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Birmingham Snow Hill is a railway station and tram stop in the centre of Birminghammarker, Englandmarker on the site of a much larger station which was built by the former Great Western Railway (GWR). It is the second most important railway station in the city, after the former LMS Birmingham New Street stationmarker. It is also the terminus of the Midland Metro light rail line from Wolverhamptonmarker (via Wednesburymarker and West Bromwichmarker), pending the line's extension.

The present Snow Hill station has three platforms for National Rail trains. When it was originally reopened in 1987 it had four, but one was later converted for use by Midland Metro trams. The planned extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre includes a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, and this will allow the fourth platform to be returned to main-line use.


The site of the station was originally occupied by Oppenheims Glassworks. This was demolished, but many parts of the building and machinery are believed to be buried underneath the station and car park, and during recent development work alongside the station the area was designated as a site of archaeological importance by Birmingham City Council. The station was opened in 1852 on the Great Western Railway (GWR) line from London (Paddingtonmarker) to . It was originally called Livery Street Station and was a simple large wooden shed. It was renamed Snow Hill in 1858, and the Great Western Hotel was added in 1863. By 1859 it was possible to travel from Snow Hill to Londonmarker in just under three hours.

Snow Hill had a new station which had a huge arched roof of iron and glass, with a simple wooden overhead bridge linking the two platforms. It was never intended to be the main station but political gaming between the railway companies prevented the railway reaching its original intended end at Birmingham Curzon Streetmarker.

Trains from the south arrived through Snow Hill Tunnel, built by the cut-and-cover method, and in a cutting from Temple Row to Snow Hill. The cutting was roofed over in 1872 and the Great Western Arcademarker built on top.

In 1906 reconstruction of Snow Hill commenced, completed in 1912. The new station building was intended to compete with New Street, which at the time was a much grander building than it is today. The rebuilt station had a large booking hall with an arched glass roof. It contained lavish waiting rooms with oak bars. The bottom end of the station had fish platforms (Birmingham was and still is a major participant in the seafood industry) and goods storage. The station was twice as long as the current one, with 8 through platforms and 4 bay platforms. Although the line through the tunnel has always been double track, the line towards The Hawthornsmarker was a four track mainline. Due to capacity problems towards London, Moor Street station was built at the opposite end of the tunnel to take local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon.

At its height, many trains that now run into New Street station used to run into Snow Hill. With some that no longer run. Services included:

  • Shrewsbury, Chester and Mid Wales – these trains now run into New Street. Although it is possible to now join a train to Smethwick Galton Bridgemarker and change onto the new hourly ARRIVA Trains Wales service.

  • Birkenhead – this was on the old GWR route from London Paddingtonmarker, British Rail ended this service prior to Snow Hill closing in 1968.

  • Cardiff Central via Hereford

  • Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth & Penzance via Stratford upon Avon – was the GWR trunk route. Beeching closed the line between Stratford and Cheltenham Spa. All services now run through New Street and via Bromsgrove.

  • Wolverhampton Low Level & Dudley – these services were cut entirely in 1972. The Midland Metro runs on the route to Wolverhampton with more stops.

  • London Paddington – moved to New Street in the 1967, Virgin Trains retained a limited service past the BR era until they cut the services entirely just before the Voyager trains were introduced. The London service was restored in the early 90s, but now to London Marylebonemarker- making this Snow Hills only long distance service.


The original Snow Hill, demolished in 1977
During the electrification of the West Coast Main Linemarker, Snow Hill handled most of New Street's traffic, but the subsequent Beeching Axe closure programme in the 1960s took the view that Snow Hill station was unnecessary, and all services were switched to Birmingham New Streetmarker and Moor Street.
An original entrance in Livery Street
services were diverted to New Street from 1967. Local services north from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level railway stationmarker, and four trains per day to via using Class 122 units nicknamed bubble cars were the last to run and ended in March 1972.

