Page last updated at 20:08 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

First bus leaves revamped Birmingham coach station

The newly opened Digbeth coach station
England coach Fabio Capello will officially open the new station

The first buses have left Birmingham's Digbeth Coach Station following a £15m revamp.

The station, which has been shut since November 2007, includes a new concourse, information centre, a cafe, shop and toilets.

During the closure coaches have been operating from a temporary station on the opposite side of Digbeth.

The coach station will be officially opened on Friday by England football manager Fabio Capello.

Peter Plisner, BBC Midlands Today transport correspondent

The opening of what is now being called "Birmingham Coach Station" brings to an end a protracted saga which has lasted more than a decade. The old Digbeth Coach Station was universally hated by passengers. It was originally used as a Midland Red bus garage, and later converted into a coach station. Dark and dingy, it was never an ideal arrival point for people coming to Britain's second city. Unsurprisingly National Express coach firm was keen to provide a more modern and appealing coach station. It originally sought to move away from Digbeth with two alternative sites being seriously consider. Both were close to Snow Hill railway station, but, despite several years of planning, both schemes fell through. By then Digbeth had become a much more desirable site. The opening of the Bullring shopping centre and the planned regeneration of Birmingham's Eastside meant the site of the existing coach station became more attractive for redevelopment.

'So proud'

Three million people per year are expected to pass through the new station, which was designed by SBS Architects.

Birmingham Coach Station features a sweeping copper canopy, an open plan concourse, 16 coach bays and numerous retail outlets.

The first coach to leave the new station was driven by Ray Wicketts, who was also the last employee to drive a coach out of the old site.

Paul Bunting, of National Express, said: "We are so proud to welcome people back to the new Birmingham Coach Station.

"Just two years since the old station closed Birmingham's exciting new transport gateway is open and the people of Birmingham will be proud of it for many years to come."

The first coach, from the new-look station which is a base for National Express, left at 0800 GMT.

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