beleben

die belebende Bedenkung

Lichfield to Stourbridge derailed

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South Staffordshire Line, plan

South Staffordshire Line, showing its relationship with other West Midlands railways (based on Open Street Map)

Re-opening of the (South Staffordshire railway) line between Walsall and Stourbridge” is one of Centro‘s aspirations for the period 2014 to 2019. Passenger services stopped running in the 1960s, and nearly all of the South Staffordshire Line was closed altogether in the 1980s and 1990s. The term ‘South Staffordshire Line’ (SSL) is now used to designate the railway route from Wychnor Junction to Stourbridge via Lichfield, Walsall, Wednesbury, Dudley, and Brierley Hill.

For more than twenty years, Centro has been looking to use parts of the South Staffordshire’s trackbed in its Midland Metro tramway scheme. In June 2000, it submitted an Initial Outline Business Case to the government for two Midland Metro ‘Phase One Extensions’ – the Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE), and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE).

The Brierley Hill route would have functioned as a branch of Midland Metro Line One, using stretches of the South Staffordshire Line, together with on-street running in Dudley and Merry Hill. Centro’s 20 December 2004 press releases ‘Metro expansion go-ahead “a wonderful Christmas present for the Black Country”‘ and ‘More from the Metro expansion public inquiry‘, spun the WBHE as follows:

'Wonderful Christmas present', 2004

Christmas has come early for the people of the Black Country according to transport bosses.

Public transport promoter Centro and councillors on the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority have responded with joy at today’s Government approval for a major extension of the Midland Metro tram system.

Transport Minister David Jamieson made the announcement earlier this morning. He said the Government would grant Centro the powers to extend the light rapid transit system from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, via Dudley.

The decision follows a public inquiry into the £139m scheme earlier this year.
[…]
The 11 km Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro route will have 13 easy-access stops with four Park and Ride sites serving shopping and business areas in Great Bridge, Dudley Port (connecting with local train services), Dudley town centre, the Waterfront and Merry Hill before terminating near High Street, Brierley Hill. Modern trams would cover the distance in 23 minutes, travelling on-street through parts of Dudley and following the route of a mothballed railway line for much of the remaining journey.

During the course of the Inquiry which concluded in April this year, Centro reached agreement with both Network Rail and the Strategic Rail Authority to protect the route of a parallel railway track should it ever be needed for freight trains.

Objections by rail enthusiasts wanting to see passenger train services were dismissed as expensive and unrealistic. Centro’s evidence claimed that the extra work required would cost more than £36m and that, according to the Government’s Strategic Rail Authority “… there is no demand that would justify a passenger service on the Walsall to Stourbridge axis, either now or in the foreseeable future”.

Not long after the public inquiry had ended, Centro issued a new funding requirement for the WBHE that was much higher than the claimed ‘£36 million extra work’ required for South Staffordshire passenger rail service. The WBHE scheme went nowhere, and Centro repackaged it as the ‘Wednesbury – Brierley Hill – Stourbridge Rapid Transit’ tram-train, costed at £341 million.

In a response to a 19 March 2010 article in the Halesowen News, Councillor Angus Adams, Centro’s Lead Member for District Liaison and Metro/Rapid Transit Development, wrote that [the Brierley Hill Midland Metro]

continues to have the full support of the Black Country councils and has been agreed by the region as a transport priority for the West Midlands, paving the way for it to be included in a future Regional Funding Allocation bid.

Private sector backing for a Wednesbury to Stourbridge link is also strong. Substantial financial support agreed by Westfield, owners of the Merry Hill shopping centre, for improved rapid transit access to the Waterfront and Merry Hill will continue to underpin a funding case for the route.

Preparation work on the route is continuing and one option being pursued by Centro and key project partners including Network Rail is the use of track sharing technology similar to that seen on the Continent.

This would allow freight trains and trams to use the same tracks, removing the need for an extra set of rails to be laid. This would reduce construction costs by at least 20 per cent, further strengthening the project’s business case.

Treating the Birmingham city centre extension as a separate scheme actually makes a Wednesbury to Brierley Hill/Merry Hill and Dudley link more attractive.

This is because the most attractive business case for a light rail system on this route is likely to be for a scheme in which frequent services departing from Brierley Hill will alternately serve Wolverhampton and Birmingham with all the enhanced destinations offered by going right into the heart of the city rather than terminating at Snow Hill.

Centro and the Black Country councils are therefore fully committed to the development and delivery of the most appropriate rapid transit system that links Wednesbury with the area’s other strategic centres and connects local people to job, education, training and leisure opportunities.

The dereliction of the South Staffordshire Line today is a result of Centro’s failure to place it on a care and maintenance footing (after the cessation of freight services in the 1990s). Reinstatement is further complicated by the tram-train proposal, which has likely put paid to any freight or passenger use for years.

Written by beleben

November 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] value, depends on the circumstances. In the West Midlands, Centro’s proposed £300+ million Wednesbury – Brierley Hill – Stourbridge tram-train is not value for money, and does not make […]

  2. […] inaction in the early 1990s led to the South Staffordshire Line — which once connected Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Wednesbury, Walsall, and Lichfield — […]


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