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This dreadful strategy

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On 15 January, the West Midlands Rail Executive published its ‘revolutionary‘ investment ‘strategy’ for the next 30 years.

twitter, @railleaders, 'A new 30 year plan for rail in the WestMidlands has been unveiled, taking advantages of the benefits of HS2'

[West Midlands Rail Executive]

In the short-term, this includes the return of passenger services and stations on the Camp Hill Line and Wolverhampton to Walsall line.

It also sets out a clear target to achieve regular high frequency services of two, four or six trains an hour at all stations, with busy urban stations receiving a service every ten minutes and quieter local stations at least every half hour during the day.

In the medium-term, the strategy builds on the benefits HS2 will bring to the region and supports the Midlands Rail Hub proposals being developed by Midlands Connect.
The Strategy has been drawn up by the WMRE in collaboration with Midlands Connect, the Department for Transport and the wider rail industry. It has been finalised following a period of public and stakeholder consultation.

The Strategy also commits to producing a supporting ‘Prospectus for Rail’, which will be published in 2019, setting out our overall ambitions for the revolution in rail services.

As with any ambitious plan, it is recognised that not all of the plans may end up being funded or delivered in practice. This particularly applies to the longer-term projects.

WMRE, 'West Midlands Rail revolution promised', 15 Jan 2019

Cornerstones of this dreadful ‘strategy’ include the impractical ‘Midlands Rail Hub’, and “making the most of capacity released by HS2”.

Q. So, in the West Midlands, what does ‘making the most of capacity released by HS2’, actually amount to?

A. According to the strategy’s “development scenarios” for the Coventry corridor (‘before’ and ‘after’ HS2 phase one), nothing very much at all.

As regular readers of this blog will know, HS2 could not release much capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

Rail Engineer, 'the capacity benefits of HS2'

After spending £27,000,000,000++ on HS2 phase one to, er, ‘release capacity’, stations like Stechford, Lea Hall, and Hampton-in-Arden would still have just two trains per hour to Birmingham.

Systra, West Midlands rail development-scenarios (extract), Coventry corridor, published 15 Jan 2019 (numbers in black squares are trains per hour)


Written by beleben

January 16, 2019 at 12:16 pm

And then there were three

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Until 14 December, Transport for West Midlands are ‘seeking feedback’ on plans for ‘new’ stations at Hazelwell, Kings Heath, and Moseley, on the Camp Hill line. These stations would be built in much the same locations as the original ones, closed as an economy measure during World War 2.

TfWM, Camp Hill stations engagement, 2018

TfWM’s consultation document says that a restored local train service on the Camp Hill line would

* widen the choice of transport options and decrease reliance on cars
* reduce congestion on the A435 Alcester Road and surrounding routes
* decrease air and noise pollution from traffic congestion
* address long journey times into central Birmingham, and
* improve capacity to bring goods and services in and out of the area.

However, TfWM are not consulting on the train service, only on the design of the three stations (as plans for a station at Balsall Heath have disappeared, without explanation).

As the revived Camp Hill stopping service would run just twice an hour, to and from Birmingham New Street station, it is hard to see how there could be much impact on road congestion or pollution.

TfWM plans three new stations on the Camp Hill line

Ambitions for a more practical service, into Birmingham’s Moor Street station, appear to be going nowhere, perhaps because the proposed Camp Hill chords at Bordesley have not been thought through properly. It seems safe to assume that the bus (National Express WM #50) will remain the most relevant public transport mode on the Moseley Road corridor, for the foreseeable future.

Judging from the artists’ impressions, the chosen station designs leave a lot to be desired. For example, the canopies over part of the platforms would be supported by poles on the platforms themselves, creating a sort of obstacle course for people getting on and off.

Lacklustre stations, and a mediocre train service. Why does it have to be like this?

