the bus station, the poster telling you where to catch your bus advises using the old stop on Warwick Road bridge (WR5) – as that’s where you’ll find the most frequent routes to the city centre (about every 3-4 minutes) including some that don’t divert into the new bus station from where there are only eight an hour.
To access these, it’s best to leave the station via a new (second) footbridge link that’s been constructed to platforms 2, 3 and 4 at the northern end of the platforms….
Knowledgeable inter-modal passengers wanting to take a bus to the city centre will ensure they exit via this new footbridge using the new stairs from platforms 2, 3 and 4 (there are also lifts)….
…. taking you to the upper level to another new gate line (so that’s three gate lines now – staffing costs must have increased as they were all manned on my visits) …
…. from where you can look down on to the passageway between “Station Square” and the new bus station at ground floor level….
…. or buy a ticket from the newly installed ticket machines if you’ve arrived by bus….
….. and exit the station along another new passageway at this upper level directly on to Warwick Road bridge (from where you can spot the bus stops on the bridge) .….
There are stairs down to the ground floor level by the new gate line with a rather misleading sign advising that’s the way to go for both buses and taxis whereas we’ve established the most frequent buses go from the Warwick Road bridge bus stops at this upper level. If you arrive by train on platform 1 it’s actually better to ascend these stairs for buses rather than descend them as the sign indicates.
Staying on the upper level you soon reach the end of the passageway (we’re now above the passageway to the bus station at ground floor level) and more automatic doors take you out on to Warwick Road bridge ….
…. near the bus stops from where there’s the more frequent service to the city centre as well as buses to Warwick University.
You then cross the road at the Pelican crossing, walk over the bridge to the bus stop for the city centre….
… where there are old style shelters, real time information signs and posters as presumably this was outside the remit of the £82 million station revamp scheme.
Back by the original station entrance a natty new Visitor Information pod type thingy has appeared…
…. sadly devoid of any bus information (obviously neither NatEx West Midlands or Stagecoach print information to hand out in these “it’s all online” days – more on this in Thursday’s blog).
And that’s it. £82 million. A great improvement for many, but I’m not convinced any more bus passengers will be “encouraged”, despite Councillor O’Boyle’s excitement.
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