Waverley Steps blast to be thing of the past
PASSENGERS entering Scotland’s biggest station are to be protected from the wind and rain by a dramatic new tree-like steel and glass canopy, The Scotsman can reveal.
The Waverley Steps will be transformed under a 6.6 million project to form a revamped gateway between Edinburgh’s main station and Princes Street.
Two sets of escalators and a glass lift will be installed beside the refurbished flights of steps to improve access and cope with the increasing number of people using the A-listed complex.
Designs for the scheme are to be unveiled by Nicol Stephen, the transport minister, tomorrow at the launch of an exhibition at the station.
They show a single "up" escalator for the 40ft ascent from the station’s mezzanine walkway to a new paved plaza off Princes Street.
A series of three "down" escalators will carry passengers in the other direction, and also give access to two entrances to the Princes Mall shopping centre between them.
Two glass lifts are also incorporated in the design, while part of the width of the existing steps will be refurbished using sandstone to echo the adjacent Balmoral Hotel.
Steel columns will fan out into a branch-like latticework supporting overhead glass panels and provide a protected entrance from Princes Street. The space will also glow at night with "careful lighting effects", according to its designers.
The Waverley Steps have been a favourite meeting place for generations, but they have presented a formidable obstacle for passengers laden with luggage, or with disabilities, even in good weather.
A 1930s postcard, "Getting the Wind Up", shows pedestrians being blown off their feet by ferocious gusts funnelled up the steps to Princes Street.
David Smith, of Manchester-based architects Jefferson Sheard, said that the structure would end the notorious wind tunnel. He said: "It will no longer be a dark canyon, but a covered and sheltered environment that is warm and dry. The project will provide a landmark entrance for Waverley and a beacon for the station in Princes Street."
Mr Smith, whose firm has previously renovated the Balmoral’s stonework, said the tree-like design was so the glass canopy was self-supporting and did not rely on buildings such as the hotel.
Debbie Taylor, the hotel’s general manager, said it had had concerns with earlier versions of the design, but had yet to see the final plans.
Network Rail, which owns the station, said nearly 14,000 people a day used the steps - 40 per cent of Waverley’s passengers - and numbers had increased by half since 1990.
Work will start next January if planning consent is granted, when the steps will close for four months, and be completed at the end of next year.
The project will kick off the first, 150 million phase of the station’s redevelopment, with new platforms being built on its north and south sides between April and November next year. This may lead to all but the busiest platforms - 12-18 - being renumbered in a clockwise pattern.
Extra capacity for more trains will also be created by streamlining track layouts on the western approach to the station, beside Princes Street Gardens, which is the biggest bottleneck on the Scottish rail network.
Three options for a second and larger phase of the redevelopment are being discussed by the Scottish Executive, Network Rail and Edinburgh City Council. The schemes, costing an estimated 600-750 million, include more through platforms and a shopping centre above the station.
It is understood that a decision will have to be made within a year to ensure work would be complete by 2012, when the extra capacity created by the first phase is expected to be used up.
Funding for the Waverley Steps project is being provided by the Executive, which has also allocated money for the rest of phase one.
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