Saturday, June 02, 2012

Acocks Green Railway Station

A very interesting meeting yesterday afternoon with representatives from CENTRO and Mott Macdonald, who have been retained as consultants on the project to improve the accessibility at Acocks Green Station under the long running Access for All programme, which was an initiative of the last Labour government. Since the original proposals back in 2007, the scheme has undergone some delays and they now at the stage where they are ready to put a preferred option to Network Rail for approval. I'm grateful to Julia at the Acocks Green Focus Group for arranging this meeting and there were a number of interested participants there, including members of the Arden Road residents' group and the Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum.

Sadly, I can't bring you pictures of the designs, but I'll try to summarise them.

Acocks Green station - street frontage
Option 1 proposed putting a lift into the main station building, just behind the street door that leads down to the platform (on the left of the picture), with the shaft dropping down to a platform extended under the station building and the lift requiring users to turn right in the lift to exit to platform level. There would be a new lift tower dropping straight down beside the stairs to the car park and the existing roof line would be disrupted over the platform lift as well, to house the machinery. The left hand entrance would be bricked up and there would be a 'pinch point' for users of the stair case.

This option would require closure of the station for some weeks and would also have to be done at times when the contractors could take 'possession' of the line to allow them to work safely when no trains were running, which would mean a good deal of expensive overnight working.

Although superficially attractive, this wouldn't be in keeping with attempts to preserve the street scene with a conservation area. Further, the risks involved with the construction - Victorian buildings like this were not built to modern structural standards and the work involved underneath the station building would entail quite high risks.The 'pinch point' at the top of the stairs was also a problem, as it would funnel users through a narrowed entrance and would be a hefty change for existing users of the station.

Acocks Green station - view of platform & car park
Option 2 would install a new crossing, with a lift tower rising from the car park just beyond the end of the existing stairs (shown to the right) and a footbridge across to a new tower on the platform, again just at the end of the existing stairs. There would also be a new walkway running out from the station building to join the car park tower allowing access from the road level.

The advantages of this is that it would not require closure of the station and the least possible disruption to passenger use. Effectively, much of the tower work is pre-fabricated and installed to the site as an item. There would be no effect on the street scene, as the only changes to the existing building would be to build a new exit out of the rear of the building to the lift tower. It would preserve the most attractive part of the station - the ticket office building and the platform level has already been updated with modern furniture, so the new additions would not be out of keeping with that part of the station.

Lift and footbridge at Canterbury West
These two pictures to the left show similar constructions already in use - but I would stress that this is for illustration only. No final design has been prepared.
Lifts and footbridge at Selly Oak station

Option 3 was actually the original proposal submitted back in 2007 and would require some fairly hefty reconstruction, with passengers entering the station as now through the street exits and all being directed to a new bridge walkway constructed on the rear of the building with a lift down to the platform at the end or a right turn down onto a new flight of uncovered stairs. Similarly, there would be new stairs built on the car park side, wrapped around a new lift tower. This would also require a long term closure of the station - for up to 14 weeks and would be dependent on line access as well. There would also be the same concerns about integrating with the existing Victorian build as with Option 1. Also, this option does not now have support from either Network Rail or London Midland.

The preferred option is the second one, with the new build directly onto the platforms. While the meeting was in agreement that this was the best of the three, there were a number of issues raised about the finish of the towers - should they be distinctive and modern, to demonstrate the best of how the Victorians built for rail and how we do it in 2012 or should an attempt be made to keep them in the same style as the current building? Should the bridges be open, enclosed or glazed, with the implications for cost and user safety? The current plans envisage either open or enclosed walkways, although we are assured that these will be 'winterised' to cope with bad weather.

The final design is yet to be prepared and I intend to ask the contractors to return to talk to us - probably at a Ward Committee meeting - prior to submitting a planning application. I've stressed that getting public support would be beneficial, as we are lucky enough to have a number of local groups that take a real interest in the development of our area.

The next steps is for CENTRO/Mott McDonald to submit this outline to Network Rail for approval, which should be completed by August 2012. The proposals will then be put out to competitive tender and the project should have a contractor and detailed plans prepared for submission to Birmingham City Council by around Spring 2013, with construction likely in late 2013 or early 2014. Work has to be completed by May 2014.

Whatever happens, I'll keep you up to speed on how things progress.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

House of Play and Education celebration.

At the House of Play & Education award ceremony last week with Michael Sharman (HoPE), Saine Grandison - one of the successful course participants, Emma Payne from the Birmingham Play Care Network and myself. Really good to applaud a successful local project and look forward to working with them in the future

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Policing Update

Just a quick update on the policing front in Acocks Green, following the latest round of resident's meetings. Incidentally, you can keep up to date on the local neighbourhood team's public engagements here.These meetings are your chance to sit down with the local officers in your immediate area and talk about the issues that affect you. Do try to get along to the next meeting near you.

The police report that while crime is generally down in Acocks Green, there have been a few issues. Car crime - mostly theft from motor vehicles - has spiked lately, but much of this relates to theft of numberplates and a spate of thefts of wing mirrors from the new Mini. The plates are used to clone cars for use in crime or for use in petrol station forecourt drive-offs.

The Mini mirror thefts are simply because the mirrors are relatively easy to remove and fetch a good price - the BMW original part apparently retails for £300 a time, so a few thefts can prove very profitable for the offenders. There was a burst of these thefts, but they seem to have stopped lately.

The police also advise of a problem affecting thefts of BMWs, where the thieves lie in wait and when the driver leaves the vehicle and locks it using the remote fob, they use specialist equipment to capture the signal and either jam it to prevent the vehicle locking or alternatively to clone it to allow the car to be unlocked later.

The village has also seen a number of attempted purse dippings, particularly affecting our older residents, with at least one attempt stopped because of the sharp eyes of a shop assistant. We've got a good shop radio network and they do pass information between stores and to the police, so the message is that if you come to Acocks Green, we've got our eyes on you.

In other good news, eleven drug warrants have been executed in recent weeks in Acocks Green, shutting down four cannabis factories and removing over 100 fully-grown plants. Two people have been arrested in relation to offences relating to the supply of cannabis. In one, they found some outbuildings converted to a factory. The police say that where the producers used to use large properties or even factory units to produce cannabis on an industrial scale, they are now using multiple smaller locations to protect their crop against police activity.

The police need your help - these warrants all arose out of community information and they ask that you keep your eyes and nose open. Signs include permanently closed upstairs curtains, a strong smell of cannabis, excessive condensation, strange patterns of activity or people moving unusual equipment in, often at odd hours. If you see anything suspicious, you can either let the police know directly or call - anonymously - Crimestoppers on 0800 555 1111.

More generally, the police have offered some general crime prevention advice - make sure that you keep windows closed and back doors locked. The most recent burglary in this area was through an open window. In this current hot weather, if you must keep a window open, make sure that it is a high one and well away from a flat roof or drainpipes. As always, don't leave items on display - make sure that you even remove the satnav holder from the car, as thieves will break into vehicles assuming that the satnav itself is hidden in the glove compartment.