The Anonymous Widower

After The Northern Hub, Is Network Rail Planning A Midland Rail Hub?

The study on Network Rail’s web site is entitled West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study, proposes a concept of a Midland Rail Hub.

By adding the following infrastructure.

  • Bordesley Chords and new platforms at Moor Street
  • More tracks through Water Orton
  • Kings Norton upgrade
  • Snow Hill Platform 4
  • Begin rollout of Digital Railway

Network Rail feel, it will bring the following benefits.

  • Up to 10 extra trains every hour
  • More freight trains
  • New journey opportunities between East and West Midlands
  • Unlocking new jobs
  • Maximising benefits of HS2.

It doesn’t appear to be as radical as the Northern Hub.

These are my notes and thoughts on the various proposals.

Bordesley Chords

This Google Map shows the Bordesley area of Birmingham.

Bordesley Chords

Bordesley Chords

In the top-right or north-eastern corner of the map is Birmingham City Football Ground.

In the middle of the map is Bordesley Circus, which is a roundabout, that is one of the most dangerous for pedestrians in the country. When I was last there, it was being improved and I wrote  My Least Favourite Roundabout Gets Pedestrian Lights. I hope they’re working on Tuesday, 13th December, when I’ll be going to see Ipswich play.

Bordesley station, which is one of the worst stations in the UK, lies to the South-West of this roundabout and is on the Chiltern Main Line into Birmingham Moor Street station, although services don’t stop.

Running almost North-South across the map is the Camp Hill Line, which incidentally passes behind the stands at the football ground.

Where it crosses the Chiltern Main Line, there is a chord allowing limited connection between North and East.

I would assume that as the report says Bordesley Chords, that there will be some extra connectivity between these two lines.

Under the future of the Camp Hill Line on Wikipedia, this is said.

The reinstatement of local rail services to the former Camp Hill Line has been a long term aspiration of the City, and during 2007, Birmingham City Council announced that they were looking into the possibility of reopening the line between Kings Norton and Birmingham Moor Street via the construction of a railway viaduct from Sparkbrook to Bordesley, where trains would be taken into the “old” Birmingham Moor Street station. In October 2007, a 1500-name petition was handed in to the council asking for the line to be re-opened. In 2013 the proposal was shelved indefinitely.

As Kings Norton is to the South, this would need a West to South connection at Bordesley.

These pictures show the area from a Chiltern Train going into Moor Street.

Salubrious it is not! There is certainly a lot of space on the North side, but there might be less on the South. This Google Map shows the area between the station and where the two lines cross.

Bordesley Station And Chords

Bordesley Station And Chords

Note the double-track chord between the Camp Hill Line to the North and the Chiltern Main Line to the East. This chord gives services from the Chiltern Main Line to access Birmingham New Street station. If you take a train from Oxford to Birmingham New Street, it will take this chord, if it doesn’t go via Coventry.

From what I have seen in Manchester and some parts of London, the area could surely be put to a better purpose, perhaps driven by a rebuilt Bordesley station, with regular services to Moor Street, Kings Noton and Solihull. The area does have the added factor of water in the shape of one of Birmingham’s numerous canals.

Hopefully, the first piece of development in a very run-down area, the sorting of a decent walking route between Bordesley station and Birmingham City Football Ground has been completed.

New Platforms At Birmingham Moor Street Station

This Google Map shows Birmingham Moor Street station.

Birmingham Moor Street Station

Birmingham Moor Street Station

The most northerly pair of platforms in the station are numbered 1 and 2 and are for the through lines to Birmingham Snow Hill station.

Over the last few years, work has opened the next pair of bay platforms 3 and 4. On my last trip to Birmingham in June, I arrived in Platform 4.

A Chiltern Main Line Train In Platform 4 At Birmingham Moor Street Station

A Chiltern Main Line Train In Platform 4 At Birmingham Moor Street Station

Platform 5 on the other side of Platform 4 may have been reinstated, but there doesn’t seem to be any trains using it, as yet!

The map shows that there would appear to be space to open Platforms 3, 4 and 5, but could a clever architect squeeze in a Platform 6?

