Situated just 4m beneath the station’s 12 platforms and spanning 132m in length, the tunnel, which closed in 2004, was previously used for Royal Mail postal trains to transport mail from the station out to regional sorting offices.
Crew Commander Mark Clifton, of Highgate Fire Station White Watch, who organised the exercise, said: “As firefighters we train daily and we were extremely grateful to Network Rail for the chance to test ourselves and our methods in this unusual environment.
“The tunnels were a perfect place to test new breathing apparatus, which can be worn for virtually double the time compared to kit we usually use.
“Around 40 firefighters from seven of our stations were involved in the two-hour exercise, which was based on a rescue scenario.”
Steve Lewis, Network Rail station manager said: “The tunnel beneath New Street is part of the station’s wealth of history and I’m sure the thousands of passengers that travel above have no idea of the maze of tunnels that lie below and across the wider city. We were delighted to be able to offer our colleagues at West Midlands Fire Service the tunnel as an environment for their exercise.”
When the station redevelopment completes in 2015, the tunnel will be used by the station’s train operating companies to access their staff accommodation and also CrossCountry Trains’ national rail catering centre.
Notes to editors
The redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station and creation of Grand Central Birmingham shopping centre is backed by Birmingham City Council, Network Rail, Department for Transport, Centro, European Development Fund and Advantage West Midlands.
Network Rail is delivering the project alongside its delivery partner Mace and delivers:
Space to accommodate passenger growth: the new concourse will be three and a half times bigger than at present and will have natural light flood throughout the giant atrium.
Better access for all: over 30 new escalators and 15 new public lifts will make it much easier to travel between the platforms and the concourse above.
Cutting edge design: a stunning new station façade will create a new landmark building in the heart of Birmingham.
The station will remain open throughout the redevelopment. The first half of the new station concourse opened to passengers in April 2013. Work has now started to redevelop the old station and Pallasades shopping centre above into Grand Central. The project completes in 2015.
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.