On wrong track: Major revamp of Haymarket 'not ambitious enough'

THE multi-million pound revamp of Haymarket station has been attacked by the Capital's leading heritage group, which has branded the plans "not ambitious enough".

INTERCHANGE: An artist's impression of how the proposed revamp of Haymarket as a train, bus and tram hub will appear once completed

The Cockburn Association said that it is also "disappointed" that Network Rail's scaled-back plans, expected to cost around 30m, do not go far enough in making the station a "transport hub" for trains, trams and buses, as originally intended.

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The civic trust branded plans for a glass link between the original building and the new extension as a "tired cliche", while also saying that the proposals are a "glaring mismatch" in scale when compared to the plans for the neighbouring former Morrison Street goods yard site by Irish developer Tiger.

But Network Rail insisted that the plans, expected to be judged by city planners early in the new year, will do what they are intended to do, by improving facilities and capacity for train passengers.

Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said: "We are supportive of the principle of improving the station for rail travellers, rather than developing it for commercial gain.

"However, we feel that this project is not ambitious enough and that there are opportunities to create a more dramatic approach at this arrival point into the city from the west.

"We are disappointed to see that little has been proposed to create the transportation hub which Haymarket is meant to be. The bus/tram interchange by TIE is less than ideal - westbound buses disgorge passengers on to the platform of the eastbound tram, which would take them back into the city - the taxi drop-off point is inadequate already and there is no car drop-off facility at all.

"For the fourth busiest rail station in Scotland, this is unacceptable and something which must be tackled in the general layout of the new station, even if it cannot be achieved immediately."

Ms Williams did welcome the plans to remove the existing "ugly structure" of the walkway and stairs to the platforms and called for the new foyer area to remain empty "in the manner of Grand Central in New York" rather than filled with kiosks.

The original 113m plan for the redevelopment of the station included new offices, flats and shops around the station, but stalled because of the shortage of investor support. There remains hope that some of the original elements will still be possible after the initial development is completed.

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Network Rail's development is part of a wider 1 billion package of measures that will see journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow slashed to 35 minutes.Details of the work first emerged as part of the Scottish Government's Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR), published in late 2008, and the project as detailed has been inherited by Network Rail.

It is designed to help the station cope with forecasts of passenger numbers more than doubling in the next 20 years from the existing 4.1 million passengers a year.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "Our main priority is to ensure there is capacity at Haymarket to deal with the increase in demand from passengers, from 4.1 million a year now to nine million by 2030.

"The priority is to have a modern, integrated facility that gives passengers the best station possible.

"I understand the Cockburn Association's comments on a much wider basis, but our focus is about the station having capacity to deal with the demands of the present and future. That is what we are responsible for and we will deliver it in the best way we can."