University station Birmingham

Birmingham University Station

West Midlands Combined Authority appointed VolkerFitzpatrick to undertake the detailed design and build of a new, £56m University Station. The original station was tired with constrained access to the adjacent university and the hospital. It was dealing with significantly higher passenger numbers than originally intended, which resulted in overcrowding during busy periods.


The new station

VolkerFitzpatrick delivered the detailed design and build of the new station. It provides an attractive modern gateway into the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus and nearby hospital site, it supports regeneration activities in the area, increases passenger capacity and provides improved access to the rail network.

The new railway station building features wider platforms, lifts, a ticket office, provision for a retail unit, canopy coverage along the platforms and a direct link with the University of Birmingham campus via a new pedestrian canal bridge. The existing station building was retained as a passenger exit from the station.

The process

Learn about how we took collaborative strides to make this project a success, how the build had an environmental focus, and how the team adapted to global and local challenges. 

Build challenges

Construction constraints included the adjoining Canal, an Ancient Monument, pre-booked rail possessions and the requirement for the station to remain open throughout construction.

One of the new station buildings formed an island, located between the railway line and adjacent canal. To solve this problem, the team used innovative approaches with a pre-modularised construction method, meaning materials were manufactured off site before being craned over onto the island and assembled rapidly on site. For example, the team carried out:

  • Technical cofferdam works needed on the canal, with the Canal and River Trust
  • Overnight possessions of the railway lines to install two footbridges
Collaborative efforts

The redevelopment of the station was part of the West Midlands Rail Programme, which is led by Transport for West Midlands and the West Midlands Rail Executive. This project brought together 13 different organisations, which involved  forming excellent relationships with, and secured funding from, adjacent landowners (University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham) and Birmingham City Council. This was vital for the ambition and the success of the project. Owing to the number of organisations coming together, senior project leaders established a set of key values focused on collaboration and health and safety – which all parties bought into.

Digital delivery

Careful, detailed planning and clash detection using BIM digital tools supported the team in successfully coordinating the huge logistical challenge of constructing the new station without any impact on the existing station. For example craning the cladding in five sequential lifts over the canal and railway lines and into position during key possessions that were programmed down to the hour.

Weekly design coordination meetings reviewed the model, resolved clashes and informed construction sequencing. This was essential to the staged release of design packages for construction and accurate offsite manufacturing.  It also enabled us to minimise the temporary works required for both pavilions to be successfully erected within two 72-hour railway possessions.

In addition to buildability and logistical challenges, the team used the model to successfully engage with the project’s multiple stakeholders, to secure all necessary approvals for works to proceed. 


The project achieved BREEAM Very Good status thanks to a collaborative effort between partners and the supply chain.

The use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly and off-site fabrication allowed the use of high-strength concrete and minimised any concrete wastage. The exposed finishes also minimised the need for painting, finishing and fire protection. The use of Modern Methods of Construction systems for the external cladding reduced the amount of embodied carbon from the original scheme design.

Through a combination of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof, additional insulation for conditioned spaces and high efficiency luminaires, the design was able to reduce future operational carbon expenditure. The building design and building management system installed optimises the use of naturally vented concourse areas to limit overheating.

A rich and biodiverse public realm has also replaced previous hard surfacing and disused land, providing improved facilities for cyclists and an enhanced station experience.

Community benefits

The VolkerFitzpatrick team made a positive impact on the local community, despite the COVID pandemic limiting our ability to carry out the initial social value plans. They excelled at overdelivering on targets for local spend, local employment and carbon reduction. The team were also able to support students with virtual work experience, which was followed up with onsite training when restrictions were lifted. 

Virtual experience for students at Walsall College

VolkerFitzpatrick and Van Elle came together to provide a virtual work experience event, for students studying construction, ranging from levels 1-3. Over 50 students attended and were helped to understand the breadth of options and different pathways available in construction. 

T-Level students welcomed onsite

Following the virtual work experience event, students from Walsall College were given the opportunity to complete their T-Level qualifications onsite. Aged between 17 and 18, three T-Level students were welcomed on site. Studying their T-Level vocational training in design, surveying and planning, they completed four weeks trainings onsite at the University Station before moving on to a sister VolkerFitzpatrick site (Camp Hill Lines).  They gained valuable experience to support the completion of their qualification. 

50 tonnes of material saved for landscaping 

The team on the University station project arranged for 50 tonnes of chippings produced on site to be delivered to the University of Birmingham’s Recycling Centre at the Elms. This material was saved to be used as mulch for landscape public areas around the campus.  

I’m delighted to see the opening of the upgraded University station, providing the millions of passengers that use the station each year with a fantastic and fit-for-purpose station that supports the ambitions of the city and the significant growth in passengers expected in the years to come. This has been a highly complex project and I am proud of how hard our teams have worked in close conjunction with our partners to deliver a station upgrade, whilst keeping the railway open, that makes journeys to the university and nearby hospital much easier for all passengers and encourages people to travel by rail, the cleanest and greenest way to travel.

Neil Gaskin, route programme director for Network Rail