Update on plans to replace 'disgraceful' Sunderland train station with impressive new building
City councillors have welcomed progress on the planned redevelopment of Sunderland’s central railway station.
Transforming Cities funding has been secured to help develop the south entrance and to build a multi-storey car park nearby at Holmeside.
Further phases to transform the station’s north entrance and underground section are subject to future funding.
Council officers confirmed that a Network Rail contract with BAM for works on the south entrance will be in place by the end of October.
The existing south entrance will close to the public in December 2021 with all public access to the rail station taken through the north entrance – however this is not expected to impact train services.
Demolition of the south entrance building is also expected to start in December, with the replacement station set to be completed and open to the public in March 2023.
This will see a new building overlooking Market Square with a large glass wrap-around design, ticket facilities and reception, public toilets, waiting space and retail and cafe facilities.
An update was given during a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee on October 12.
Paul Littlefair, the council’s development director responsible for major projects, said plans aimed to reflect wider investments in the city centre while giving Sunderland a “station to be proud of.”
Councillors heard that Network Rail would own the new building and through their maintenance contract with Northern, would have responsibility for its upkeep.
In response to a question from councillor Usman Ali, it was confirmed that local traders would have an opportunity to lodge an interest with Network Rail and Northern for commercial spaces within the station.
In addition, an art strategy is being developed to run throughout the entire station from the south entrance, down to platform level and up through the north entrance.
Several councillors on the committee welcomed the redevelopment plans for the railway station and said they were long overdue.
Councillor Michael Dixon, addressing council officers directly, said: “I have lived in Sunderland all my life and I have been ashamed of [the station] quite frankly.
“There was the toilets [in Burger King], the escalators didn’t work, the lifts didn’t work, it was something to be embarrassed about.
“I went around communist Poland in 1981 and I think this railway station would have fitted very nicely actually, it’s been nothing short of a disgrace.
“So please get it right because it’s a fabulous opportunity for us and it will help the city enormously.”
He added: “When people slag Sunderland off, one of the first things they do say is the railway station […] looking at the [plans] I wish you well because it’s very much required and overdue.
“As somebody who loves my city, I really do hope you get it right because it’s massively important that you do.”
Councillor David Snowdon, who chairs the Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee, also welcomed the presentation.
“I think the funding has been much-needed and we have been talking about this train station for a long long time so it’s nice to see something has been done with it,” he said.
Having unlocked the funding needed to push ahead with the southern concourse and associated car park, the council aims to deliver the whole transformation programme within six years.
This includes a re-imagined north entrance with commercial space and works to the platform level, with the ambition to increase capacity by opening up another platform allowing for improved connectivity locally, regionally and nationally.
Project bosses are looking to develop a business case for the redevelopment of the north entrance with a target date to commence construction in April 2023.
A feasibility study is also being carried out around increasing the train station capacity and connectivity to the national rail network, with a target of implementing capacity works from mid-2025.