Broad Marsh back in business

Thursday 6th October 2022

Nottingham’s Broad Marsh bus station has finally reopened after a five year demolition and rebuild programme. It’s part of a £250 million regeneration of what’s called “Nottingham Southside” and also includes a new intu Broadmarsh centre, a Nottingham City Hub incorporating a new library and a redveloped Nottingham Castle.

Within “Nottingham Southside” is a sub project called “Southern Gateway” which incorporates re-routing of traffic, new public spaces, landscaping and enhanced pedestrian and cycle provision.

The new bus station and car park (as well as the shopping centre) were due to be ready for Autumn 2021 but delays in projects of this kind are not unusual and Broad Marsh has been true to form. National Express began using its two departure bays in June but Trentbarton and sister company Kinchbus only moved back in from Sunday when the bus departure area opened.

There’s been a subtle name change too.

It’s now called Broad Marsh, rather than Broadmarsh, although I see there was some confusion with both nomenclatures being used as a taste of what was to come when the bus station closed its doors in July 2017 and the “is now closed” poster gave a hint of the new regime.

Trentbarton has been a bit choosy in which bus routes it’s moved back to the new facility with high profile routes such as indigo and i4 continuing to terminate and layover in Friar Lane right by the centre of action next to Old Market Square.

Only seven bus routes comprising 20 buses an hour have returned to the new nine bay bus station, aside from Nat Ex’s exclusive two bays for its express coach departures said to number around 58 per day.

Bays 1 and 9 are unused.

Oddly, despite click through links from the above online announcements to timetable pages none of them have been updated and at the time of writing still show the various ‘temporary’ departure points around the city centre which won’t inspire confidence in using the new facility.

No doubt it will also take time for passengers to adjust travel habits formed over the last five years but it struck me just how quiet the gleaming new facility was when I visited on Tuesday lunch time, its second weekday of being open.

The concourse at midday on Tuesday

The new bus station is located in exactly the same location as previously and looks to have the same square shape ‘footprint’ as before.

Google still shows intu Broadmarsh Shopping Centre in situ

Demolition and redevelopment work is still continuing north of the site, including the former huge Broadmarsh shopping mall and other buildings as you can see from a wander around that area.

So for now the main entrance is on the south side of the site in Canal Street as you walk towards the city centre from the railway station.

Canal Street was at one time a major thoroughfare for traffic heading east to west around the city centre, but as part of the “Southern Gateway” project this has been subject to calming and restricted to buses and cycles with other traffic banished further south.

It certainly makes for a quieter and more pleasant approach to the bus station.

Entering through this southern entrance you’ll find the two side loading bays allocated to National Express which has a ticket/information office as well as machines for the purchase of tickets.

Electronic departure signs list upcoming departures.

Initially I was puzzled how to get to the nine bays for bus departures on the north side of the bus station, but then spotted a sign directing passengers left to the “Bus Station” (which I thought I’d already entered).

You’re directed past stand 11 …

…. past one of many electronic departure signs around the bus station …..

….. and then along a long corridor around the west side of the bus manoeuvring area ….

….. until you reach an area of seating …

…. and then the departure stands along the north side of the bus station.

The main thing you notice is the whole bus station is dependent on electronic screens for information.

They seem to be everywhere.

It’s a true digital bus station.

The screens show upcoming bus departures in time order as well as train departures at the nearby rail station which alternate with upcoming tram departures from the station tram stop.

At each of the nine bays there’s another screen with displays of a route map and reference to the service frequency alternating with a display showing the next few departures and a smaller version of the route map.

On the reverse side the screens display various images from around the city centre. Well, why not?

I didn’t spot it on my visit but blog reader John contacted me to explain “there are information screens on the reverse side of the real time stop screens that refer to transport options outside be it bus, train or tram. Under bus times option are real time departures for bus stops outside. You can click on each stop number to the left of the map to see departures from each specific stop.”

Photo courtesy John Nicholas

Apparently these are appearing at other ‘hubs’ around the city centre.

There are no ‘hard copy’ timetables on display or lists showing departures for later in the day or on other days of the week. I guess it’s assumed everyone has smartphones so such information doesn’t need to be publicly provided.

There’s also no ‘hard copy’ detailed information showing ‘where to catch your bus’ (by bus number/brand) not only for departures from the bus station but for the myriad of other stops in the city centre for all those bus routes which don’t use this bus station or the city’s second, Victoria bus station, north of the shopping area. There’s also no ‘hard copy’ network map/maps.

Electronic displays are all very well but they don’t necessarily mean comprehensive information provision is always on display, especially if screens are alternating and you don’t happen to catch the display you want. And what’s going to happen when there’s an inevitable failure? Showing an Error Code isn’t much good to a visitor unfamiliar with the bus station layout.

Furthermore the brightness of the concourse and the darkness and gloom of the manoeuvring area means it’s not easy to see when buses are on the stands.

There are plenty of seats in a communal area but only half a dozen by each departure point which seems odd.

