I was in Birmingham last week for a conference at the MacDonald Burlington Hotel in Burlington Arcade. When I first saw the hotel on the internet I wondered if it was connected to a well-know fast-food company (the clue’s in the spelling of course).
The hotel was fine with friendly and helpful staff and my executive room was spacious but it overlooked New Street and the noise from drunken revellers disturbed my sleep several times.
The Scottish Steak Club restaurant provided an excellent meal and good service but at London prices so be warned.
I’d travelled by train from Manchester and what a contrast. Birmingham New Street station is so enclosed, gloomy and unwelcoming (in fact it gets the joint lowest rating for customer satisfaction for any station on Network Rail) and is the busiest outside London working to twice its capacity.
It won the accolade of the second biggest eyesore in the UK from readers of Country Life magazine in 2008 and I can understand why.
The original station was built in Victorian times but the current version dates back to the 1960s. I spotted this stained glass window in the hotel, clearly a relic from the mid-19c when Midland Rail and LNWR jointly built the original station.
The good news is that it’s in the process of being redeveloped under the £550 million Gateway Plus project – but not increasing its capacity, so largely cosmetic by the sound of it.
They’ve just opened part of the new concourse with the overall redevelopment, including a revamped shopping centre, due for completion in 2015.
It’s reflecting the roadworks below but other than that is quite impressive.