Fläkt Woods, a market leader in air movement technology, has supplied a ventilation and fire safety system at Birmingham New Street station, which was installed during the £750m transformation of the facilities.

Birmingham New Street station was officially opened by Network Rail in September 2015, following a five-year refurbishment programme. With an iconic new atrium over a passenger concourse five times the size of London Euston’s, the station has brighter, de-cluttered platforms, improved entrances and a range of new facilities.

One of Britain’s busiest inter-change stations, Birmingham New Street also has 43 shops at concourse level, and above it sits Grand Central – a 450,000sq ft shopping complex that includes one of the largest John Lewis department stores in the UK.

Fläkt Woods provided a Jet Thrust System for daily ventilation and fire safety, with over 100 fans fitted above the track at platform level. In addition, 14 control panels and over 100 carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors were supplied, in a contract worth £1.2 million.

The system provides life safety should a fire occur on platform level, by maintaining clear escape routes for occupants and a safe, secure area for West Midlands Fire Service to access and fight the fire. The system ensures that smoke will not travel up the open stairs and escalators to the concourse level above, which allowed the architect to remove line-of-sight blocking fire doors from the platform level.

In emergency mode the system also allows for directional flow of smoke along the platform. Under the extreme design conditions imposed on this very busy public building this also provides more tenable conditions for fire fighters during the latter stages of a fire.

Fläkt Woods worked with client Mace/Network Rail and key contractor NG Bailey to ensure the most suitable solution was provided, and, importantly, that the system could be installed while the station remained open.

An initial study for the jet thrust system was provided to confirm that the concept was workable, and following this Fläkt Woods provided a continuous design service as details evolved on site. This included a presentation of results to key stakeholders and increasing the life safety requirement of the system, for example by removing the fire doors and changing the platform access layout. As part of the continuous design process it was also agreed that the fans would be painted black to better match Birmingham New Street’s ceiling.

A factory acceptance test was provided before installation of the fans to make sure the customer was happy with their performance and the low noise they generated.

The fans were installed during a ‘temporary’ phase, allowing both the existing and new ventilation systems to coexist, meaning there was no reduction in fire safety protection to the platforms.

The new system offers a number of benefits over the existing one. Whereas the existing system operated at full speed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the new one operates on demand. Therefore, when electric trains pass through the station the system does not respond, as there are no pollutants, and diesel trains only activate the system as pollutant levels start to build up in the occupied zone, rather than in the void above the tracks. The speed of activation is modified depending on the levels of pollutant detected on a per-platform basis, and the system is designed to operate with any prevailing wind.

The fans can be maintained from platform side, which means Network Rail doesn’t need to use maintenance trains to access the units from the track – as would have been required with the original system.

Ross Barritt-Mehta, operational marketing manager for fire safety at Fläkt Woods, said: “Birmingham New Street station was rebuilt while trains continued to run as normal for the 170,000 passengers a day who use it – understandably making this a challenging project.

“The existing cooker-hood style ventilation system could not be removed before the new system was installed, and any new extract ductwork could not pass through the building above as the existing system did, as the area was to be opened up for the shopping mall atrium.

“This project has given Fläkt Woods an invaluable opportunity to prove its expertise in designing, modelling and providing a highly complex system.”

Fläkt Woods also provided jet thrust systems to the short stay and drop and go car parks and loading bay within the Birmingham New Street site.

Fläkt Woods is a leading manufacturer of ventilation and air movement products. Visit www.flaktwoods.co.uk for further information.