Birmingham New Street railway station

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Birmingham New Street National Rail
2015-09-23 Birmingham New St Station.jpg
The east end of the station. Note the newly rebuilt and refurbished building which opened in 2015.
Place Birmingham
Local authority City of Birmingham
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Grid reference SP069866
Station code BHM
Managed by Network Rail
Number of platforms 13 (1-12a, 1-12b + 4c, which is a separate platform at the end of 4b)
DfT category A
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2002/03      14.221 million
2004/05 Increase 16.244 million
2005/06 Increase 17.303 million
2006/07 Decrease 14.525 million
2007/08 Increase 17.007 million
2008/09 Increase 25.192 million
2009/10 Increase 25.268 million
2010/11 Decrease 24.687 million
2011/12 Increase 31.213 million
2012/13 Increase 32.090 million
2013/14 Increase 34.748 million
2014/15 Increase 35.313 million
Passenger Transport Executive
PTE West Midlands
Zone 1
Original company London & North Western Railway
1 June 1854 First opened
8 February 1885 Extension opened
1964-1967 Rebuilt
2010-2015 Redeveloped
National RailUK railway stations


* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Birmingham New Street from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
UK Railways portal

Birmingham New Street is the largest and busiest of the three main railway stations serving Birmingham, England. It is in the city centre and is a central hub of the British railway system. It is a major destination for Virgin Trains services from London Euston, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley via the West Coast Main Line,[1] and the national hub of the CrossCountry network – the most extensive in Britain, with long-distance trains serving destinations from Aberdeen to Penzance.[2] It is also a major hub for local and suburban services within the West Midlands, including those on the Cross City Line between Lichfield Trent Valley and Redditch and the Chase Line to Walsall and Rugeley Trent Valley.

The station is named after New Street, which runs parallel to the station, although the station has never had a direct entrance to New Street except via the Shopping Centre. Historically the main entrance to the station was on Stephenson Street, just off New Street. Today the station has entrances on Stephenson Street, Smallbrook Queensway, Hill Street and Navigation Street.

New Street is the eighth busiest railway station in the UK and the busiest outside London, with 35.3 million passenger entries and exits between April 2014 and March 2015.[3] It is also the busiest interchange station outside London, with over 5.4 million passengers changing trains at the station annually.[4]

The original New Street station opened in 1854. At the time of its construction, the station had the largest single-span arched roof in the world,[5] accommodating not only the London and North Western Railway but also the Midland Railway, the Birmingham and Bristol Railway, and the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway.[6]

In the 1960s, the station was completely rebuilt. An enclosed station, with buildings over most of its span and passenger numbers more than twice those it was designed for,[5] the replacement was not popular with its users, having a customer satisfaction rate of only 52% - the joint lowest of any Network Rail major station.[7]

A £550m redevelopment of the station named Gateway Plus opened in September 2015. It includes a new concourse, a new exterior facade, and a new entrance on Stephenson Street.[8][9] New Street will also become the terminus of the city-centre extension of the Midland Metro, with a new tram stop on Stephenson Street, also expected be finished by 2016.[10]

Around 80% of train services to Birmingham go through New Street.[11] The other major city-centre stations in Birmingham are Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill. On the outskirts, closer to Solihull, is Birmingham International, which serves Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre.

The station is allocated the IATA location identifier QQN.


The first railway stations

An aerial view of the original New Street from the early 20th century, showing the LNWR and Midland stations side by side, with Queens Drive between them

New Street station was built as a joint station by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and the Midland Railway between 1846 and 1854 to replace several earlier rail termini, most notably Curzon Street.

For the first 31 years, the station was used by LNWR and Midland Railway trains. However, in 1885 the Midland Railway opened its own trainshed alongside the original one for the exclusive use of its trains, effectively creating two stations side-by-side. The two companies stations were separated by a central roadway; Queens Drive.

