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Light rail in the Black Country

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The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority is considering reviving long-stalled plans for a second Midland Metro line along the old Stourbridge — Bescot freight railway to connect Merry Hill with Wednesbury, the Express and Star reported. The four Black Country councils are keen to see “a rapid transit network linking town centres for employment, education and leisure”, and there are plans for a light rail innovation centre to be established near the site of the old Dudley Town railway station.

[“Trams and light rail linking key town and cities a priority for travel bosses”, Express & Star, 24 Jan 2015]

[…] The move follows revived interest in a line linking Wolverhampton railway station with New Cross Hospital.

Options include ‘very light rail’, similar to the £20 million plan for ‘tram trains’ to link Dudley Port station, Tipton, to the site of Dudley’s former station at the bottom of Castle Hill, close to Dudley Zoo, the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust.

But according to Dudley council, the very light rail technology is “a development on that used by Pre-Metro Operations Ltd on the train which links Stourbridge town to Stourbridge Junction”. So, not particularly similar to tram-trains.

Certainly, more research into light rail technology ought to be carried out, especially for routes such as the Central Wales Line. But it is questionable whether there is much of a role for tram-trains, or for very light rail of the Parry People Mover type, in the Black Country.

The Parry People Mover may well be cheaper than operating a conventional diesel railcar on the Stourbridge Town branch. But the costs are still probably a large multiple of those of a bus.

The Stourbridge Junction to Bescot railway was allowed to fall into ruin by Centro, and, with a price tag of £300+ million, it is hard to see how the previous Merry Hill Midland Metro proposals could be funded. A journey from Stourbridge to Walsall on the proposed Midland Metro would have taken around 50 minutes, so its appeal would have been limited.

There needs to be a new approach.

Written by beleben

February 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Clearly a topic for the UKTram Summit on 4th Feb and perhaps one to discuss at the All Party Light Rail Meeting on 10th, with prospective Transport portfolio holders for post GE 2015 answering questions.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    February 3, 2015 at 2:05 pm

  2. The Stourbridge Junction to Bescot (and Walsall) route lost its passenger service many years ago. It was retained for freight that was later cut back to part of the route. The remainder stayed as ‘Out of Use’ under the licence that was initially with Railtrack and later with Network Rail. The OOU is a legal definition under the Railways Act.
    Once a route through an urban area such as that railway, has been lost (such as by a tram being plonked on it), it is hard to get back.
    When the passenger trains ceased, UK population, travel to work by cycle, road congestion etc, was very different. An Ultra Light Rail service such as Parry People Mover has low capital costs (no electrification) and despite no buffet car etc, might do the job.


    October 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

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