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 (16 November), 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.”
Advice from the train operators:
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, said: “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.”
Cross Country’s managing director, Andrew Cooper, said: “Every year more and more people are using our trains to come to Birmingham for the Christmas Market and festive attractions. As before, we’ll be providing extra seats to help, but would urge everyone to plan their journey in advance and not aim to catch the final train of the day as these will be very busy.”
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 24 December and 3 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 your train operator.
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Since 2007, London Midland has been providing train services to and from London in the south, to Birmingham in the Midlands and Liverpool in the north-west. Over 70 million passenger journeys a year are made using on the network and London Midland manages 150 stations and operates 1,300 services a day.
London Midland is owned by Govia, the partnership between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis. Govia is the UK’s busiest rail operator, responsible for nearly 30 per cent of UK passenger rail journeys through its three rail companies, GTR (which includes Gatwick Express services), Southeastern and London Midland. Further information on Govia is available at www.govia.info
London Midland has won a range of awards, including Best Local Transport Integration, five Rail Business Awards for marketing, public relations and customer information, five Golden Spanner Awards for Engineering, three IOIC awards for internal communication and five Railstaff Awards for Outstanding Customer Service, Lifesaving and Charity Work. In 2017 London Midland was named as Britain's most improved train company by the Institute of Rail Operators and the UK's most improved organisation for customer service in the UKCSI survey.
In 2017 London Midland was also awarded the Investors in People (IiP) Gold Award and the 5 Star award by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) in 2014. Achievements for working with communities recognised with an International Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) award (2017), an HR Excellence award for Best CSR Strategy (2017) and five national Community Rail awards (2017).