Traffic grew steadily, and by 1900 New Street had become extremely busy, with an average of 40 trains an hour departing and arriving, rising to 53 trains in the peak hours.[12]

Original LNWR station

The station was formally opened on 1 June 1854,[11] although it had already been in use for two years. On which day LNWR's Curzon Street railway station was closed. The London and North Western Railway had obtained an Act of Parliament in 1846, to extend their line into the centre of Birmingham, which involved the acquisition of some 1.2 hectares (3 acres) of land, and the demolition of 70 or so houses in Peck Lane, The Froggery, Queen Street, and Colmore Street.[13] The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion chapel, on the corner of Peck Lane and Dudley Street, which had only been built six years before,[14] was also demolished.[15]

The main entrance building to the old station on Stephenson Street, incorporating Queen's Hotel, c1910
The interior of the original LNWR station in the late 19th Century, with its once record breaking roof

The station was constructed by Messrs. Fox, Henderson & Co. and designed by Edward Alfred Cowper of that firm. When completed, it had the largest arched single-span iron and glass roof in the world, spanning a width of 212 feet (65 m) and being 840 ft (256 m) long.[11] It held this title for 14 years until St Pancras station opened in 1868.[16][17] When first opened, New Street was described as the "Grand Central Station at Birmingham".[18]

The main entrance building on Stephenson Street incorporated Queen's Hotel, designed by William Livock, which was opened on the same day. The Queen's Hotel was built in an Italianate style and was originally provided with 60 rooms. The hotel was expanded several times over the years, and reached its final form in 1917 with the addition of a new west wing.[11][19]

The scale of the station at this time can be taken from the station's entry in the 1863 edition of Bradshaw's Guide:[20]

The roof of the original station was strengthened with additional steel tie bars during 1906–7, this was done as a precaution following the collapse of a similar roof at Charing Cross station in 1905.[21]

During World War II, Cowper's roof sustained extensive bomb damage as a result of air raids during the Birmingham Blitz. After the war, the remains of the roof were dismantled after being deemed beyond economic repair. It was replaced with basic 'austerity' canopies over the platforms, made from surplus war materials, which remained in use until the station was rebuilt in the 1960s.[22][23][24]

Midland Railway extension

Midland Railway's extension of New Street station, in 1885

Midland Railway trains that had used Curzon Street began to use New Street from 1854. However, its use by the Midland Railway was limited by the fact that those trains going between Derby and Bristol would have to reverse, so many trains bypassed New Street and ran through Camp Hill. This was remedied in 1885 by the extension into New Street of the Birmingham West Suburban Railway. This allowed through trains to the south-west to run through New Street without reversing.[25]

To cope with the increase in traffic this would bring, the station required an extension. In conjunction with the new link, the Midland Railway opened its extension on 8 February 1885.[11] This extension consisted of a trainshed with two trussed arches, 58 ft (18 m) wide by 620 ft (189 m) long, and 67 ft 6 in (21 m) wide by 600 ft (183 m) long. It was designed by F. Stevenson, Chief Engineer to the LNWR.[11]

It was built immediately to the south of the original LNWR trainshed, but was linked by a footbridge. Queens Drive became a central carriageway separating the two companies trainsheds.[26] Queens Drive was lost in the rebuilding of the 1960s, but the name is now carried by a new driveway which serves the car park and a tower block, and is the access route for the station's taxis.

In 1923, the LNWR and Midland Railway, with others, were grouped into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) by the Railways Act 1921. In 1948, the railways were nationalised and came under the control of British Railways.

1960s rebuild

The concrete external architecture of the 1960s station

The station was rebuilt in the 1960s as part of the West Coast Main Line modernisation programme. In 1964, demolition of the original New Street station and Queen's Hotel began and was not completed until 1966.[27] The new New Street station was finished in 1967. The 1960s station was redeveloped in 2010-15.

The rebuilt station was designed by Kenneth J. Davies, lead planner for the London Midland Region at British Rail.[28] The concrete constructed design was widely criticised for being ugly.[29] The station has 12 through platforms which are covered over by a seven-acre (2.8 ha) concrete deck, which is supported by 200 columns; the concourse and other buildings are built above the platforms upon the deck. Escalators, stairs and lifts are provided to reach the platforms from the concourse. The new station had sold its air rights, leading to the construction of the Pallasades Shopping Centre (then known as the Birmingham Shopping Centre) above the station between 1968 and 1970.[19][28][30] The station and the Pallasades are now partly integrated with the Bullring Shopping Centre via elevated walkways above Smallbrook Queensway.

