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Getting ready for kick-off

Rail Tube station rebuild

A tight budget and condensed programme make rebuilding Wembley Park Tube station a big challenge. Ruby Kitching reports.

No-one passing through north west London could fail to notice the arch of the new Wembley Stadium dominating the skyline.

Perhaps less noticeable are the changes taking place to the area's rail infrastructure, in preparation for the stadium opening in 2006.

Some 90,000 spectators - 10,000 more than before - will then pass down Wembley Way to Wembley Park underground station after matches.

Ahead of this increased demand the station is undergoing a £42M rebuild that will allow it to handle a 70% increase in passenger numbers from 22,000 people per hour to 34,500.

The rebuild will also ensure that the run down station looks part of a world class sporting venue - £10M of the £42M will go on aesthetic improvements.

Work began in April and should be mostly complete by September 2005 when the stadium is due to host some warm-up events. The final deadline is May 2006, ahead of the official opening for the FA Cup final.

An upgrade of Wembley Park station has been on the cards for years. Architect Pascall & Watson originally worked on a £90M scheme to rebuild the station in 1998. But the muchpublicised delay to work on the main stadium held up work on the station and funding was lost.

'When funding was secured and the stadium works had begun London Underground (LUL) project cost had diminished to just £25M, ' says project architect Michael Haste.

The project was revived with the help of tube maintenance contractor Tube Lines. Its 30 year public private partnership deal includes modernising stations by upgrading lighting, PA systems and communication equipment.

Combining this work with the separate capacity enhancement project gave the job the funds needed to proceed, with £23M of the £42M sourced outside the PPP contract. Wembley National Stadium Ltd is providing £9M; the Department for Transport and Transport for London £7M each.

The project involves piling for new structures, building new platforms, canopies, a new concourse and ticket office, erecting a new station roof, widening the entrance stairs, building new emergency stairs, providing lifts to platforms and modernising the public address system and closed circuit television. A new three storey administration building will also be built on the site. Taylor Woodrow is the main contractor and Arup the engineer.

'The biggest challenge is the timescale, ' says Tube Lines project manager Shaun Kenny.

'Usually it takes two to three years to carry out a £10M modernisation project. Here we're spending four times as much in half the time.'

To complete the Wembley work in the time allocated, engineers considered completely closing the station for six months. But this proved unpopular with local businesses and residents.

Instead, careful planning will allow the work to be done with trains still running.

'We spent four months convincing LUL that the work could be done during weekend possessions and careful timetabling during the week, ' says London Underground project delivery manager Martin Gosling.

Platform demolition will take place from September when new timetables come into force. These will allow platforms 1, 4 and 5 to be closed until February 2005.

Work will then switch to platforms 2, 3 and 6 between February and May.

Demolition of structures outside the main station building is already complete.

The first major internal demolition will involve removing the stairs down to the platform and installing lifts.

The platform canopy is then dismantled to allow piling for a new, larger, concourse structure.

The new steel framed concourse will arrive in modules.

'The job is so compressed, we need simple robust designs which we can build quickly, ' says Kenny.

Kenny was originally a Bechtel man and is trained under the 'Six Sigma' management tool that seeks out efficiencies wherever possible.

'Saving one minute on a repetitive job could save you a thousand minutes by the end of the project, ' he says.

Kenny also plans to keep a tight ship by having tools craned in in skips just before shifts. Forward planning will ensure that tools are not forgotten, he says.

'We will build up a system where spare parts can be located if things do go wrong.

We're looking to beat the September deadline, ' he says.

The most noticeable aspects of the new station will be the mammoth 'Bobby Moore' steps - named after a mosaic of the famous footballer built into the bottom of the stairs - and a stainless steel spike supporting the 'bubblewrap' ethyltetraflouroethylene (ETFE) station roof.

Haste is keen to recreate some of the excitement of the stadium in the station by using inflated cushions of ETFE polymer for the roof, as used in Cornwall's Eden Project.

'The advantages are that the roof is much lighter, so the supporting structure can be column free and cheaper, ' says Haste. 'It also allows daylight to flood the ticket office.'

The stainless steel spike started off as a much grander homage to the Skylon that featured in the 1951 Festival of Britain. Reduced in size, the spike and roof will still be lit up and act as a beacon at the other end of Wembley Way.

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