The new bus station doesn’t feel quite as subterranean as its now demolished predecessor mainly because of modern lighting and segregation between passengers and the bus manoeuvring area. Previously passengers waited on a wider concourse alongside the buses in drive through bays which extended across the whole area but now the nine bays are all drive in on a staggered line up and reverse out.

As it was before closure in 2017

Whereas previously Trentbarton and Nottingham City Council had Travel Shops alongside other commercial retail units ….

Before closure

….. now there’s provision for two retail units with one looking like it’s been rented but I’m thinking the tenants may find the footfall disappointing.

It’s not clear whether Trentbarton are taking one of them.

Toilets are available and for those interested in ratios the Gents has five urinals, five cubicles, six wash taps, two soap dispensers and three hand dryers. The logic of this relative provision always mystifies me. Not surprisingly the facilities were all sparkling and clean.

A man with “Security” on his high-viz was on patrol to give passengers reassurance and limited information as needed.

Exits and entrances from the north, east and west side of the bus station concourse are still not quite completed and are a little confusing to visitors.

The bus station concourse is described as being on the “Lower Ground Floor” and although the sign indicates the escalator will take you to the Collin Street exit on the “Ground Floor”

…. when you reach the top you find it looks as though it’s blocked off which confused another person wandering around trying to leave, as well as myself.

This is where the link used to be to the Broadmarsh shopping area. I didn’t spot the actual exit to Collin Street around the corner so instead headed back down to the Bus Station.

The Collin Street exit/entrance is still in the middle of a public realm makeover.

Over on the west side of the site the entrance/exit in Carrington Street is next to the new Library that’s been constructed as part of the project and has yet to open.

The bus station site also incorporates a new 1,304 capacity multi-storey car park run by the City Council.

Unlike the bus station it was doing a roaring trade according to the coloured light space availability guidance system by the barriers when I visited on Tuesday with four of the six floors showing “Full”.

The car park opened as long ago as November 2021. Bearing in mind this is a prime city centre site and controlled by the City Council I’m surprised the parking charges aren’t even higher.

The work to transform the area around Broadmarsh continues. As explained, it’s a £250 million project with £25.3 million coming from the Local Growth Fund for the new bus station and car park as well as pedestrianisation and public realm improvements in the surrounding area.

The intu owned shopping centre which used to link into the old bus station has also been partly demolished. Google images shows how it used to look….

…. and this is how I found it on Tuesday.

There’s no doubt Nottingham City Council are characteristically persuing a radical overhaul and regeneration of this high profile part of the city centre and it’s always welcome to see investment in a brand new bus station, but what a shame it had to be a subterranean affair which despite the installation of good lighting and all the electronic monitor screens, or perhaps because of them, feels like a very sterile place to wait rather than offering a welcoming friendly atmosphere,

And I can’t help thinking it would have really been radical if the 1,304 capacity car park idea had been ditched in favour of more Park and Ride capacity on the edge of the city with further investment in the city’s already excellent bus network.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

22 thoughts on “Broad Marsh back in business

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  1. Great to see it looking so bright and clean. Its predecessor never was, even when brand new. That version was so gloomy it made one wish its crumbling open air ancestor had never been demolished.

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  2. One important item re Broadmarsh is that Intu is no more, the company collapsed in 2020.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-53287832

    What happens next is much debated, but without significant funding the answer is not a lot. So the new bus station serves an area of dereliction for perhaps years into the future, although the City has made a fair job of smartening up the walk way through the partly demolished shopping centre.

    The electronic pillars at each bay are interactive (not immediately obvious) and I need to spend more time playing with them to see just what information is there. And re smartphones, as the bus station is a concrete box I could get no signal, but another item for me to investigate later.

    David

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    1. At the moment INTU Shopping Centres PLC is in administration. There are 258 companies beneath it in a very complex structure and some are jointly owned. About 34 it seems are going into administration. The rest appear to be still trading at present, presumably they are looking to sell them as going concerns. Probably most of the land is now owned by INTU but leased so another complication

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  3. Hi Roger,
    Did you notice whether all these displays provided audio, or whether audio was provided in a different means, to support visually impaired users with navigation and access to the bus departure information?

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  4. Looks very nice and I remember that the old one was already dreary in the 90s.

    A question though. Are bus stations really so great for passengers? I get why operators need parking, bathroom and crew rest facilities. But in so many towns that have gleaming bus stations you see passengers getting on elsewhere. Because that is where they have been. In Kingston, you see this all the time. The busy bus stops are all by the market place not the two bus stations.

    Put another way: given that resources are not infinite ought investment monies prioritize bus stations or should the resources be devoted to other infrastructure?

    My belief is that politicians love big vanity projects (think HS2) but real value can come from far more practical, people focused investments.

