The Anonymous Widower

The Future Of The Midland Metro

The Test Match being in Birmingham this week, got me thinking about the new extension to the Midland Metro, I saw this week.

Unlike the tram systems in Blackpool, CroydonManchesterNottingham and Sheffield, the Midland Metro hasn’t really caught the public’s imagination and been a rip roaring success.

When I visit other places with trams, I often use them, even if like in Nottingham, it’s just to get up the hill. But I’ve never used the Midland Metro, unless my trip has been taken to ride on the tram. A section in Wikipedia entitled Line One (Birmingham City Centre) Extension starts like this.

The fact that the existing line does not run into Birmingham City Centre has been identified as one of the reasons why it has failed to attract the predicted patronage. The Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) will extend Line 1 into the streets of central Birmingham. Originally it was planned to terminate the extension at Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street railway station. In September 2013, Centro started consultation on proposals to extend the city-centre extension from New Street station to Centenary Square. This would be another stage towards extending the line to Five Ways the original planned destination. The plan was approved by Birmingham City Council in October 2013, allowing the line to add an additional stop at Birmingham Town Hall.

I have watched this project unfold from a distance and it doesn’t seem to have had the strongest leadership or most intelligent design, when and since it was first opened in 1999.

As my pictures earlier this week showed construction is well underway and hopefully the line will arrive at New Street station this year. Perhaps this line across the city centre will give the Midland Metro an uplift.

On a selfish note, when I go to Birmingham, the places I want to get to are the football grounds and Brindley Place for lunch with friends.

Aston Villa and Wolverhampton have good train access and Birmingham is through the terrible station at Bordesley, but A stop at Brindley Place is on the next part of the Line 1 extension, which won’t be built until 2017 at the earliest. I don’t think it has even been started and possibly even fully planned, judging by the several alternatives talked about in Wikipedia. At present the line is going to Five Ways station, which is shown on this Google Map of the city centre.

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

I’ve included Birmingham Moor Street station on this map, but it won’t be connected to this phase of Midland Metro extension. However, Birmingham Snow Hill station will be, but that is not on the main lines from Euston, Liverpool and Manchester.

Will the line finish at Five Ways or will it continue past Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham University  and the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital?

This second map shows the area between Five Ways and University station, with the cricket ground marked by a red arrow

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Note the university, the hospital, the Alexandra Stadium and University station clustered together in the bottom left corner of this map.

It is worth noting that Five Ways and University stations are both on the Cross-City Line that goes from Redditch to Lichfield via New Street. It is the busiest commuter line outside London and has upwards of six services an hour in both directions. The frequency of the Midland Metro is one tram every eight minutes, so the Cross-City Line is only a little bit less frequent.

The Cross-City Line is currently being extended to Bromgrove and there are unfulfilled plans to reopen the Camp Hill Line, that my train from Oxford to Birmingham used.

There seem to be a lot of competing proposals for money to be spent in the West Midlands, so perhaps if a West Midlands Combined Authority was setup properly, then it could decide what happens.

Perhaps, then Birmingham would get the local transport system it needs and deserves. After all, I think it was very much short-changed in the 1960s with the creation of the unloved New Street station. Let’s hope the new station opening in September, solves at least some of those fifty year old problems.

One of the biggest problems is that Birmingham effectively has two independent sets of local rail lines, with no common interchange.

The Snow Hill Lines though Snow Hill and Moor Street were built by the Great Western Railway and are operated by diesel trains. They carry about twenty percent of the rail services into the city. According to this Future section in the Wikipedia entry for Moor Street station, there are plans for more local services out of Moor Street

There are also an extensive mainly electrified network centred on New Street, which includes the Cross-City and Chase Lines and some services on the West Coast Main Line.

The trouble is there is no obvious connections between the two sets of lines, as is described here in Wikipedia. This Google Map shows the two stations and the shopping centres in between.

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

It would seem to my untrained mind, that there must be possibilities for putting a low level station under Moor Street with platforms on the local lines through New Street. I can’t find any proposals or ideas on the Internet, but then I don’t probably know where to look.

One proposal that might help is the opening of the Camp Hill Line into Moor Street, as this would link up to the Cross-City Line at Kings Norton.

Birmingham seems to be a mass of railway lines, which an intelligent planner could probably use to create transport links in the Greater West Midlands.

In the meantime, the arrival of the Midland Metro to New Street station, the Cross-City Line reaching Bromsgrove and the electrification of the Chase Line to Rugeley, will bring more people into the city centre and hopefuly make interchange easier.

It does appear, that the electric services on the Cross-City Line and Chase Line may need more trains, but at least there will be plenty of Class 315 trains available for cascade from London.

July 30, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

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