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Small Heath Railway Station sign

Small Heath and Sparkbrook Station News

People Power and Community Stations:

Small Heath Station's long-awaited lift installation moves closer thanks to local community-led efforts


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.

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.


Passengers with pushchairs ascending the stairs at Small Heath station

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

4 Minutes By Train To The Future Via The Past


"What a great and inspired way to persuade people to use the train and help improve our city's environment." is the view of Birmingham City Council's Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE. Cllr Zaffar was speaking at the unveiling of new artwork at one of Birmingham's inner-city railway stations.

It's well over half a century since two communities of Small Heath and Sparkbrook in Birmingham were jointly served by a railway station. On Tuesday, 13 July 2021, the original station name of Small Heath & Sparkbrook was celebrated in a community art installation. First used by the Great Western Railway in 1863 when they opened a station at Golden Hillock Road, the name has returned as part of unique artwork specially designed for the station by local people and facilitated by community arts funding at West Midlands Railway.


Based on an idea by Birmingham City Councillor Shabrana Hussain, who, along with others from the local communities, plan to adopt Small Heath & Sparkbrook Railway Station. The stunning artwork was installed on Tuesday 13 July 2021 with a message designed to celebrate the station's heritage whilst capturing passing motorists' eyes by highlighting how much quicker it is to use the train to reach Birmingham City Centre.


The unique Art Deco style was featured to celebrate the station's opening in 1908 and the designs produced by a local business at nearby Henley in Arden. Based on Cllr Hussain's wish to highlight the railway station serving Small Heath & Sparkbrook as an efficient alternative to the A45, providing fast public transport rail access to and from Birmingham City Centre taking just 4 minutes. 


Cllr Hussain, who suggested the West Midlands Railway Community Arts Programme idea, said: "The train is so quick, and many people do not realise a railway station here serves both Small Heath & Sparkbrook. I want more people to use the train because it's efficient and much better for our environment; I think telling people it's only 4 minutes by train will make them think and encourage them to use the train."


Cllr Zaffar said, "Local ideas like this, brought to life by community volunteers, show how much difference can be made to local and wider environments helping to deliver Birmingham's Transport Plan supporting our clean air and our road to zero carbon objectives."


Small Heath Railway Station is one of eighteen stations between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stratford upon Avon that local communities have adopted. The local volunteers are supported and funded by a volunteer-led Community Station Partnership known as the Friends of the Shakespeare Line


Cllr Hussain stepped forward in 2020 with other Sparkbrook and Small Heath community members to get involved, and consequently, a series of further improvements are planned for the Railway Station. The large exterior artwork and the recent repainting of the station by train operator West Midlands Trains are the first of several improvements that are now progressing due to community engagement at the station and the support by the Friends of the Shakespeare Line and the local rail user group.

A key aim alongside the art installations and landscaping plans is to attract investment for step-free access at the station to alleviate the struggle for passengers in accessing the platforms via deep stairwells.


Fraser Pithie, a volunteer who leads the Friends of the Shakespeare Line, said, "We are so pleased to see this artwork unveiled and other things starting to happen at the station serving Small Heath & Sparkbrook. It's been a bit of a forgotten place on the railway. The new artwork marks a first but significant step as two communities within the inner city area of Birmingham are reconnecting with their railway station and working with the rail industry and city council to help meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century. It's community rail activity at its best and in the urban heart of Britain's second city." 


West Midlands Railway is committed to supporting local communities. Fay Easton, Head of Stakeholder and Community, says, "It has been a privilege to work with the Friends of the Shakespeare Line and Local Councillors to uplift station environs with such stunning community artworks. As a Train Operating Company, we are committed to supporting communities in the areas we serve and will continue to work with local stakeholders and schools to celebrate the history and heritage of Small Heath & Sparkbrook"

Birmingham City Council's Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE unveiling of new artwork at Birmingham's Small Heath Railway Station
The railway station serving Small Heath & Sparkbrook is an efficient alternative to the A45, providing fast public transport rail access to and from Birmingham City Centre taking just 4 minutes
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