Approach tracks, platforms and exterior of 1960s New Street from the east.

Also above the station is a nine-storey office block called Ladywood House,[31] and a multi-storey car park dating from the 1970s. The car park closed in May 2012 and was demolished to provide space for the new concourse and rebuilt.[32] Stephenson Tower, a 20-storey residential tower block, was built alongside the station between 1965 and 1966.[33] The tower, designed by the City Architect of Birmingham, was demolished in March 2012 as part of the station redevelopment.[34]

In 1987, twelve different horse sculptures by Kevin Atherton, titled Iron Horse, were erected between New Street station and Wolverhampton at a cost of £12,000.[35][36] One stands on a platform at New Street.[37]

New Street signal box

New Street signal box

The power signal box at New Street was completed in 1964.[11] The signal box is a brutalist building with corrugated concrete architecture, designed by Bicknell & Hamilton in collaboration with W. R. Healey, the regional architect for British Railways London Midland Region.[38] The four-storey structure is at the side of the tracks connected to Navigation Street. It is now a Grade II-listed building.[39][40]

2010–2015 redevelopment

The eastern entrance to the station

In November 2003 the station was voted the second biggest "eyesore" in the UK by readers of Country Life magazine.[41] This might be blamed on the sub-surface nature of the station and the 1960s architecture. New Street was voted joint worst station for customer satisfaction with Liverpool Lime Street and East Croydon, with only 52% satisfied; the national average was 60%.[7]

Furthermore, the 1960s station became increasingly inadequate to cope with the passenger numbers, which rose to a far higher number than it was designed to handle. New Street was designed to cater for 650 trains and 60,000 passengers per day. In 2008 it catered for 1,350 trains and over 120,000 passengers per day.[42] This increased further to 140,000 by 2013.[43] This made overcrowding and closures on safety grounds more common.[44]

A feasibility study into the redevelopment of the station was approved in January 2005. A regeneration scheme was launched in 2006.[45] Since then, the scheme has taken various forms, and various names, such as Birmingham Gateway, Gateway Plus, and New Street Gateway. This proposed complete rebuilding of the street-level buildings and refurbishment of the platforms, with track and platform level remaining essentially unchanged. A target date given for completion was 2013.

In February 2008, the then Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, announced that the Department for Transport would provide £160 million on top of the £128 million that is to be provided through the government White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway.[46] A further £100 million would be provided by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and channelled through Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency. The announcement brought total government spending on the project to £388 million.[47] After earlier proposals were discarded, six architects were shortlisted to design the new station following a call for submissions,[48] and it was announced in September 2008 that the design by Foreign Office Architects had been chosen.[49]

The fact that the Gateway development leaves the railway capacity of the station more or less unaltered has not escaped attention. In July 2008 the House of Commons Transport Committee criticised the plans: it was not convinced they were adequate for the number of trains which could end up using the station. It said if the station could not be adapted, the government needed to look for alternative solutions.[50] Designs were shown to the public in February 2006 for a new Birmingham New Street Station in a project known as Gateway Plus.[51]

The new concourse completed in September 2015.

The approved planning application submitted to the council in August 2006 showed a glass façade with rounded edges. The entrance on Station Street originally included two curved 130-metre-tall towers on the site of Stephenson Tower. Due to the economic slowdown, the "twin towers" plan was shelved.[52]

The final approved plans for the redevelopment included:[9]

  • A new concourse three and a half times larger than the 1960s concourse, with a domed atrium at the centre to let in natural light.
  • Refurbished platforms reached by new escalators and lifts.
  • A new station facade, and new entrances.
  • The refurbished Pallasades Shopping Centre was renamed 'Grand Central Birmingham' and includes a new John Lewis store.[53]

