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How Coventry Rail got a steel makeover

Coventry railway station bridge, lift shafts and canopy

In March 2022, an £82 million transformation of Coventry Railway Station was completed. Responsible for delivering the new structural and secondary steelwork for the station’s footbridge, canopies and lifts, Structural Fabrications Ltd had to rely on a constructible modelling software for real-time collaboration between all involved to help take it from initial design to reality.

The overall scheme was delivered for the Client, Coventry City Council, with interest from key stakeholders including Network Rail, Avanti, Transport for West Midlands and Friargate JV Project Ltd. The opening of the new station coincided with the 60-year anniversary of the existing Grade II listed station. Designed to cope with the increase in passenger numbers, the new station is around four times the size of the existing structure and offers vastly improved facilities; including: a state of the art new-look station building, 629-space car park, better platform access with a new footbridge and new retail units.

Appointed by principal contractor Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, Structural Fabrications Ltd (SFL) delivered the structural and secondary steelwork, curtain walling and cladding for the footbridges, staircases, lift shafts and platform canopies.

Suj Kang, Managing Director at Structural Fabrications Ltd, said, This was a very large project. In fact, due to the sheer size and complexity of the build, the project’s steelwork requirements actually increased from the original scope to over 400 tonnes – meaning that our project team had to undertake various builds within the package of works. As such, our use of constructible modelling software became even more valuable.

Coventry railway station roof membrane build

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of BIM software for SFL on this project was the ensuing collaboration, as Suj explained: Using Tekla, we were able to model and draw everything within the Tekla digital environment, before then converting this into an IFC file format and sharing with our client for them to easily import into their design systems. Of course, there will always be different modelling software around, but Tekla makes it easy to work with others, thanks to its emphasis on Open BIM and interoperability. What’s more, with Tekla’s layout points, it was even easier for everyone to work to the same details and the same points.

On a project of this scale, collaboration is always going to be important and having a software that helps facilitate effective collaboration is a big benefit. With many parties, subcontractors and project partners involved at any one time, all often working on different drawing systems, you really do need that common data environment and one central model. 

Another feature of the software that proved beneficial to us, being responsible for the delivery of both the footbridge canopies and lift shafts primary structural steel and secondary steelwork, was the ability to view the 3D model layer-by-layer, if required. This meant that we were able to easily remove and strip back layers to view what was underneath.

In addition to the large scope of steelwork required, another challenge faced by SFL was the architect’s requirement for smooth steel connections with zero tolerance on the steelwork, rather than the traditional flange to flange or plate to plate connection. An issue of aesthetics, it was agreed that the steelwork would have looked unsightly and impossible to build/glaze within the current design concept. 

Coventry railway station bridge, lift shafts and canopy

Suj explained: “As a result, within the drawing office, we had to design around this and incorporate “hidden” connections within the wider steel structure. It was certainly challenging and a part of the project where the digital environment and enhanced visualisation offered by Tekla was invaluable. When working on a non-standard detail such as this, being able to really see, visualise and explain the design and component to the client or wider team is key. It’s all about a digital rehearsal of the works – a picture really does tell a thousand words.”

All the structural steelwork was fabricated at SFL’s headquarters in Derby, before being delivered and installed on site, all to high levels of precision. 

As a business we’ve been using Trimble’s Tekla software (predominantly Tekla Structures) for around 10 years now – everything is Tekla-driven within the company and this project was no different. 

For us, it’s the software’s versatility and flexibility that puts it above other BIM software products on the market. With Trimble’s emphasis on interoperability, we’re easily able to convert the model into whatever format the client wants – we can fit into how the client works, which only boosts our collaboration capabilities.

Completed in March 2022, the new Coventry Rail Station is now open to passengers. SFL’s work on the project resulted in them being shortlisted in the Made in the Midlands Awards 2022. 

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