Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Birmingham New Street (managed by Network Rail)

THE FUTURE IS HERE! I think. It's somewhere around here I'm sure.

Birmingham New Street. Birmingham's best and worst train station simultaneously. It's steadily getting better thanks to lots of improvements and refurbishments in both the station and the surrounding areas. It's costing lots of money and, in true Network Rail style, a long time. Also, just outside, the tram line is finally being built towards New Street (did you know Birmingham has trams? No? That's why they're extending it to the biggest railway station then).

Speaking of improvements, the toilets! Speaking of Network Rail, the confusion!

Birmingham New Street is currently split in two. The A-side and the B-side. Don't let the lettering fool you, it's the opposite to singles where the A-side is what you actually want and the B-side is something thrown in for good measure. T'other way round this time. If you alight your train on the "B" side of the platform, go up the escalators and you will find yourself in the new section of the station. Food places, ticket office, shops, etc. There are two passageways into the central section (where the exits are) from the "B" section. Section "A" however, has not yet had its upgrades. Enter the station from the platform in the "A" section, and you have a very long corridor with only one way out (on the lower number end, so you've got a long way if you arrive on platform 12A).

Now then, to toilets. Section "B" has the toilets right at the platform 12B end of the corridor (if you arrive on platform 1B, you're gonna have to run). Standard Network Rail 30p entrance fee to get in though. More on whether it's worth it in a moment. HOWEVER, if you arrive on the "A" side, how long it takes to get to somewhere to relieve yourself depends on your gender. The "A" side currently only has female facilities available (between the platform 5 and 6 escalators by the single exit to the central area). So, if you're a bloke on the A side, you have to go all the way to passageway (including ticket barriers) into the central area, across the central area, through one of B side's ticket barriers, down the corridor towards platform 12B, pay your entry fee and get in. Hope you made it. Might be quicker to go down to the platform and across to the B side escalators and back up again.

In all fairness to Network Rail, there are gents toilets being refurbished/replaced on the A side which may open in future to the closing of the female toilets instead, but I don't know. I thought it was worth mentioning here though.

Right, onto the actual gents loos. After paying your entry fee, there's a few differences to other Network Rail-run station loos. First off, it smells fine. No problems with stocking air fresheners here unlike Euston. The thrones themselves have a problem though. One which I shall go into great detail about:

I had to tilt.

Okay, more detail needed. The new toilets in New Street have proximity/motion sensors for flushing (like I said, the future is here). Typically, this involves waving your hand in front of the sensor. However, there is a problem with these sensors, as I found sitting down and leaning back (as you would normally) sets them off. In the name of this blog, I had to investigate with a Vine:

That's quite a distance it gets set off, and perhaps it's a little too low as well. So, in order to counteract this and continue with my business, I had to A) tilt to the side, and B) tilt forwards, resulting in being diagonal to the back of the stall. Uncomfortable, I can tell you. Fortunately, the seat was very clean, so rotating myself didn't result in introducing myself to any remains from prior users. One final thing, the dryers were some non-branded generic ones, not the Dyson ones that Manchester Pic and Euston use, so they were like being coughed on by an asthmatic.

After my visit, I did have to inform Network Rail staff that the sensors were malfunctioning or badly placed. One staff member mentioned that their reflective clothing sets the sensors off from quite a distance too, but agreed that there may be a problem with the specific stall. Hopefully this gets fixed, but it was very unpleasant.

So, time to round up with scores. Two points lost for gents only being on the B-side (they get this point back when the ones on the A-side open up), point lost for having rubbish dryers, only one point lost for the broken sensor as this might get fixed, add one point for having air fresheners that worked very well, points sustained for clean seats and dry floors.

All totalled up, 7/10

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