A few years ago, West Midlands councillors were vociferous in their demands that all local rail stations should have ticket offices 'manned' during service hours. But in the new stations consultation document, there seems to be no sign of any ticket offices

At least TfWM do not seem to be frothing at the mouth about the idea of trees on railway property, unlike sections of the ‘enthusiast’ press.

TfWM impression of Moseley station, 2018

Written by beleben

November 22, 2018 at 11:50 am

Most transparent shortcomings

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According to West Midlands mayor Andy Street’s “Renewal Plan“, he aims, or aimed, to be the ‘most transparent mayor’ in Britain.


But at the time of writing, the “Mayor’s Expenses” page on the website of the West Midlands Combined Authority gives no information about mayoral expenditure. Nor does there seem to be any diary of Andy’s past or future meetings, etc, on the site.

WMCA, Mayor Andy Street's expenses page, at 16 Oct 2018

Unfortunately, these transparency shortcomings extend well beyond the mayor’s office, to the Combined Authority itself.

Written by beleben

October 19, 2018 at 11:08 am

Eggseptionally bad value

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HS2 and NCHSR, empty hype and mini eggs

Written by beleben

October 5, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Andy and the reprehensible stunt

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On Sunday 30 September, for the second time in less than a week, West Midlands mayor Andy Street and transport secretary Chris Grayling were kitted up in hi-vis and hard hats for a Birmingham photo opp.

Andy Street and Chris Grayling at Curzon Street | (@andy4wm), 30 Sep 2018

This time, it was part of an event to mark the ‘start of construction’ of High Speed Two, at Curzon Street, opposite Millennium Point.

Reprehensible stunt at Curzon Street, 2018-09-30 | BBC Midlands Today

However, there was no actual HS2 ‘construction’ going on, nor is there planned to be, this year. The construction workers and mechanical digger, pointlessly pushing sand around behind Andy and Chris, were, it seems, just props in a stunt for the Conservative party conference.

@andrewbooton, twitter, HS2 charade at Curzon Street

Written by beleben

October 1, 2018 at 8:49 am

Posted in Birmingham, Politics

Milking the Moseley

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twitter @TransportforWM, Chris Grayling photo-opp in Moseley, 26 Sep 2018

On 26 September, transport secretary Chris Grayling paid another visit to Moseley, Birmingham, for more ‘Camp Hill railway’ photo-opps with local bigwigs. The pretext was the ‘unveiling of the designs’ for stations at Moseley, Kings Heath, and Hazelwell (but not Balsall Heath).

According to the TfWM press release, the detailed planning for the stations is yet to take place and the ‘initial’ service will be just two trains per hour in each direction. But in “the longer term, more frequent services may be possible as part of the Midlands Rail Hub project which will build the Camp Hill Chords to link the line to Moor Street Station and allow more trains into Birmingham City Centre”.

TfWM news, designs unveiled for three new rail stations in Birmingham, 26 Sep 2018

Without frequent trains, the decongestion and air quality benefits of Camp Hill local services would be negligible. But as previously mentioned on the Beleben blog, building the chords into Moor Street, in the complicated form supported by TfWM, is a highly unlikely proposition, for several different reasons.

Building a separate Highgate to Moor Street chord would be more technically plausible, but at present, even the chances of that happening are slim.

Written by beleben

September 27, 2018 at 10:03 am

A light on disembarkations

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The rail utilisation strategies published by the Strategic Rail Authority contained information of a kind not replicated in later documents created by Network Rail. For instance, the 2005 West Midlands strategy included a breakdown of passenger arrivals at Birmingham New Street, by time of day.

Because of the existence of Silverlink, it was possible to see the relative (un)importance of both intercity and regional West Coast Main Line traffic at Birmingham New Street.

Strategic Rail Authority, 2005, alighting at Birmingham New Street by time band

Most of the passenger volume was, and is, non-WCML and / or short distance. No doubt total volume has increased since the mid-noughties, but the proportions are probably much the same.

Written by beleben

August 9, 2018 at 9:43 am