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Birmingham New Street was full of tourists on Sunday. Not tourists going anywhere: just people, mostly local, who had come to gaze in astonishment at the shining stranger unveiled for the first time in their their city.
“Amazing. Just amazing,” said Matt Hale, in danger of getting a crick in his neck from gazing upwards. “I mean, it’s really nice.”
As screens in the station recounted, after 1,825 days and nights, up to 3,500 people working round the clock, 12,000 tonnes of steel, 5,507 square metres of granite paving, new New Street Station was open for business, replacing the structure that had held the unenviable title of the most loathed railway station in Britain.
“We are expecting a high volume of passengers today,” the announcer said. “We hope you enjoy the new station.”
As a woman perched uncomfortably on a low steel rail pointed out, there are hardly any seats, patchy wifi, the cash machines weren’t working and she couldn’t find the loos. But what was stopping people in their tracks and turning their eyes up to the soaring new domed roof was the most welcome new feature: daylight.
Other commuters might take such a banal phenomenon for granted, but it’s more than half a century since Brummies last saw the light. Switching it on again meant cutting through and removing 6,000 tonnes of concrete, without closing the station. […]