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

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

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).