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Victoria: the rebirth of a railway station

The development, which was completed in 1995, resulted in a 21,000 capacity concert arena being constructed on the land around Victoria station. A large proportion of the station was demolished, the through platforms were reconstructed and the track layout dramatically reduced. A large car park and other facilities for the arena now stand on much of the former railway land.

Work on the station’s redevelopment continued throughout 1993 and 1994, and upon completion much of the former Victorian infrastructure had been swept away from the former through platform area. Under its new design, two terminus platforms stood alongside the main station concourse and were renumbered 1 and 2, with the former Platform 11 becoming Platform 3. A further three through platforms, numbered 4 to 6, had been constructed as part of the redevelopment and the main parts of the through platforms were located below the new arena, in addition to the three Metrolink platforms.

The new Platforms 3 to 6 gave the station a modern appearance, which attracted a mixed range of views from users who had been used to its previous spacious layout. Some likened its atmosphere to that of a London Underground station.

The devastating IRA bombing of Manchester city centre in June 1996 had a negative effect on Manchester Victoria due to its close proximity to the truck bomb’s detonation site on Corporation Street. 

The blast caused extensive damage to many buildings in the vicinity, and at Victoria a large number of windows were blown out by the force of the explosion. 

The bomb also caused extensive damage to the station’s already fragile trainshed roof, which spanned the terminus platforms and concourse. Much of the glazing was damaged and subsequently removed by Railtrack, as was the cladding from the end of the roof. This left just the steelwork frame and a few surviving glass panes to serve as a skeletal reminder of the shed’s former usefulness.

While Network Rail had invested a huge sum of money in the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly prior to the start of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, Victoria was largely passed by. The roof above the concourse, the Metrolink platforms, and Platforms 1 and 2 were all beginning to look a little worse for wear. Despite a project to restore one of the roof bays above the concourse, tackling the issues with the rest of the structure was too big a restoration project. Faced with the problem of water ingress, Metrolink was forced to close Platform A alongside the station concourse due to the tiled floor becoming slippery during inclement weather.

In November 2009 a report was published by the Government listing the ten worst stations in the UK, based on customer satisfaction and facilities. It was commissioned by Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis and compiled by former Virgin Trains and Network SouthEast chief Chris Green along with Sir Peter Hall, president of the Town and Country Planning Association. 

At the top of the list was Manchester Victoria. Having become the focus of unwanted attention, as part of the Northern Hub project Network Rail appointed architecture firm BDP to come up with a modern roof and station design to bring Victoria back to a standard befitting such an historic station. BDP had previously worked on various projects for Network Rail, including the successful redevelopment of Piccadilly station. 

In 2013 contractors Morgan Sindall began the huge task of replacing the roof over the station concourse, Metrolink platforms and terminus platforms. However, this was only part of what would become a stunning transformation, with many other areas of the station also receiving much-needed attention over the course of the next two-and-a-half years.

During 2013 the old station roof was finally removed and the steelwork scrapped. The new roof would feature 410 ETFE-cushioned panels, supported by 15 huge metal ribs spanning the width of the station and giving the impression of a floating roof. 

Although not transparent, the ETFE panels provided a versatile alternative to glass and allowed natural light to flood into the station. Unfortunately, in October 2016 one of the ETFE panels was damaged during heavy storms, sending a large volume of water cascading down onto the platform below and causing injury to two passengers in the process. A full safety inspection of the other panels was carried out by Network Rail and the damaged panel is set to be replaced.

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  • Manchester Mike - 15/03/2017 18:26

    Great history summary, thx.

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