Work began on the redevelopment on 26 April 2010.[54] Construction was completed in phases to minimise disruption. On 28 April 2013, one half of the new concourse was opened to the public, and the old 1960s concourse was closed for redevelopment, along with the old entrances.[55] The complete concourse opened on 20 September 2015, the Grand Central shopping centre opened on the 24th.[56][57]

During heavy winds on 30 December 2015, several roof tiles blew off, landing in the adjacent Station Street, which was therefore closed by the police as a precautionary measure.[58]

Midland Metro

Birmingham New Street
Midland Metro
Midland Metro tram stop
Location Stephenson Street
Birmingham city centre
Line(s) Line 1 (Birmingham – Wolverhampton)
Platforms 2 when operational
Opened Due February 2016
Passengers N/A

Initially, New Street station was planned to act as the terminus of the Midland Metro extension to Line One through the city centre. However, in October 2013 Birmingham City Council voted to extend the new development works, adding a further two stops beyond New Street, at the Town Hall and Centenary Square. As the two additional stops are due to be completed in 2017, New Street will only serve as the terminus of Line One between 2016 and 2017. The new tram stop will be alongside the new main station entrance on Stephenson Street, and will provide a link to Snow Hill station and onwards to Wolverhampton.[10][59] In November 2013 Birmingham City Council indicated a new plan to connect Birmingham New Street with the new High Speed 2 terminus at Curzon Street, Birmingham International Airport and Coventry.

Preceding station   MidlandMetroGenericSymbol.svg Midland Metro   Following station
  From 2016  
Corporation Street   Line 1   Terminus
  From 2017  
Corporation Street   Line 1   Victoria Square



Railway Operations

New Street is the hub of the West Midlands rail network, as well as being a major national hub. The station is one of seventeen operated and managed by Network Rail,[60] Network Rail also provides operational staff for the station .

Station staff are provided on all platforms to assist with the safe 'dispatch' of trains, For operational reasons all trains departing New Street much be dispatched via the use of Right Away (RA) indicators. RA indicators display a signal informing the train driver it is safe to start the train, instead of using more traditional bell or hand signals.

The platforms are divided into A and B ends, with an extra bay platform called 4C, with the B end of the station towards Wolverhampton, this in effect allows twice the platforms. Longer trains that are too long for one section of the platform occupy the entire length of the platform, such as Class 390 or HST's.

Trains departing towards Proof House Junction (A end) can depart from any platform, but there are restrictions on trains departing from the B end. All platforms can accommodate trains heading towards Wolverhampton, however due the platform layout and road bridge supports, only 5 – 12 can accommodate trains heading towards Five Ways. There are a number of sidings on the station for the stabling of trains; between platforms 5/6, 7/8, 9/10. The 'bay' platforms at either end of platform 12 have been removed during the current rebuild. The sidings in front of New Street signal box have also been removed.

All signalling is controlled by New Street power signal box at the Wolverhampton or B end of the station, it can be seen at street level on Navigation Street.


All trains arriving and departing must use one of the several tunnels around the station.

  • New Street North Tunnel & Arena Tunnel (1991) – more commonly known as 'Monument Lane Tunnel', head towards Soho Junction & Wolverhampton. Arena Tunnel passes under the National Indoor Arena.
  • New Street South Tunnel – passing under the Bull Ring, head towards Duddeston, Adderley Park, the Camp Hill Line and the Derby lines towards Tamworth.
  • Gloucester Line Tunnels – are 4 separate tunnels heading towards Five Ways. Heading from New Street in sequence the tunnels are named Holiday Street, Canal, Granville Street and Bath Row.

Customer Service & Ticketing

Network Rail, as well as operating the station, operated a Customer Reception located on the main concourse. Booking office and barriers are split between Virgin Trains and London Midland, with customer service or floor walker staff provided by Cross Country. Virgin Trains operates a First Class Lounge and Network West Midlands also provides an public transport information point of the station.

New Street is a Penalty Fare zone which is operated by London Midland on its trains and at the manual ticket barriers at the station.

Train Operating Companies

Since privatisation of British Rail there have been no less than 9 train companies operating into New Street; Arriva, Central Trains, Cross Country, London Midland, Silverlink, Virgin Trains, Virgin Trains Cross Country, Wales & Borders, Wales & West.