Despite a huge public outcry the Snow Hill building was not preserved. The Great Western Hotel was demolished in 1969 and the station was largely demolished in 1977, when the dangerous state of the building was revealed. However, it did enjoy a brief moment of fame when it was the setting for a fight scene in the locally-set (and Play for Today-based) BBC TV drama series Gangsters.The ironwork of the station roof was badly corroded in several places, and the unstable ground and foundations on which the station had been built were causing it to slide downhill.

A few items including the original gates and booking hall sign were saved and later used in the Birmingham Moor Street railway stationmarker restoration. The site was for many years used as a car park.


The entrance to Snow Hill station
A Midland Metro tram at Snow Hill
In the mid 1980s British Rail decided to re-open Snow Hill station as part of the cross-city transport plan for Birmingham.

In 1987 the newly rebuilt station opened for services to the south, with some of the remaining parts of the original station lost (e.g. the old parcels office, some platforms and the mosaic floor from former waiting rooms) and others incorporated (notably the now-sealed entrance, with GWR crest, in Livery Street). Services to London were restarted, along with many local services; the London services however were routed to Marylebonemarker instead of the pre-closure destination of Paddington. Services at Moor Streetmarker, at the southern end of Snow Hill tunnel, were switched from the former terminal platforms, which then closed, onto the two through platforms to become a through station adjacent to the tunnel mouth.

The new Snow Hill station, with a multi-storey car park above, has been widely criticised as draughty, unwelcoming and architecturally unimaginative. The car park was designed by Seymour Harris Partnership.

On 24 September 1995, services north to Smethwickmarker and onwards to Worcestermarker resumed. The first day saw steam-hauled special trains to Stourbridge Junctionmarker.

In 1999, the line to Wolverhampton was re-opened as a light-rail (tram) line, the Midland Metro. This development has been seen by many as stopping any revival of the line to the national network.

A new entrance on Livery Street was due to open in January 2007 in order to give commuters access to the lower Snow Hill part of the City Centre. The work had a projected cost of £9.94 million, but due to Central Trains' failing to apply for planning permission, the cost has risen to £12.8 million and the entrance is now expected to open in early 2008. In 2009, this work is still ongoing.

By 2012, the station will cease to be a terminus for the Midland Metro, which will continue through the streets to Hagley Road, Edgbastonmarker. There will be stops at St Chads and Bull Street. A new viaduct is being constructed alongside the station as part of the Snowhillmarker development, which aims to regenerate an area of land which has been used as a surface car park since 1977 when the previous station was demolished.


Typical off-peak weekday service is as follows, in trains per hour (tph):

Long distance services

Snow Hill is the principal destination of the Chiltern Main Line, which links Birmingham with Londonmarker Marylebonemarker, operated by Chiltern Railways, with some Chiltern services continuing to Kidderminstermarker.

Local services

Local services from Snow Hill, as with most other local services in the West Midlands, are supported by Network West Midlands, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. They are operated by London Midland and mostly by Class 150 diesel multiple units (DMU). The Class 150 units are due to be replaced with new Class 172 DMUs during 2010. Until 2005 there was an hourly local train to Leamington Spa. This was cut back to peak times only and the rest of the local services beyond Dorridge are now run by Chiltern Railways. There is also an occasional service to Stratford upon Avon via Dorridge.

  • 3tph to Shirley:
of which 1tph continues to Stratford upon Avon
  • 3tph to Dorridge
  • 6tph to Stourbridge Junction:
of which 4tph continue to Kidderminster:
:of which 2tph continue to Worcester

  • Serivces to Dorridge run 5 times per hour if you include the London service.
  • Services beyond Worcester, to Malvern and Hereford are non standard, generally 1 per hour.

See also


  • Boynton, John (2001). Main Line to Metro: Train and Tram on the Great Western Route: Birmingham Snow Hill - Wolverhampton. Kidderminster: Mid England Books.
  • Harrison, Derek (1978). Salute to Snow Hill: The Rise and Fall of Birmingham's Snow Hill Railway Station 1852 - 1977. Birmingham: Barbryn Press.


  1. - About Birmingham Snow Hill

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