The project has been sympathetic to the heritage of Victoria, and the impressive Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway station building remains a dominant focal point. The glazed canopies to the front of the station have been restored and repainted, and the distinctive glazed destination panels brought back to their former glory.
The wood-fronted booking office building is another attractive feature of the station and the exterior of the structure has been re-varnished and repainted, while internally a false ceiling has been removed. Other repairs to the station have been carried out in what has been the most extensive restoration Victoria has benefitted from throughout its history.
Inside the station, the refreshment room has been restored and features a magnificent glazed dome with repainted framework.
The station houses three war memorials, including one commemorating employees of the L&YR who died in the First World War. This particular memorial, which is to be found below the impressive tiled L&YR route map at the side of the booking office, has been cleaned and restored.
Another highly-significant area of the station is Soldiers Gate, located on the station wall alongside the point where Metrolink services exit. This gate was the point at which soldiers accessed the station when going to fight in the war. The stone step which soldiers crossed has been retained, and artwork has been provided within the gate entrance itself to pay tribute to those soldiers who went through the gate but never returned. Network Rail’s willingness to commemorate the station’s link with the wartime period has earned it much praise.
When the Manchester Arena was built in the mid-1990s a large staircase was put in to allow concert goers access to the station below. However, the location of the staircase proved to be impractical; when concerts finished the large number of people entering the station caused serious congestion problems for other rail users.
Under the redevelopment of the arena, the staircase was demolished and relocated to exit the station on the concourse in front of the booking office, rather than close to the platform areas. It leads to a mezzanine level which carries a walkway over the station towards the arena, but remains very much still within the station environment. A new passenger lift and new retail units have also been provided in this area.
A number of redundant office units at concourse level have been restored and are being made available as retail space, while the toilet facilities have also been improved.
The massive expansion of the Metrolink network was also taken into consideration during the redevelopment of the station, with Network Rail working with Transport for Greater Manchester to design a new track layout and replacement platforms for the tramway.
The station was closed for 14 months while the work was carried out, with just a single line operating through the station for most of the time, albeit without trams calling at Victoria.
The island Metrolink platform which had been built in 1991 was demolished and some of the land which had previously stood vacant since the removal of Platform 6 was utilised to provide additional space for two new island platforms. These are lettered A to D and provide facilities for through services, as well as terminating and originating services to and from the station.
Work on the construction of a second city crossing of the Metrolink system is now nearing a conclusion and the new line is expected to be opened in early 2017. This new line deviates from the original city centre route just outside Victoria station, running along Corporation Street to a new tramstop at Exchange Square, directly outside the Arndale Centre. As part of the redevelopment Network Rail and their contractors from Morgan Sindall managed the installation of a complicated new track layout for Metrolink, with the first part of the second city crossing to Exchange Square being brought into use in December 2015.
Rail passenger services to Victoria are operated by Northern and TransPennine Express, and the station is managed by Northern. It is not unusual to see freight services pass through the station during the day, in between passenger workings. For many years the station operated as an open station, but during its redevelopment ticket gate lines were installed.
Network Rail is to be applauded for reversing Victoria’s fortunes, and the £44m facelift the station has received is only fitting for a transport hub that’s due to benefit from a huge increase in services and capacity following the introduction of more electrified services and the transfer of others from Piccadilly after completion of the Ordsall Chord project.
The restoration has been a tremendous success, and this side of the station is now a bright and pleasant place from which to catch a train. Although the scope for improving the environs of Platforms 3-6 is rather limited, Victoria now seems to have a new energy about it.
Lord Adonis can be justifiably proud that the report he commissioned, which classed the station as “the worst in the UK”, provided the impetus to kick-start what has been a rather stunning transformation. The ugly duckling is now a swan.