When architect William Peachy conceived Middlesbrough Railway Station and agreed the final design in 1873, he the Victorian engineers and their workforce were about to create a landmark building that was to become the first railway station in the North East to be built in the bold gothic style adopted in our capital and other major cities throughout the UK.
Opened in 1877, the generous proportions, sophisticated construction and elaborate detailing of the ‘new’ station made a clear statement about the rapidly growing ambitions and needs of the town as a destination and the industrial powerhouse dubbed ‘an infant Hercules’.
The station defies its age but has not been able to fully survive the damage inflicted by the air raid on August Bank Holiday Monday 1942. Although the station was repaired and various features such as the concourse and roof have been repaired or replaced over the past 60 years, the legacy of the bomb damage to the undercroft – the area under the main car park and the arches along Zetland Road – brought about the closure of the southern entrance in 2014.
Now a grade 2 listed building, repairs were going to be expensive and intricate. I have campaigned strongly for the necessary work to be planned and completed as quickly as possible so the station could be fully re-opened to commuters, visitors, students and business users. Last year, I was delighted at Network Rail’s announcement of £3m of investment to repair and restore the Grade II listed station roof and stonework.
Today, behind the scaffolding and netting is emerging a wonderful new façade. Network Rail’s Principal Contractor, engineers, technicians and craftsmen are engaged in undertaking the refurbishment that will be true to the principles and vision of their Victorian counterparts. They are to be congratulated for their commitment and expertise.
I was invited on 19th January 2018 to visit the work that is now well underway and see for myself both the scope and scale of the remedial work that has been undertaken and also the significant structural problems that still need to be addressed.
Much of this is out of sight of the public eye but, even to a lay person, the repairs to the slate and barrelled roofs, the masonry and other structural components demonstrates the exceptional care and workmanship that has used locally sourced materials and employed traditional skills in keeping with the status of this magnificent building as well as our town’s traditions.
When completed, we will witness a landmark restoration that both channels Middlesbrough’s heritage and re-states the town’s ambitions in much the same way as our forebears were keen to do 150 years ago.
We will be able to celebrate a symbol of the further revival of our town centre and the city scape that opens up from the station towards its newly restored gothic-styled twin, the Town Hall, as well as it being the entranceway to the exciting, state of the art developments in Middlehaven.
There is still much work to be done as solutions to the underpinning of the car park are resolved and I anticipate further reports on how the designers and engineers will accomplish that. I then look forward to a completion date being set when our station is fully operable and in readiness to receive the long-trains – the express trains that will link Middlesbrough once again to London in 2021.
We aspire to a great deal in Middlesbrough socially, commercially and economically. The railway station will be a beacon for those aspirations and, importantly, a modern transport hub at the heart of our modern and progressive sub-region.