beleben

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Wedgwood crock

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Comparing West Midlands intercity rail routes

In February 2008, the Birmingham Post’s Paul Dale blogged about the extension of the Midland Metro tramway across Birmingham city centre. At that time, it was still intended to run from Snow Hill to Five Ways.

I do not know how much money is spent on public relations by West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority [Centro].

But one thing I do know. Whatever the figure is, it is a shocking waste of money.

This organisation has for 20 years or more been a communications basket case and has as a result failed completely to get its message across. Even when it has something positive to say, it doesn’t say it very well.

Four years on, not much about Centro public relations has changed. Although it can’t be easy having to spin the ‘advantages’ of digging up Birmingham city centre for three years to install 700 metres of tram line, or the capacity (not) freed up on West Midlands railways by HS2, I don’t see why there’s a need to abandon probity.

Centro’s PR effort on high speed rail is mainly conducted through leadership of the Go HS2 campaign. Its latest letter to Wolverhampton’s Express and Star implied that HS2 would provide general capacity relief on the local rail network, and direct links between major cities and Europe:

We have already lost stations in Staffordshire (Barlaston and Wedgwood) and Network Rail concluded recently that an alternative scheme to HS2 would threaten services in Stone and Rugeley. It also reported there had been no provision made for growth between Coventry and Birmingham.

It is simplistic to suggest we should keep adding more trains or lengthen them when this is already happening.

In any case Network Rail has concluded we will have no room left on the West Coast Main Line by the early 2020s. Demand is already outstripping forecasts so this may well be optimistic.

HS2 provides fast, direct links between our major cities and Europe, but it also frees space on our existing lines.

Centro has researched how released capacity could benefit the West Midlands allowing us to introduce new services. It would allow for new and increased services from the Black Country to Birmingham Airport, for example.

Map of Trentham, Wedgwood, and Barlaston In fact, HS2 would not even provide direct links between “major cities” in Britain, let alone Europe. Cities not having direct service in the January 2012 scheme include: Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Derby, and Sheffield. The specification provides for no trains to Europe from Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds (the only cities outside London directly served by HS2).

Phase one of HS2 does not involve new track north of Stafford, so it would not facilitate restoration of trains to Wedgwood and Barlaston. It’s unlikely that there would be a strong case for stopping West Coast local trains in these small villages anyway; it would be interesting to compare the cost-effectiveness of providing better local bus services instead.

I’d imagine Trentham would be a stronger candidate for a new Potteries station, but there are much larger places in Britain without a train service — such as Ilkeston. In the Rail Package 6 concept, Ilkeston would be served by electric trains running from London St Pancras to Sheffield. London to Derby trains would continue to Manchester, via Matlock, providing a second route to the North West.

Centro trialled a direct train from Walsall to Birmingham International (the airport station) via Aston and Stechford, but patronage was poor. The frequency of trains between Wolverhampton, Oldbury, central Birmingham, and Birmingham International could be substantially improved by adopting the Rail Package 6 concept. In RP6, West Midlands intercity trains would run from Birmingham Snow Hill to London via the Chiltern Line. This would vacate three paths each hour between Birmingham New Street and Coventry. It would also be possible to remove the Cross-Country franchise services from the Coventry line, leaving just local, interregio (London Midland) and freight.

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Written by beleben

March 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm