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Getting around/to/from the city/airport by train was easy.
Trains to/from the airport take between 9 minutes and 15. Even on a Sunday they are frequent - maybe 10-15 minutes apart.
I also travelled to/from Sheffield on Cross Country Trains. The one to Sheffield on a Sunday morning was slow, but on time and comfortable. The train back the next day was fast and very busy.
New Street seems to be the main station in the city - and it’s right in the city centre.
A couple of alerts for those not familiar with UK trains. You have a large number of trains companies operating through a place like New Street. 99% of the time your ticket will be valid on all of them. Some reduced fare tickets may be valid only with a certain operator. Check before you buy.
I paid £80+ for a 2nd class return to Sheffield. That’s the full fare. It does not even guarantee a seat (reservations can be made for an extra charge). It’s only 90 miles and not much more than an hour on the fast train. Horrendously expensive.
Lots of cheaper fares are available, but with restrictions - if you book in advance, or travel outside peak hours, for example. Be sure to understand and stick to the restrictions or you’ll be surcharged.
Birmingham New Street Railway Station
I was in Birmingham recently during April and May 2013. In April I arrived at Birmingham New Street Station by London Midland Train from London Euston. It's a Midlands local service stopping at Marston Green (Birmingham Suburbs), Birmingham International (For the NEC and Airport), Hampton in Ardon, Tile Hill, Coventry, Rugby, Long Buckley, Northampton, Wolverton, Milton Keynes Central, Bletchy (For Bletchy Park) and Leighton Buzzard. The journey took approximately 2 hours and the journey cost me 6.00 gbp (April 2013, one way and booked in advance). Please click on the London Midland website for more information including schedules and fares.
The following month I arrived at the by Virgin Trains from London Euston. It was a faster service than the London Midland and took approximately 1.5 hours and it cost us 7.50 gbp each (May 2013, one way and booked in advance). Please click on the Virgin Trains website for more information including schedules and fares.
Birmingham New Street Station
Birmingham New Street is where most travellers to Birmingham by train will arrive. With 13 platforms, it is one of the largest rail hubs in the country and is the second busiest non-London railway station in the country by passenger volume.
Due to its central location, New Street serves local, regional and cross country routes to every part of Great Britain including the English, Welsh and Scottish capitals.
Birmingham New Street station is often described as quite dark and unwelcoming but it is nice to see that some investment has gone into trying to make the station more visitor-friendly. Nevertheless, it is not a great station to spend a lot of time hanging around at. For ongoing travel, there is a large taxi rank outside the station and the station is only a short walk to the Bullring centre and the other shopping amenities in the city. The Moor Street rail station (a much nicer station with a traditional feel) is also only about 5-10 minutes walk away.
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Many train services run into Birmingham city centre and around Birmingham and surrounding areas.
Going by train is the fastest way to get from 1 place to anohter and see Birmingham to the full.
Most main attractions can be reached by train, and if not they aren't far away from the train stations.
Bargain travel to NEC
If you are going to an evening event at the NEC / LG Arena consider using the train from the city centre. If you travel after 18.30 you can get a return from New Street Station to Birmingham International (the NEC station) for £2 return. Bargain!
The journey takes about 10 - 15 mins which gives more than enough time to arrive for an event starting at around 19.30. Return trains run regularly until about 23:45 -check timetable for your journey.
The car is king
Birmingham's rail infrastructure is relatively undeveloped compared to other English cities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield or Newcastle.
Whilst the graphics inside local trains make it look as if the West Midland has a metro system, this is not the case.
A number of lines converge on the seventh ring of hell - otherwise known as New Street station. You will always need to consult a timetable (especially at weekends) if you are planning to use the train, and expect delays.
The only exception to this is the 'Midland Metro' that runs between the centre of Birmingham and Wolverhampton (see other tip).
The 'buzz' (Bus) is the true backbone of public transport in the West Midlands.
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New Street Station
Birmingham's new street station is the main train station that leads you into and around Birmingham city centre. This train station is the main point of the midlands railway network.
Birmingham New Street Station is located off Smallbrook Queensway.
It can also be accessed from the Pallasades Shopping Centre and Navigation Street.
Trains to/from Birmingham
The intercity trains to/from Birmingham are very quick and a lot quicker than car/coach. By train will only take 1 hour to/from London compared to 2hours by car. Birmingham is centrally located so a direct train can be taken to most locations without having to change.
Up to the capital
The main west coast train line connects Birmingham and london. Expect to pay a King's ransom for a ticket, unless you book six months in adavance, online, and wear one blue sock on a Tuesday before travelling.
The alternative is to look at Chiltern railways who run a slower (but cheaper) service from Marylebone station in london (Vigin use Euston) to Moor street or Snow hill in Birmingham (Virgin use New Street). Expect a journey of over two hours, but significant savings. The cheapest restricted fare by this method works out at only a fiver - see deals section.
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Cheapest rail ticket from London
The cheapest rail ticket at present is the Chiltern e-ticket which costs £5 single each way from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street or Birmmingham Snow Hill. It has to be booked 7 days in advance. In July 2005 it is only available on the 10.54am or the 8.40pm trains from London.
The return tickets have to be booked separately and the departure times are 10.40am or 7.10pm from Snow Hill and 3 minutes later from Moor Street.
The next cheapest ticket is the Just £15 ticket available on the day for any train leaving Marylebone after 11.00am. This is a return ticket.
If there are 3 or 4 of you travelling together a GroupSave ticket allows you all to travel for the price of 2 people.
The e-day ticket is available at http://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/ and you print off your own ticket and present it to the conductor on the train.
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Train routes from Birmingham Snow Hill
Chiltern Rail provide the cheapest service from Birmingham to London. This service was extended north and westwards out of Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction and from September 2002 further west still to Kidderminster.
All of the local trains to Stourbridge and Kidderminster from Birmingham go to and from Moor Street and Snow Hill and NOT New Street Station.
24.2.03 Chiltern Rail was named the Train Operator of the year for the 2nd year running.
New Street Station
The first Birmingham New Street station opened in 1854 but there is only 1 tiny bit of the original station left. This is a rather grubby bit of red building on north end of platform 1.
The present station was rebuilt in 1967 but suffers from over use - more passengers than it can cope with; and more trains to get into the station than it can physically take despite having having 11 through platforms.
It wasdesigned for 640 trains a day but it is now coping with 1400 trains a day -1 every 58 seconds. The station serves over 31 million people every year.
2002 saw New Street named as Europe's least hygenic train station and as one of the 7 horrors of Britain. At least they are now planning what to do about it and are spending a huge sum of money to draw up the improvement plans. The first result of this has been announced in January 2004 - see below.
Feb 2003 - Reported to have the 2nd worst record in the country for illegal trespass and vandalism with 33 incidents in 2002/03 but when compared to 41 in the previous year there are signs of improvement.
14 June 2003 - The Lord Mayor of Birmingham has suggested a £3 billion underground rail service, perhaps including the proposed Metro extension, to ease the huge bottleneck caused by the shortage of platforms. Combined with the problems of having more passengers than the station can cope with, the metro could in theory whisk them away quickly!!!
Jan 2004 Work started on a GBP2m new station concourse, facing the short stay car park. This will enclose all the open area in front of the station. Jan 2005 This work appears to be complete but is a little dissappointing as it does not include the area including the taxi waiting area and the lifts to get to all the platforms.
Jan 2005 A GBP3.9m design and development work package has now been signed for a GBP350m improvement project for the station.
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Centro urban trains
The Centro urban train system runs out from Birminghams New Street, Snow Hill and Moor Street stations to some of the surrounding towns, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Solihull, Walsall, Lichfield and Redditch. On the main Longbridge/Redditch to Four Oaks/Lichfield line trains run every 10 minutes during the day. However be aware that the other lines have erratic and infrequent times. If your intending to use these lines to get back in the evening the timing can be awful. As one example, after 6 or 7pm trains from Walsall back to the city are awful. You have two within 15 minutes, then nothing for an hour or more.
However during the day it's a fast and practical way to get around the city, and is quite affordable. During the evening there are promotion fares of £1.50 to go anywhere on the Centro system. Also there are special fares for groups of four or more people.
Birmingham area trains
Even though most Brits complain about their train system we in America stand in awe of it's comparative efficiency. First of all it's the only way to get in and out of Birmingham. The roads, motorways and streets are an absolute maze to the uninitiated. Last trip there we missed a turn and wound up driving our little rented car around the inside of the Wolverhampton main bus terminal. No problem though, the man in a uni just pointed the way out.
On our first trip to Crufts we were traveling on a local from Oxford and I surmised that we should get off at a small station to catch a train that I thought would take us to our hotel. After lugging two suitcases off the train, the conductor advised us to get back on as this was not a safe place to wait and many of the trains did not stop here. He held the train and helped us with our luggage while we reboarded.
That same trip as we were leaving the NEC on the final day of Crufts we jammed ourselves aboard a packed train on the way into Birmingham to change trains for York. However as we went along other passengers commented that we seemed to be bypassing the downtown station. Soon an announcement was placed stating that due to downed powerlines this train would continue on to Liverpool. Gasp!! What should we do? After posing our question, every Brit within shouting distance was consulting their schedules and advising us to detrain at the next station and wait for the train coming in the other direction. We had 5 minutes to leave the train, haul our bags to the lift, cross over, take the lift down and catch that train. We encountered the slowest lifts in all of the United Kingdom. After anxious moments we finally descended onto the correct landing only to discover that the expected train was running 30 minutes late itself.
Another time in Oxford we missed our train to Stratford. The station master hailed a taxi and sent us on our way to Stratford for free!!
Trains from New Street Station
The main train station in Birmingham is New Street Station, built in 1854. From here you can take the train to London Euston, Manchester, Liverpool and many other major cities in UK.
While waiting for the train you can get a meal on the great food court located inside the station.
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