West Midlands Strategy
The Government will give the West Midlands more authority to decide how to run their railway, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has announced.
Publishing the White Paper - ’The Future of Rail’ - Mr Darling said that the new structure of the railways will be passenger not industry focused. He said it will ensure money is spent on improving performance for passengers, not wasted through poor planning and needless bureaucracy.
In particular for the West Midlands the White Paper outlines measures that will mean the Passenger Transport Executive (Centro) will:
- Have greater flexibility in their funding arrangements enabling them to make real choices between rail and other transport modes.
- Be able to vary levels of fares and rail services within their area.
- In addition the White Paper supports the approach to safeguard community involvement in managing and sustaining local railway lines.
Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Transport said:
"Local transport decisions are best taken by people who know what’s needed locally. They should be able to make informed decisions as to what works best and what they are willing to pay for.
Passenger Transport Executive’s already manage transport provision in some of the main metropolitan areas of England. I propose that in future they will be able to buy additional services and to transfer funding between rail and other transport modes.
We will reform the funding arrangements and legislation for Centro to provide more flexibility to make choices between rail and other forms of transport - bus and light rail for example.
In addition the White Paper also acknowledges the valuable role of community railway lines, which we aim to put on a better financial footing."
There has been significant expansion of the West Midlands network since 1994, including two new railways:
- Birmingham Snow Hill–Smethwick – the Jewellery Line – opened in 1995
- Nottingham–Worksop – the Robin Hood Line – opened in stages between 1994 and 1998.
New passenger services have been introduced between Leicester and Loughborough, Wolverhampton and Walsall, and from Hednesford to Stafford. We restored double track on the Chiltern Line between Bicester North and Princes Risborough, enabling additional train services to run between London, Bicester, Banbury and Birmingham.
Major new freight terminals were opened at Daventry and Hams Hall, a new station at Willington, and new maintenance depots at Birmingham Soho and Nottingham Eastcroft. We completed major improvements to depot facilities at Derby Etches Park and Tyseley during 1998, and the refurbishment work at Worcester depot is due for completion by the end of March 2000.
On the West Coast Main Line work has started on upgrading the route for more and faster trains. This has included significant track and structures renewals. Seventeen new footbridges have been erected so far to replace footpath crossings. We have also started preparatory work towards remodelling the track layout on the eastern approach to Birmingham New Street. On the East Coast Main Line we have installed additional signalling to create more operational flexibility, and replaced point and crossing equipment to improve performance and create the opportunity for higher linespeeds. We also increased the length of a freight loop at Retford to accommodate 775m long trains.
In the Midland Main Line we have carried out a number of upgrade schemes to facilitate increased train frequencies in 1999. A new junction incorporating a second track was installed at Wigston, and platform 5 at Derby Station and platform 6 at Nottingham Station were reopened to passenger trains.
Railtrack are participating with the sSRA, Centro, train operators, the Government Office for West Midlands and Birmingham City Council in a strategic capacity review for the West Midlands area. Railtrack will use the conclusions of the review as a framework for the development of our strategy for the rail network and in the preparation of individual enhancement schemes.
The review has demonstrated that long-term forecasts of passenger demand into and through central Birmingham can only be met by a substantial increase in rail capacity. A number of options are being evaluated, ranging from the provision of new links to enable additional services to use Moor Street and Snow Hill stations, to the creation of a new tunnel and additional platforms below the existing Birmingham New Street Station to be used by cross-city local services.
Railtrack are discussing with the sSRA the provision of additional tracks on the Coventry–Birmingham Route, to cater for the future predicted volume of train movements.
There is a shortfall in capacity to convey the predicted train movements on the route between Water Orton, central Birmingham and Banbury. Railtrack are assessing a number of options to provide the additional capacity. These include sections of additional tracks between Water Orton and Birmingham and between Tyseley and Leamington, together with new signalling to increase capacity between Leamington and Banbury.
Railtrack are also assessing whether providing new links using abandoned route alignments would provide a more cost-effective alternative for some services.This includes the Honeybourne–Stratford Route, to provide a new route Oxford–Stratford–Birmingham to supplement capacity on the existing route via Banbury.
There is also a projected shortfall in capacity between King’s Norton and Longbridge which may be addressed through remodelling the track layout to provide more effective separation between the cross-city services and long-distance passenger and freight trains. Reopening of the direct Stourbridge–Walsall Line (Route 43) and the Cheltenham–Honeybourne–Stratford-upon-Avon Line (above) could also relieve this corridor.
There are benefits in overall network utilisation of creating routes for freight trains passing through the West Midlands which avoid central Birmingham.There are two proposals for this emerging from the review:
- South West–Worcester–Stourbridge–Walsall–Water Orton–North East. This would require reopening the Stourbridge–Walsall Route. A second phase of developing this route might also involve reopening the Walsall–Brownhills–Lichfield Route to avoid the congested Water Orton area for trains to and from the North East.
- South East–Leamington–Kenilworth–Berkswell–Stechford–Bescot–Bushbury–Stafford–North West.This would involve reopening the disused alignment between Kenilworth and Berkswell and using the additional capacity created by the proposed additional tracks on the Coventry–Birmingham Route.
Railtrack are also working with Centro on the extension of Midland Metro services between Wednesbury, Dudley and Merry Hill.