These pictures show the space for a possible Platform 5 and 6.

There would certainly appear to be space to shoe-horn two tracks and a new Platform 6 between the current Platform 5 and the retaining wall.

As the pictures show, Platform 5 is a platform that is long enough for any train currently envisaged that might call at Moor Street station.

Looking at the map of the station, it might even be possible to make Platform 6 even longer, if this were thought to be needed.

More Tracks Through Water Orton

This Google Map shows Water Orton station and the lines through it.

Lines Through Water Orton Station

Lines Through Water Orton Station

If you look up services from Water Orton and Coleshill Parkway stations, they are certainly of the turn-up-and-wait-forever variety.

Water Orton has one train every two hours to Birmingham, but at least Coleshill Parkway has a train every half-hour.

Perhaps more lines through Water Orton will enable more trains through the area.

Looking at the rail map of Birmingham, it would be possible to go from Water Orton via the Camp Hill Line to Kings Norton and if the North to West chord was built at Bordesley to Moor Street.

It would certainly be the view of many, including myself, that a Parkway station needs a train or tram every fifteen minutes.

Kings Norton Upgrade

If the Camp Hill Line is reopened to passenger trains, then Kings North station will be the terminus.

This Google Map shows the station.

Kings Norton Station

Kings Norton Station

It is a large station with an unused island platform in the middle.

These pictures show Kings Norton station.

There is certainly work to be done.

But the station also has a lot of potential and space that can be utilised. It might even be possible to fit in a bay platform to turn trains back to Moor Street and New Street.

Birmingham Snow Hill Platform 4

Wikipedia says this about platforms at Birmingham Snow Hill station,

The present Snow Hill station has three platforms for National Rail trains. When it was originally reopened in 1987 it had four, but one was later converted in 1999 for use as a terminus by Midland Metro trams. The original tram terminus closed in November 2015, in order for the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre to be connected. This includes a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, and will also include a new through stop serving Snow Hill. This will eventually allow the fourth platform to be returned to main-line use.

As the Midland Metro now has its own new platform outside the station, the fourth platform can soon be converted back to heavy rail use.

These pictures show the current state of the closed tram platform.

I don’t think that converting it back to heavy rail will be the most difficult of jobs.

Birmingham Station Connectivity

Although, not on the Network Rail infrastructure list, I feel that to gain the full benefits of HS2, then the line must be properly connected to Moor Street and New Street stations.

I can easily walk between Moor Street and New Street stations, but I do feel that Birmingham’s solution of using the Midland Metro as a link and to the Curzon Street HS2 station, is not the way to do it.

It needs some form of people mover. Perhaps a travelator would be better.

City Centre Ticketing

In Liverpool, a ticket to Liverpool stations, allows you to use the Underground to any of the other stations in the City Centre.

In London, many visitors by rail, add a Travelcard to their rail ticket.

Perhaps, in Birmingham, a ticket to Birmingham stations, should include the Midland Metro in the City Centre? Or a simple add-on for the Metro between Jewellery Quarter and Five Ways could be added for a few pounds.

At present, you have to buy a separate ticket. How visitor-friendly is that? At least a short journey is only a pound

If Birmingham is to make the most out of the opportunity of HS2, then they must use easy and understandable ticketing.

Chiltern’s Superb Trains

My trip down to Birmingham was in a Class 168 train, which although was a good experience for a diesel multiple unit, was spoilt as one engine went AWOL and we were late in to Moor Street.

But going home to London, I rode in what I think are one of the best long distance trains anywhere in Europe; Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches pulled and pushed by a modern Class 68 locomotive.

  • Nearly every seat gets a table and a window aligned to it.
  • The seats are spcious and comfortable.
  • The ride is the superb one, you always get from a Mark 3 coach.
  • Trolley-service of drinks and a buffet on most services.
  • Free wi-fi.
  • London to Birmingham return for £19.20 with a Railcard.
  • I’ve never travelled on Chiltern’s Mark 3 coaches and been unable to read my paper flat in front of me on the table.

The experience may be slower than Virgin’s, but give me Standard Class on Chiltern against First on Virgin every time between London and Birmingham.

