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Birmingham New Street’s 150-year history revealed as station switchover nears

Monday 22 Apr 2013

North West & West Midlands

A selection of original plans and drawings detailing the 150-year history of Birmingham New Street have been published for the first time, as passengers await the opening of the first half of the station’s new concourse in under a week’s time – the first major change to New Street station in over 40 years.

The station has remained largely unchanged since it was last redeveloped in 1967 and in more recent years has been the focus of much criticism as numbers of people using the railway has increased, with more than double the passengers using New Street today than it was designed for. The experience for passengers is poor, with the station being too dark, busy and overcrowded with inadequate access to platforms. This month, everything changes as the halfway point of the station transformation is reached.

To mark the closure of the old concourse later this month, the Network Rail archive team has for the first time published the original plans and drawings of the station on its virtual archive. Some of the plans date back to the 19th century, showing the layout of the original station which opened in 1854 as well as the 1960’s rebuild. The online exhibition can be found at

Vicky Stretch, Network Rail archivist said: “Since publishing the first railway architectural plans on our virtual archive over a year ago, it has been fascinating to gradually work through our collection of over five million records to see what other elements of the railway’s history we can uncover. With the imminent unveiling of the new concourse at Birmingham New Street, we’ve been searching for the original plans and drawings of the station and have found some of great interest and importance at this exciting time of change for passengers. Very little survives for the original nineteenth century New Street, but what we do have, along with a collection of the more familiar 1960s station, is now published online.”

New Street wasn’t always the eyesore that has proved so unpopular in the city in recent years. When the original station first opened in 1851, it was the largest in the country, encompassed by the largest single span arched roof in the world at 212ft wide and 840ft long. Constructed by the same team who built Paddington station, New Street in its original guise was a grand structure and typical of 19th century architecture and only rivalled by the arrival of St Pancras in 1868.

When the new concourse opens at the end of this month, it will be one-and-a-half times bigger than the current one, featuring all of the facilities expected in a major station, with a new, larger and improved ticket office and new lifts and escalators improving access to platforms.

Ahead of the 28 April, the final public exhibition giving comprehensive information about the station switchover will take place on the main concourse at New Street between 7am-7pm Tuesday (April 23) and Friday (April 26) and 9am-7pm on Saturday (April 27).

Notes to editors

To explore the original plans and drawings of Birmingham New Street station and many other historic stations, bridges and tunnels, visit Network Rail’s virtual archive,

The redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station and the Pallasades Shopping Centre is backed by Birmingham City Council, Network Rail, Department for Transport, Centro and Advantage West Midlands.

Network Rail is delivering the project alongside its delivery partner Mace.

Upon completion in 2015, the project will deliver:

- Space to accommodate passenger growth: the new concourse will be three and a half times bigger than at present and will be enclosed by a giant atrium which will flood the station concourse and shopping centre with natural light.

- Better access for all: over 30 new escalators and 15 new public lifts will make it much easier to travel between the platforms and the concourse above.

- Cutting edge design: a stunning new station façade will create a new landmark building in the heart of Birmingham.

- A revitalized city centre: the new Grand Central Birmingham anchored by the John Lewis department store will offer new retail brands alongside quality places to eat and drink, cementing Birmingham’s reputation as one of the UK’s top retail destinations.

- Regeneration and economic growth: new pedestrian links will open up the city centre, stimulating regeneration and creating new jobs. We’re also working to open up job opportunities to the local workforce during construction.

- The station will remain open throughout the redevelopment.

Once the new concourse opens, the Network Rail & Mace delivery team will turn their attention to redeveloping the old station concourse and the remainder of the Pallasades shopping centre. The centre will be transformed into a new premium fashion and lifestyle shopping destination, Grand Central Birmingham, incorporating a four storey John Lewis, over 40 more shops and more than 15 cafes and restaurants. The station redevelopment completes in 2015.

Major changes on 28th April include:

  • The existing vehicle and pedestrian entrance outside the front of the station on Smallbrook Queensway will close, with vehicle access moving across to a new drop off area and short stay car park located off Hill Street
  • Passengers travelling from Moor Street station and pedestrians on Smallbrook Queensway will be able to access the new concourse via the new Moor Street link pedestrian walkway which links the east side of the station to the new entrance on Stephenson Street.
  • Passengers can still access the station from Pallasades and Bullring through a new set of escalators which link the shopping centre above down to the new concourse.
  • The Victoria Square entrance on Navigation Street will close to passengers as new entrances will open onto Stephenson Street and Hill Street
  • The station taxi rank will temporarily move to Navigation Street

Contact information

Media Relations (North West & West Midlands)
Media Relations (North West & West Midlands)
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0161 880 3142
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.

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