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Railwatch 084 - June 2000


By Alan Bevan

Freight prospects A review of rail freight opportunities was given to the branch AGM on 19 February by Graham Smith, planning director of EWSR. Regrettably a shortfall of £7million, even after maximum grants, meant that reopening the 12-mile Southam-Rugby branch to cement traffic has been abandoned. However, the one-mile stub next to Rugby cement works is being relaid. There is a good possibility of the 18-mile Stoke-on-Trent to Caldon Low branch being reopened for sand and cement traffic, and the three-mile rail link across green fields to the Land Rover factory which has support from Solihull Council, awaits a Transport and Works Act inquiry.

Franchise aspirations With the outcome of the Chiltern lines franchise nearing resolution, attention is now being given to the Central Trains area. In April the Midlands RUCC meeting gave RDS a 20-minute slot to present a synopsis of our aspirations and this was supplemented by a six-page statement incorporating the views of the three Midlands branches. Further dialogue with bidders and more detailed submissions are expected shortly.

Track plans In Railtrack's new Network Management Statement, the Midlands branch is particularly anxious to see confirmation of proposals to quadruple the Stechford-Berkswell route along with electrification of the Walsall-Rugeley line. During May the SRA's West Midlands Rail Capacity Study will, we hope, support further essential works such as reopening the 22-mile Stourbridge-WaIsall-Lichfield route and securing increased track capacity for services to New Street station.

Although the NMS suggests a £500million deep-level New Street station and tunnels, the Midlands branch favours a cheaper and more achievable parallel tracks solution. For this reason we objected in February, via a public inquiry, to compulsory purchase orders and works on lands above and between the eastern tunnels planned in connection with the Bull Ring redevelopment. The work entails a series of piles being inserted alongside the twin tunnels in front of the Rotunda to support three floors of a new shopping centre. The thrust of our objection was the need to protect the option for a third pair of tracks between Proof House Junction and New Street station given that there is a major question of deliverability for the costly deep level scheme and uncertainty as to whether that scheme would actually solve the major rail capacity deficiency.

Dudley Metro In February, Centro reported it was no longer feasible to develop track sharing of Metro and rail services south of Wednesburv due to issues of track ownership, safety, track access obligations, operating regulations, capacity and funding uncertainties. Thus having discarded its original single Metro line with passing loops and now abandoning the much-heralded track-sharing concept, Centro is postulating removal of the existing twin heavy rail tracks so that space for three tracks can be utilised mainly by the Metro extension, having its own two tracks and a future heavy rail scheme subsequently funding and providing its own single line for most of the six-mile route. We have expressed strong concerns about this plan which appears to prevent running two freight and four passenger trains per hour in each direction.

Cross-City Centro has accepted the conclusions of a study into the future of the Cross-City line which found that conversion to light rail operation was not practical as the trains would need to carry heavy current converters plus full train protection equipment, and because the more numerous paired trains would be too long for city centre street platforms. The study has however shown that there are substantial economic benefits from operating a 10-minute frequency all day and from extending a branch into Rubery & Frankley (as RDS sought 25 years ago!).

Branch contact: A R Wiggall, 25 Enfield Close, Erdington, Birmingham B23 5SE. Tel: 0121 604 2750. Email: wiggall@globalnet.co.uk

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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