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The Modern GWR

The GWR’s Inspiring Cathedrals

On Friday, I stood among the rampaging hoardes of people at Paddington and found a quiet moment, before plunging down into the Underground, to admire and appreciate the work that has gone into the restored roof at Paddington.  It would have been such a tragedy if it had been torn down and it now it looks lovely.  The whole station has a completeness about it that really makes the most of its status as Brunel’s London masterpiece.

Nobody around me paid it any attention as they charged about with their heads down, which is a great shame.  I suspect that everyone feels better in such inspiring places and worse in ones that are nasty and closed in, even if they are not conscious of it.  It was always said that Brummies loved the old Snow Hill whereas New Street was dirty, smelly and unloved.  So, perversely the planners allowed Snow Hill to die and, with their eyes on the money they would get from the shopping mall above it, they rebuilt New Street into the underground urinal that it is today, where close to 100,000 people daily scurry around like rats in a sewer.

Happily, New Street is now becoming something altogether nicer and it would be comforting to believe that the days of destroying beautiful architecture in such important public places are over. Leamington Spa now boasts lots of lovely GWR features, thanks to Adrian Shooter, and maybe planners are starting to get the message from the public that their travel environment matters to them.

It’s not just the big stations. People also love the old GWR for its pretty country stations so they flock to our lovingly looked after heritage railways, to idyllic places like Highley and Dunster or Winchcombe, so they can sit in the sun with a pint and blissful expressions on their faces, watching the trains coming and going.  It’s all part of the quality of life, even if it doesn’t figure very highly in Network Rail’s economic bottom line.

So, I dont mind when people look at me with a degree of weirdness as I go on about what a pleasure it is to come and meet them at Bristol Temple Meads.  I’m just doing my bit to campaign for a more civilised way of travelling.

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