This guide to taking trains from and to Birmingham New Street focuses on the less obvious aspects of arriving and departing from this station by train.
It encompasses a weight of detail, because how to take a train from Birmingham New Street is distinct, from any other station ShowMeTheJourney has ever used.
Birmingham’s main station New Street has a fabulous location in the heart of the city, made possible by the fact that the part of the station that the trains use is below street level, so trains travel through tunnels beneath the city centre in order to access the station.
And it’s a great building in which to take a train, as the station now shares its location with a very smart shopping mall named ‘Grand Central’.
There are also multiple access points to and from the trains, perfect for its regular users, but a tad bewildering if you have never previously taken a train to or from here.
ShowMeTheJourney’s guide to using Birmingham New Street may seem somewhat eccentric with its references to ‘a’s and ‘b’s and multiple ‘lounges’; but trust us we have tried hard to help you make sense of what can initially seem a complex space.
To that end - the SEVEN key things worth knowing about Birmingham New Street station are:
(1) The 12 platforms (tracks) are divided along their lengths into ‘a’ and ‘b’ sections – meaning that most trains depart and arrive from a specific ‘a’ or ‘b’ platform.
On the departure screens for each ‘Plat’ (track) you will usually see the likes of 6a and 11b etc (and there is also a platform 4c).
Though the longer trains, including the Avanti West Coast trains to and from London use the full length of the platform (track) occupying both the ‘a’ AND the ‘b’ sections; so for these departures and arrivals, only the number is used.
(2) When you’re on the platform, if the ‘a’ or ‘b’ zones are at the opposite end to where you find yourself, you can simply walk along it, they’re a matter of steps apart; so it doesn’t particularly matter how you access each platform, as long as you’ve got the number right.
(3) The station is in effect divided into four parts, the main concourse and the three ‘lounges’ - the Blue, Yellow and Red.
The main concourse is also in effect the ground level of the Grand Central shopping mall, on one side of which, beneath the main departure board, is the ticket office.
However, to access the trains from the main concourse, or the passages that lead to/from the multiple entrances, you have to pass through one of those three lounges; each of which provides the optimum access to different sets of platforms (tracks).
It’s these lounges which makes using New Street station a unique experience.
An assumption is made that you’ll know what their function is, but if you are first time user of Birmingham New Street, you won’t have encountered this method of navigating a station.
What can be a tad confusing, is that you won’t see any information on the departure screens, which will say something along the lines of ‘go to the Blue Lounge’ etc.
These lounges function in a similar way to the gates at an airport, they’re interim locations in which you can wait for a train to depart, once you know from which platform (track) it will be leaving from.
(4) Ticket gate lines form barriers between the lounges and both the concourse and the main entrance to the station on Smallbrook Queensway.
If you enter the station from Smallbrook Queensway, the Blue Lounge is over to the right and the Yellow Lounge is over to the left.
There are departure screens just inside this entrance, so you can use them to check which platform (track) your train will be leaving from and then go directly to the respective lounge: Blue = platforms 1-5; Yellow = 6 – 12.
(5) Though once you have used your train ticket to access a lounge by opening a gate, you cannot use it again to re-open a ticket gate in order to head back to the main concourse or another part of the station.
(6) The station toilet (rest room) facilities are located in each of the three lounges.
The signs on the station concourse will suggest that they can only be found in the Blue and Yellow lounges, but there are also facilities available in the Red Lounge.
Why do you need to know this?
You ideally need to have checked which platform (track) your train will be leaving from, before you use these facilities; because you will need to pass through the ticket gates in order to access them and your ticket won’t then re-open the gate.
So if need be, you'll need to ask staff to open the barriers if you want to head back to the main concourse,
If you don’t yet know which platform (track) your train will be leaving from, enter the Red Lounge and use the facilities there, as from that part of the station, you’ll then be able to subsequently access any platform (track) that the trains leave from.
(7) Because the platforms (tracks) are below street level, escalators, lifts (elevators) AND stairs connect the Blue and Yellow lounges to the platforms (tracks).
However, the Red Lounge is only connected to the platforms (tracks) by escalators and lifts.
The specific platform (track) that each train will be leaving from, is normally shown on the departure screens, as soon as the details of the train appear.
However, because so many trains leave in every hour from New Street, only the trains departing in the next 20 – 30 mins will usually be visible.
