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  • Friends of the Shakespeare Line

People Power and Community Stations: Small Heath Station's long-awaited lift installation moves closer thanks to local community-led efforts


Passengers with pushchairs ascending the stairs at Small Heath station
Passengers with pushchairs ascending the stairs at Small Heath station

The Small Heath and Sparkbrook communities are today celebrating a major milestone for their communities with confirmation of the station upgrade scheme to provide the long-awaited lift and step-free access for Small Heath & Sparkbrook railway station. 


Thanks to the efforts of tireless local community leaders and the dedicated volunteer-led railway group Friends of the Shakespeare Line (FoSL), the news was announced to great celebration as it will transform the amount of people that can use the railway station operated by West Midlands Railway as at present its platforms can only be accessed by stairs. 


The Department for Transport's 'Access for All' (AFA) programme, which aims to improve accessibility across the rail network, gave the green light to provide 'step-free access' at Small Heath station, which also serves the Sparkbrook area. The programme is competitive, with just 25% of the applications submitted being successful in this latest programme.


This significant achievement will transform access to the railways for hundreds of local people. It is a result of the collaborative volunteer work that Friends of the Shakespeare Line initiated with the local Sparkbrook and Small Heath communities.


After meeting with community leaders, Fraser Pithie the Chair of the volunteer group Friends of the Shakespeare Line and Malcolm Holmes, the former executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive, together with representatives from West Midlands Trains and Network Rail, saw for themselves the 40-step approach to the station that was impossible and impassable for many local people.



Fraser Pithie, Chair, Friends of the Shakespeare Line, Councillor Shabrana Hussain, Lead Volunteer for Small Heath station, Fay Easton, Previous Community & Stakeholder Manager at West Midlands Trains and Malcolm Holmes, previous Executive Director of West Midlands Rail Executive
Fraser Pithie, Chair, Friends of the Shakespeare Line, Councillor Shabrana Hussain, Lead Volunteer for Small Heath station, Fay Easton, Previous Community & Stakeholder Manager at West Midlands Trains and Malcolm Holmes, previous Executive Director of West Midlands Rail Executive


This was in 2021. Together, they championed the cause for step-free access at Small Heath station and started working on an AFA programme application.


To the great delight of local leaders and prospective rail passengers, those collective efforts have now resulted in Small Heath station being included among the 50 out of 310 stations approved for AFA step-free upgrades in the upcoming Control Period 7 (CP7) commencing this year.


This significant development is a vital gain for the local community, providing access to work and facilities via rail. It is also crucial to improving accessibility and inclusivity across the Small Heath & Sparkbrook communities.


Once implemented, step-free access at Small Heath station will benefit passengers with mobility challenges, pushchairs, and heavy luggage and contribute to a more welcoming and inclusive transport facility for the entire local population.


Speaking on behalf of the Friends of the Shakespeare Line, Neil Morgan expressed gratitude for the support from the community and various railway sector stakeholders in making this project a reality.


Neil highlighted the 'people power' that had led to this very welcome announcement:


"This superb achievement from the work invested four years ago showcases the real power of collaboration between local people, local community leaders and the regional rail industry.  We worked for months contributing to and promoting the submission to the Department for Transport. The local knowledge and an absolute heap of local volunteer' people power' helped secure success for this station.  It's poignant to receive this news at the end of the national 'Community Rail Week' that recognises the power of volunteers connected to the rail industry.  The motto for the week, #MoreThanARailway, certainly rings true in the West Midlands, as promotions at New Street Station provided information on trips into Wales and the coast; the local population in Small Heath and Sparkbrook can now plan to partake of those travel links to reach not only job opportunities - but also the seaside."


The approval of this significant accessibility scheme for Small Heath station demonstrates the essence of 'people power' and what this country has always excelled at: 'volunteer armies'  supporting their local neighbourhoods.  


The Small Heath and Sparkbrook communities eagerly await the commencement of this programme of works and the positive impact that a long-awaited lift at the station will have on enhancing their connectivity to local job markets, regional destinations and national opportunities.

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