Local train passengers warned to plan early for Christmas

Advice comes as Birmingham gears up for record festive crowds.

The start of Birmingham’s famous Christmas market signals the start of the busiest time of year in Birmingham and passengers are being urged to plan their journeys and allow extra time when travelling by train. The festive attraction gets underway this Thursday, along with the city’s famous big wheel and ice rink, and sees millions of people travel into the city in the build up to Christmas, many who travel in by train.

Last year a record 230,000 people used Birmingham New Street station on the first Saturday after the market opened – a figure which is expected to be beaten this year. The average number of passengers who use the station every day is 170,000 but this increases to an average of more than 200,000 per day in the build up to Christmas. While there is more space than ever inside Birmingham New Street station, crowd control measures may be in use at busy times to safely access platform areas and trains. Extra staff will be on hand to provide assistance.

Patrick Power, Network Rail’s station manager at Birmingham New Street, said: “The Christmas market and festive season are great for Birmingham but put significant pressure on the station to safely manage much higher passenger numbers and sudden surges of people trying to catch their train.

“While there is more than enough space to handle the expected crowds on the concourse, we have to be prepared to put queuing measures in place to get to the platform areas, should we need to. Our advice to passengers is allow extra time to make your train, don’t rely on your last service and check before you travel. There will be extra staff in place across the station to provide advice and information and help keep passengers safe.”

Phil Edwards, assistant director transportation and connectivity at Birmingham City Council, said: “With so much going on in Birmingham during the festive period as well as a number of ongoing transport projects and developments, the city is going to be very busy. It is therefore important to plan your journeys and allow plenty of time for travel. We recommend leaving the car at home and using public transport, walking or cycling as the best options for travel.”

London Midland’s general manager for the West Midlands, Mark Goodall, said: “We want everyone to enjoy visiting Birmingham this Christmas. As trains are expected to be much busier than usual over the next few weeks, our advice is to plan your travel options in advance and don’t rely on your last train home or you could be disappointed.”

Natasha Grice, general manager for Virgin Trains in the West Midlands, added: “The train really is the best way to get into Birmingham and take in the atmosphere of the Christmas Market. Our team will be on hand to help the record numbers expected to attend this year and we’d encourage everyone to plan ahead to ensure they make the most of their day.”

Passengers are also being urged to think ahead and plan their journeys if they will be travelling over Christmas. As part of its Railway Upgrade Plan, Network Rail will be carrying out a significant amount of improvement work across Britain between 24th December and 3rd January which may affect journeys. This includes track and signalling upgrades in the Birmingham area which will affect trains between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, a bridge replacement between Rugby and Stafford and track renewal between Northampton and Rugby.

Passengers can plan their Christmas travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk/christmas; for specific Birmingham New Street station information follow @NetworkRailBHM or check with local train operators.