So if you arrive at the station more than 30 mins before your train is due to leave, the best place to wait for a train can be in one of the many food and drink outlets, or one of the seats on the main concourse; a big plus of using New Street is the volume of seats in the station
Though most of the seated waiting areas are located behind the ticket gates, in one of the three lounges, that travellers have to pass through when accessing a train.
However, once you have used your ticket to open a ticket gate and enter a lounge, you can’t then use it again to re- open the gates and go back into the main station.
Keep this in mind, particularly if you’ll be accessing the trains by using the Blue and Yellow lounges, as these two lounges house limited catering options and no shops.
In contrast the Red lounge has more food/drink options and a branch of WH Smiths, where you can buy something to read on your journey.
Although no matter which part of the station your train is leaving from, it’s best not to make your way down to the specific platform until 5 – 10 mins before your train is due to depart.
The seated waiting areas in the ‘lounges’ are more comfortable and less chaotic locations, in which to wait for a train than hanging around at platform (track) level.
On the departure boards the ‘Plat’ that each train will be leaving from will either be indicated solely a number, OR by a number AND a letter – 2a, 10b, 7b etc.
If you see a combination of a letter and a number keep this in mind, because when making your way to the train, you will see signs saying the equivalent of ‘this way to platform 2a’, or this way to platform 10b’.
When using the station for the first time, what won’t be particularly obvious, is that you’ll need to pass through one of the three ‘lounges’ at the station in order to access the platforms (tracks) that the trains leave from.
The Blue Lounge:
It is to the right of the concourse and is the quickest route from the main concourse to the ‘a’ ends of platforms (tracks) 1-5 by escalators, stairs and lifts (elevators).
If you were looking at the main departure board on the main concourse, facing the ticket office, the ticket gates for this ‘Blue Lounge’ would be behind you and over to the right.
The Yellow Lounge:
If you were looking at the main departure board, facing the ticket office, the ticket gate lines for this ‘Yellow Lounge’ would be behind you and over to the left.
Using it the quickest route from the main concourse to the ‘a’ ends of platforms (tracks) 6-12 by escalators, stairs and lifts (elevators).
The Red Lounge:
The two ticket gate lines which gives access to The Red Lounge are on either side of the ticket office, under the main departure board.
You can access ALL of the platforms (tracks) in the station from this Red Lounge, but it is the quickest route to the ‘b’ ends of the platforms (tracks) 1 - 12 – and also to 4c.
The Red Lounge is only connected to the platforms by escalators and lifts (elevators) and not by stairs.
If you want to use the stairs to make your way to a train, you will need to use the Blue Lounge to access platforms 1-5 and the Yellow Lounge to access platforms 6 – 12.
Then if need be you can move along each platforms to access the ‘b’ zones/ends.
Once you’re on the platform (track) you will see numbers small and large which will tell you the number of the platform you are on, but what are a tad less obvious are the signs that will tell you which specific part of the platform you are on; the ‘a’ end or the ‘b’ end.
But once you on the platform (track), you can easily move between the ‘a’ and ‘b’ ends, they are just steps apart.
The ‘a’ and ‘b’ ends of the platforms have separate departure indicators as many trains only depart from the ‘a’ or ‘b’ sectors.
It’s why, if you’ve seen 2a or 10b etc on the departure indicators, you then need to be waiting on that specific end of the platform (track), for your train.
You can confirm that you are waiting for and boarding the correct train because its departure details will be shown on the specific ‘a’ and ‘b’ departure indicators.
Two sets of escalators, two lifts (elevators) and a staircase connect each platform (track) to the main concourse, which is home to all of the main exits from New Street station.
Though no matter how you to ascend up from the platform, you will find yourself on the main concourse.
This is worth keeping in mind if your train arrives at the ‘b’ ends of the platform, as there are no stairs in these ‘b’ zones, so queues can build up for the escalator.
But steps away towards the other ‘a’ end of the platforms, you’ll find a staircase; as well as another escalator and an alternative lift (elevator).
If you are heading to heart of the city centre, it’s likely that you’ll want to you use the exits on to Stephenson Street.
To the left of this exit is the Local Transport information office, which can be a big help with working out which local bus route (line) will take to your final destination and which stop it will be leaving from.
Though it's worth checking the route to your final destination in the city as there are three main exits from New Street station.
The main entrance to the station is just off Smallbrook Queensway, opposite the Bullring Shopping Centre.
Though if you want to head into the Bullring, there is a covered walkway available from Level 1 in the Grand Central shopping Centre.
