The Queen has officially reopened the transformed Birmingham New Street station.
Accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty unveiled a plaque marking her visit – the first to New Street in her 62-year reign and her first visit to the city since her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by a host of dignitaries – including Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail and Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail – after arriving at the station on the Royal Train.
They were shown an exhibition of the station through the ages since it was first built in the 1880s and were introduced to many of those involved in building the latest incarnation. They also met staff who help meet the needs of the 170,000 passengers who use Birmingham New Street every day.
The new station, including the new Grand Central shopping complex, was unveiled in September this year after a five-year, £750m Network Rail project.
Today’s opening ceremony, which took place on the station’s stunning concourse under its vast atrium, included speeches from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Ray Hassall, and Sir Peter Hendy before her Majesty unveiled the special plaque which will take pride of place within the station.
The Queen also attended a short service of dedication, led by the Bishop of Birmingham, The Right Reverend David Urquhart, for the PALS War Memorial outside the new station. The PALS were volunteer soldiers from the city who were involved in World War I after signing up to the army in September 1914.
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “It was an honour to welcome The Queen to Birmingham New Street and be part of a very special day for Birmingham. For such an impressive and transformed station, it was fitting that it was officially reopened by Her Majesty.
“Birmingham New Street is helping to boost the regeneration of the city centre as well as provide the millions of passengers who use it with a modern, 21st century station. With the Grand Central development above it, it is a unique station which is vital to the continued development of Birmingham and the wider region.
“Our Railway Upgrade Plan is providing a better railway for passengers and this station is the latest example of how these improvements are benefiting millions of people and helping boost our economy at a local and national level.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who attended the reopening, said: “Birmingham New Street is a truly remarkable development that is not only providing better journeys for passengers, but also driving economic growth and regeneration across the West Midlands and beyond.
“This is just one example of the record investment we are making in the rail network across the UK as part of our long-term economic plan.”
Chris Montgomery, Network Rail’s project director who oversaw the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street, said: “The Queen officially reopening Birmingham New Street station is the culmination of many years of hard work by thousands of people involved in the project. This is a proud day for the project team, for Network Rail and for Birmingham.”
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham New Street station has undergone a magnificent transformation and, together with the Grand Central development, has transformed the gateway to our city.
“I am confident this project will pave the way for continued regeneration, creating many more jobs and opportunities for the people of Birmingham.”
The Queen and Duke’s visit was broadcast on the station’s largest ‘media eye’ at the front of the station for the public to watch while many also gathered inside.
The redeveloped Birmingham New Street station opened its doors to passengers on 20 September 2015 after a five-year, £750m transformation.
Boasting an iconic new atrium over a huge passenger concourse – five times the size of London Euston’s – the station has been rebuilt while trains continued to run as normal for the 170,000 passengers a day who use it.
With brighter, de-cluttered platforms, improved entrances, a range of new facilities and an abundance of natural light over the new concourse, Birmingham New Street, one of Britain’s busiest inter-change stations, is also a retail destination in its own right.
The new station will eventually feature 43 shops at concourse level. Above it sits the new Grand Central shopping complex, including one of the UK’s largest John Lewis department stores.