So, the all-singing all-dancing brand new station-plus-shopping-centre, re-labelled ‘Grand Central’, is due to open on 20 September. Great news for the city, no doubt, and for the thousands of commuters who use the station every day, and who have been shunted from pillar to post, from gantry to back alley, while the work has been grinding on.
Judging by the artists impression, the outside will be every bit as impressive as any massive new big-city development needs to be. The inside, though, might be a different story. Last time I saw it, a few months ago, it was all rather depressing. Fair enough, the works hadn’t yet been finalised, but they were finished enough to see what the end result was likely to be. And it wasn’t prepossessing. In fact, the planners seem to have managed to take a dark, dingy, dated and desperately crowded 1970s concourse-cum-shopping centre, and suck all the charm and life out of it.
Yes. That really is possible. Where there were shops (albeit small and rather scruffy) there now seem to be miles of blank, empty, concrete corridors with nothing much travelling along them except an icy draught. The lighting is stark, the signage poor to non-existent, and all landmarks have been swept away into a sterile open space that could exist at any airport in the world. Except this isn’t an airport, it’s a city centre shopping mall. It’s supposed to attract people indoors to, you know, shop. If it stays like that, people won’t so much be flocking in to the shops as flocking outwards to find the nearest exit.
Of course it may all change once they get some more shops open, including a vast new John Lewis anchor store. I really hope so. Because at the moment it’s about as attractive as a concrete nuclear bunker. And what a waste of £650 million that will have been….