Light at the end of the tunnel, July 2009

Photo:Cllr Geoffrey Theobald pulled the switch to turn on the lights

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald pulled the switch to turn on the lights

Photo by Henry Bruce

Photo:The new lighting

The new lighting

Photo by Henry Bruce

In the undercroft, top of Trafalgar Street

By Jackie Fuller, North Laine resident

The tunnel under the railway at the top of Trafalgar Street used to be a dark and threatening place. Arriving at the station late at night I always had to grit my teeth before walking through it to get home, wondering who might be lurking in its hidden alcoves. Tourists arriving at Brighton Station would take one look at this uninviting way into the city and head straight down Queen's Road instead.

New coloured lighting

But not any more. Following the earlier installation of attractive new paving, the tunnel has recently been further improved with the installation of coloured lighting and the repainting of some of the woodwork. It's all part of a plan to get visitors into this part of town instead of letting them just head straight down to the seafront.

A formal switch-on

There was a formal switch-on ceremony of the new lighting on 14 July 2009, with Cllr Geoffrey Theobald pulling the switch, and invited guests were welcomed at a reception hosted by Chris Littledale, founder and Director of the Toy Museum, and by Alan Pett, Chairman of the Trustees. The Brighton Toy & Model Museum, with its entrance in the tunnel itself, is a national treasure and is now also an authorised Visitor Information Point. As part of his welcoming speech Chris gave a potted history of the building in which the Toy Museum is housed (once the Station's stables). He also gave an amazingly authentic sounding live impression of the days of steam, which really took me back to my youth!

Suggested by the 'legibility' study

The idea of installing lighting features in the Trafalgar Street tunnel and other key areas of the city came from the 'legibility' study undertaken by Gehl Associates a couple of years ago, one result of which was the recently redesigned New Road, which has been a great success. New signage was also recommended and this is now on its way. A new sign, strategically placed, should help to direct visitors through the tunnel to the North Laine.

A more welcoming place

The new coloured lighting in the tunnel was designed by Adrian Stewart and was executed by Colas, the street lighting maintenance engineers. It uses modern technology and is low energy. Adrian's idea was to make the tunnel a welcoming space in its own right, not just a way of getting quickly from A to B. The beautiful colours change every few seconds, going through the spectrum, and some of these seem to complement the existing brickwork particularly well. Where there is discoloration the lighting almost makes it into a feature. The actual colour cycle is capable of being controlled and changed, which perhaps opens up future possibilities for different events or for different times of the year.

Other lighting features in the city

A similar lighting feature to the one in the Trafalgar Street tunnel has been installed under the viaduct that we all pass through when we enter the city by car and, as part of the seafront regeneration in what used to be a dark and bleak stretch of Madeira Drive just past the Concorde, there is now new blue lighting picking out the features of the colonnades there - in all cases using low energy LED lights. It's all part of making Brighton more welcoming and visitor friendly.

See it after dark

If you haven't yet seen the new lighting in the Trafalgar Street tunnel, take a walk up there after dark. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 199, July/August 2009]

This page was added on 02/08/2009.

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