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    1. Bus stations provide a central hub where people can easily change buses. They also can provide toilets and a cafe

      Th alternative is buses cluttering up the streets as bus lay over or the driver is taking a lunch break and people struggling to find where their bus stops

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      1. Yep, I get the specific benefits in isolation. But the key question is the relative priority of investment money. Most towns nowadays have plenty of cafes, for example. Toilets for drivers can be located on dedicated stands. Parking can be too, TfL do all that at some locations. Ought money to be invested in super large, cavernous bus stations that often are remote from where passengers want to go or rather in, say, improved bus lane, better vehicles or dedicated stands? What is the evidence on passengers changing buses and even needing a hub? Unfortunately, the funds to do everything are unlikely ever to be available. So prioritization is a relevant question.

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    1. I use the very busy 10 regularly and its route around the city centre (City Loop) is infinitely better than if it were to terminate at the Broad Marsh. It passes close by both inward and outward anyway.

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  5. Needs a fast food outlet as at night after 7 subway is closed maybe a Mac Donald’s or tim Horton in the old Sainsbury’s shop some were what is affordable cheap for tea coffe or soft drink 24+7

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  6. Broadmarsh bus station is quite a nightmare for users. For a start, it is not in the city centre and does not connect with and is a long way from the city centre bus station at the Victoria shopping centre. So in Nottingham we now have two unconnected bus stations, making it very difficult for people in the north and south to connect with shops, buses, the main library, etc.
    The design of Broadmarsh bus station also leaves much to be desired. Because of the extensive use of glass construction, it overheats in summer and is freezing cold in winter; seating areas are poorly located, with insufficient seats; toilet areas are insufficient; the public address system is very poor; the information systems are designed for young people with a degree in computing.
    There are several other poor design and thoughtless aspects to the Broadmarsh design and location, altogether definitely not user friendly!

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  7. I see that the bus screens sensibly use the 24 hour clock but they’ll be up against Trent Barton who insist on using the 12 hour clock in their timetables.If only Sir Jacob Rees Smog and Dame Coffee caught buses in the Midlands I think that I know which company they’d choose.

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  8. Just as a poin,t in the old Broadmarsh Bus Station it wasn’t Nottingham City Transport who had a travel office, but Nottingham City COUNCIL – with printed leaflets available for every operators services in the City. The City Council travel office is now in the Tourist Information Centre in the Old Market Square – where NO printed leaflets appear to be available…..

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  9. I don’t see bus stations as a destination, therefore their location in relation to services (shops, offices etc) is somewhat irrelevant. They should be places for buses to conveniently lay over off the street, and an interchange facility between primarily buses, but hopefully other modes too. Broad Marsh frustratingly is not particularly near the train station or a light rail stop…

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    1. Broad Marsh bus station is no more than 3 minutes walk to both the railway station and the Nottingham Tram.

      Google map here: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/Broadmarsh+Bus+Station,+49+Broad+Marsh+Shopping+Centre,+Nottingham+NG1+7LS/Nottingham,+Carrington+Street,+Nottingham/@52.9481337,-1.1496626,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x4879c3d49efef37b:0xe90b6d64301e73ce!2m2!1d-1.1474848!2d52.9492562!1m5!1m1!1s0x4879c3d308a8c8c9:0xeee8c9547652e1b2!2m2!1d-1.1468175!2d52.9470047!3e2

      All buses approaching from the south stop outside the railway station, and then either terminate in the bus station or continue into the city centre. The whole area is undergoing redevelopment since the collapse of intu who managed the former Broadmarsh Shopping Centre.

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  10. The advantage of Broad Marsh is it appears to be quite close to the rail station although few buses seem to serve Broadmarsh and the buses that actually go to the rail station don’t use Broadmarsh

    Is there a pedestrian route from Broad Marsh to the rail station and if so, is it well sign posted?

    At present is seems the Broadmarsh bus station does little more than just serve the shopping centre

    It seems to be very much large than needed for the small number of routes using it. Normally it is the other way around a new bus station is built smaller than is needed. Maybe longer term there are plans to have more routes using it

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  11. The valid point on bus station locations in Nottingham is that Victoria bus station is not really accessible from the city centre without a lengthy walk to the other end of the other shopping centre. Westbound buses starting there do call at stops in the city centre, but northbound routes turn northwards along (eg) Mansfield Road and don’t touch the city centre.

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    1. Yes, the operation of buses in Nottingham is very poor, now with two bus stations, no link between them and very poor routes for pedestrian access to them. Definitely not user friendly.

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  12. Thank you for this report, Roger.
    I’ve not been in to the new bus station. Indeed, I rarely visit Nottingham city centre although I only live about 5 miles away.

    Broad Marsh was the name of a road and of the area before the old shopping centre was built. I hadn’t noticed the change from two words to one at the new bus station. Providing train times at the bus station is useful. It’s a shame they use the Americanism “Train station”.

    The view of Lister Gate is much better than last time I was there. For a couple of years (at least) we’ve had to navigate an ever-changing wooden tunnel through the demolition site.

    I’m not sure how Alan O’Connor can claim that the new bus station is freezing cold in winter. It’s not been open in a winter yet.

    Bob – the pedestrian route from Broadmarsh to the railway station is easy. See Pete’s comment above (but a little after) yours. As to whether it’s signposted … I don’t know. The only road you have to cross is the bus-and-cycle only Canal Street.

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