If you will be heading to the areas around the canals in Birmingham, it's likely that the quickest route will be to take the Southside exit.
Although some destinations in the city are most easily accessed from New Street by local train – University station lives up to its name with access to the University of Birmingham and Bourneville station is by Cadbury World.
The tram stop at New Street station is named ‘Grand Central’ and it is just outside the Stephenson Street exit.
On the station concourse look for the signs pointing the way to the ‘Metro.’
If you will be changing trains at Birmingham New Street, check the departure summary screen that you’ll find by the escalators on each platform (track).
If you are in luck you may be able to wait on the same platform (track) for your next train to depart.
If you have arrived at the ‘b’ end of the platforms and you need to access another platform to catch your onward train, use the exits up from this end of the platform – even if your onward train will be departing from an ‘a’ platform, such as 6a or 10a.
You will ascend into the ‘Red Lounge’ passage way which spans the station and from here the escalators and lifts lead to the ‘b’ ends of ALL the platforms (tracks) in the stations, but you can also walk along any of the platforms to access the ‘a’ sectors if need be.
However, if your train has arrived at an ‘a’ platform, how you can make your way to your connection is dependent on whether you have, OR haven’t been, issued with a separate ticket(s) for the other train you will be taking on from New Street.
(1) If you HAVE been issued with separate tickets it doesn’t matter how you make the transfer to your onward train.
Use the exit points from the ‘a’ ends of the platforms to go up to the main concourse and if you want or need to go through the ticket gates to access another platform, or to access the shops etc, you can do so.
The separate ticket(s) for your next journey, will then open the subsequent ticket gate you’ll pass through, when you make your way to your onward train.
(2) If you HAVEN'T been issued with separate tickets, it’s best to avoid having to pass through a ticket gate when changing trains.
That’s because the ticket will only open one set of gates - and it’s how the ticket gates are configured in New Street station, which is at the root of this necessarily convoluted explanation below.
If your train has arrived at platforms 1a – 12a, the best option in this scenario, is to ignore the exits at the ‘a’ end of the platforms (tracks) and instead walk along to the ‘b’ ends of the platform and use the exits at that end.
From there you can ascend up into a passage way which gives access to ALL the other platforms, without having to pass through a set of ticket gates.
So if your train has arrived at a ‘b’ platform, the best option is to use the nearest exit to access your onward connection.
Not all trains from Birmingham call at New Street station, the trains to destinations including Kidderminster for the Severn Valley Railway, Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick, depart from Moor Street station instead (they also depart from Snow Hill station)
Moor Street is only a 5 – 8 min walk away from New Street on a route through the city’s main shopping area, it’s well signposted, but it isn’t step-free.
From New Street the optimum route is:
(1) Use the main exit from the station which leads on to Smallbrook Queensway.
(2) Turn sharp left as you come out of the station and walk across the front of the station – in effect you will be on a path on a bridge which spans the railway tracks.
(3) Then turn sharp right and you will be on pedestrian pathway, appropriately named Moor Street Link.
(4) At the far end of the path you will see a short flight of stairs, you need to ascend these and go straight ahead up the sloping path, which leads into to the city centre.
(5) At the end of this path you will be in a pedestrian shopping area. Ahead of you, curving around to the right, will be a wide path leading into a shopping mall.
(6) Take this path, but before you come to the mall, on the left you will see another path which slopes down between the stores; it has green painted fences on either side of it and white columns.
(7) The path will bend round to the left by a road, which is on the level below, and steps lead down to this road.
(8) When you are back down at street level, you will be at a road junction (an intersection) and Birmingham Moor Street station is the charming older building across the street – you may mistake it for a museum, but it is a station.
OR the other option – which is step-free, but a tad grim:
(1) Use the main exit from the station which leads on to Smallbrook Queensway – towards the Bullring.
(2) Go straight ahead until each the main road.
(3) Cross this road and turn left following the road into a short tunnel under some buildings.
(4) When you emerge from this tunnel, Moor Street station is across the street.
Summary of the long-distance train services from Birmingham New Street:
Train Operating Company:
Destinations and routes:
(1) London* via Milton Keynes – the fastest trains between Birmingham and London
(1) Edinburgh via Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Durham and Newcastle
London North Western Railway
(1) London via Northampton and Milton Keynes (slower than the Virgin Trains)
(1) Hereford via Worcester
(1) Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury and Welshpool
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.