Currently Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland, Virgin Trains and Cross Country provide services from New Street. Wrexham & Shropshire used to operate through the station without stopping and Chiltern Railways have on occasion used New Street during engineering works.

London Midland operates a Train Crew depot at the station and stables some trains over night around the station. For the most part they uses Soho TMD in Smethwick for electric traction units, with its non-electric units kept at Tyseley TMD.

Cross Country also operates a Train Crew Depot at the station and uses both Tyesley TMD (for the Class 170 units) and its Voyagers are based at their purpose-built depot near Burton on Trent.

Train services

Map of passenger railways in the Birmingham area

The basic Monday to Saturday off-peak service in trains per hour (tph) is as follows:

Virgin Trains


London Midland

Arriva Trains Wales

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
  Arriva Trains Wales
Birmingham - Chester
Galton Bridge
  Arriva Trains Wales
Cambrian Line
Terminus   CrossCountry
Birmingham - Leicester
  Water Orton or
Coleshill Parkway
Birmingham - Stansted Airport
  Coleshill Parkway
Bournemouth - Manchester
Cheltenham Spa   CrossCountry
Leamington Spa   CrossCountry
University   CrossCountry
Cheltenham Spa   CrossCountry
Plymouth - Edinburgh
Duddeston or
  London Midland
Cross City Line
  Five Ways
Duddeston   London Midland
Cross City Line
Adderley Park or
Stechford or
Marston Green
  London Midland
West Coast Main Line
University   London Midland
Worcester Shrub Hill/Hereford/Great Malvern — Birmingham
Terminus   London Midland
Birmingham to Gloucester
Limited service
Terminus   London Midland
  Sandwell and
Terminus   London Midland
  Smethwick Galton Bridge
Terminus   London Midland
Duddeston or
  London Midland
Walsall/Birmingham-Wolverhampton (Stopping Services)
  Smethwick Rolfe
Duddeston or
Tame Bridge Parkway
  London Midland
Birmingham International or
  Virgin Trains
West Coast Main Line
  Sandwell and Dudley or
Milton Keynes Central
  Virgin Trains
  Virgin Trains
  Sandwell and
Birmingham International   Virgin Trains
  Sandwell and

Links to Moor Street and Snow Hill stations

New Street station is a few hundred metres away from Birmingham Moor Street; the city's second busiest railway station. There is a signposted route for passengers travelling between New Street and Moor Street stations which involves a short walk through a tunnel under the Bullring shopping centre. Although the railway lines into New Street pass directly underneath Moor Street station, there is no track connection. In 2013 a new direct walkway was opened between the two stations making interchange easier.[61] Birmingham Snow Hill station is also a ten-minute walk away to the north.[62] When the Midland Metro extension is opened in 2016, there will be a direct tram connection between New Street and Snow Hill stations.

See also

Further reading

  • Foster, Richard, Birmingham New Street. The Story of a Great Station Including Curzon Street. 1 Background and Beginnings. The Years up to 1860. Wild Swan Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-906867-78-9
  • Foster, Richard, Birmingham New Street. The Story of a Great Station Including Curzon Street. 2 Expansion and Improvement. 1860 to 1923. Wild Swan Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-906867-79-7
  • Foster, Richard, Birmingham New Street. The Story of a Great Station Including Curzon Street. 3 LMS Days. 1923-1947. Wild Swan Publications, 1997. ISBN 1-874103-37-2
  • Foster, Richard, Birmingham New Street. The Story of a Great Station Including Curzon Street. 4 British Railways. The First 15 Years. Wild Swan Publications. (Not yet published).
  • Norton, Mark, Birmingham New Street Station Through Time. Amberley, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4456-1095-5.
  • Smith, Donald J., New Street Remembered: The story of Birmingham's New Street Station 1854-1967 in words and pictures. Barbryn Press, 1984. ISBN 0-906160-05-7.
  • Upton, Chris, A History of Birmingham, Phillimore 1997. ISBN 0-85033-870-0.


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