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Now we must steam ahead on station plan.

Yesterday was a remarkable day. The rail industry finally produced a blueprint for change at the national disgrace that is New Street Station and, with unprecedented unity, everyone backs it.

Network Rail, train companies and Centro all agreed Will Alsop's plan was needed and needed now.

It is the kind of slow but positive movement a passenger squeezing himself onto a dangerously overcrowded platform at the station would kill for.

The upgrade is no major improvement but vital if the station is not to close for long periods during the rush hour.

This is a prospect too horrible to contemplate in a city gearing up for a huge increase of visitors when the Bullring opens.

Of course, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, the Government in Strategic Rail Authority clothing came along yesterday and told Birmingham to find the money itself.

Is it churlish to wonder why stations of lesser importance in Leeds and Manchester received healthy donations for successful rebuilds costing pounds 60 million and pounds 80 million respectively?

New Street is undoubtedly a huge, frighteningly complex and dauntingly expensive headache for the SRA, much more so than the stations mentioned above.

But it seems we are in the ludicrous national situation where the more urgent a problem is, the further it drops down the priority list.

The SRA's Jim Steer found himself in a tough situation yesterday. It was laudable such a senior figure made the trip from London, knowing he had not even crumbs to offer.

However, if the SRA is responsible for Government funds then it falls to Mr Steer and his colleagues to go back to Alistair Darling and press this urgent case straight away.

We won't shoot the messenger but we can certainly send him back with a flea in his ear.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 26, 2003
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