The only problem, is that Marylebone station, isn’t as accessible as Euston from where I live. However, when Crossrail opens, times will be within a few minutes.

I can’t help feeling that Transpennine’s decision to use Class 68 locomotives and rakes of new CAF Mark 5 coaches across the Pennines, was influenced by the success of Chiltern’s flagship service and its superb rolling stock.

I’m looking forward to riding the CAF coaches in a few years, to see how they stand up to an almost forty year old British Rail coach.

I wonder how many Spanish engineers have ridden Chiltern’s trains?

I also feel that the Class 68 locomotive is an asset to a passenger service, in that so many diesel locomotives look dirty and smelly, but Class 68s seemed to have been designed to keep clean and also look how a locomotive should; powerful, purposeful and sleek.

For those, who don’t like that the trains are still diesel-hauled, there is even a Spanish solution for that, if the lines ever get electrified, in the shape of the new Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive, which is a sister of the Class 68 locomotive.

And of course, if Chiltern need some more trains and can’t find the Mark 3 coaches, they can always buy some new coaches from CAF.

 

Conclusions

It’s a very sensible plan and it will open up all sorts of possibilities for Birmingham.

The chords at Bordesley and the extra tracks through Water Orton would seem to open up a new route for trains across the city from Moor Street band Kings Norton to Water Orton and Nuneaton.

  • New subsurban services could link Nuneaton and Kings Norton to Moor Street.
  • Cross-country services might use Moor Street with a reverse, rather than New Street.
  • Extra services from Moor Street to Nuneaton might take pressure off the heavily-loaded New Street to Birmingham route.
  • How would the new station at Kenilworth station fit in?

But there are railways all over this area and I’m sure that the Bordesley and Water Orton improvements, will not be the last.

Already there is talk of reopening, the Sutton Park Line and the Stonebridge Railway.

I asked about Kenilworth station. I don’t know, but after Bordesley and Water vOrton are upgraded, there would be the possibility of a Warwickshire Circle, starting and finishing at Moor Street.

 

  • Moor Street
  • Solihull
  • Warwick Parkway
  • Warwick
  • Leamington Spa with a reverse.
  • Kenilworth
  • Coventry
  • Coventry Arena
  • Bedworth
  • Bermuda Park
  • Nuneaton
  • Coleshill Parkway
  • Water Orton
  • Moor Street

It would be a route, where several stations could be reopened or built from scratch. Leamington Spar incidentally already has a bay platform for the reverse.

I also think, that one of the biggest beneficiaries of all this will be Chiltern Railways.

Consider.

  • Their two Birmingham termini of Show Hill and Moor Street are getting extra capacity.
  • Moor Street will become a big terminal with two through and four bay platforms, all of which will be able to handle the longest Chiltern trains.
  • Birmingham New Street station lacks capacity.
  • The Birmingham New Street to Coventry route is seriously crowded.
  • In Will Chiltern Railways Get A Second London Terminal At Old Oak Common?, I talked about Network Rail’s ideas to link the Chiltern route to the new station.
  • Banbury station has been upgraded for more traffic.
  • Chiltern will be running to Oxford station by the end of this year.
  • Chiltern have plans in hand to run to Milton Keynes station.

We’ll certainly see extra services from London to Birmingham and possibly beyond, but will we see a triangular route going between London – Oxford – Birmingham – London?

It will depend on whether the passengers want it, but from Chiltern’s point of view, it might mean that their platforms in London, Oxford and Birmingham, and their trains, saw higher utilisation.

I suspect too, that the Oxford -Birmingham leg has more paths available and that Chiltern’s capacity problems are mainly at the London end of the Chiltern Main Line, especially now, that Banbury has been remodelled.

Chiltern Railways are an ambitious company and if they get a second terminal in London at Old Oak Common, they will certainly use it profitably.

I think that the Network Rail report shows that a few simple improvements, when thought through and executed with care can produce improvements not suspected in the original plans.

But all rail planning has to discount the London Overground Syndrome, where new stations, routes and trains, attract more passengers than originally expected.

 

July 8, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s