The Anonymous Widower

St. Martin’s Queensway Tunnel

In looking on the Internet to see if anybody had ever proposed adding low-level platforms at Birmingham Moor Street station to access the local services out of Birmingham New Street station, I found this article in the Birmingham Post entitled Tunnel link between New Street and Moor Street stations set for facelift.

Now I’ve been to Birmingham many times and often I’ve walked between the two stations and I’ve never seen or heard anything about this tunnel.

Does it actually exist?

The article says this.

A city centre tunnel is set to get a £5.5 million facelift to improve the route between two of Birmingham’s busiest railway stations.

The St Martin’s Queensway Tunnel, which runs under the Bullring shopping centre, will be transformed into a well-lit attractive route for rail commuters.

Road crossings and the public areas outside the revamped New Street Station will also be improved to encourage people to walk between there and Moor Street station.

Currently about 1.4 million people a year walk through the dingy tunnel between the stations, but some have complained of feeling unsafe and it is also poorly signed for visitors to the city.

Some councils may spend £5.5million on imaginary projects, but I don’t think Birmingham would.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

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/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Birmingham Gets A Big Snow Job

It is said by many in the regions of the UK, that London gets and eats all the pies.

At present there are four main rail projects on the go in London; Thameslink, Crossrail, the Northern Line Extension and the London Overground.

Thameslink is a government funded project, whereas Crossrail and the NLE are paid for wholly or in part by property developers and business.

The smaller Overgroundisation of London surface railways is more a methodology that is starting to be copied and expanded in places like Merseyside, the Cardiff Valleys and the West Midlands. Although you could argue that other railways in the UK have had the same idea of frequent clean and sometimes new trains, smart stations and good staffing levels, working for some time. Some of the stations on the Overground, have been or will be expanded, in conjunction with property development.

But other projects where co-operation between Network Rail, rail companies.local government and property developers are starting to be proposed and implemented, Often these projects are led by a major redevelopment of a station.

1. Leeds Station

Leeds station was rebuilt and extended a few years ago, but little use was made of the space above the station.

Leeds Station And City Centre

Leeds Station And City Centre

This Google Earth map shows the central location of the station and also its closeness to the main Trinity Shopping Centre at the top right of the map. Walking routes between the two are not good and the station should have been improved with development on the northern side to link it to the city centre. According to Wikipedia. future plans are in place to add much needed extra platforms and develop the south side of the station.

I believe, that you should walk out of a station into an open space, from where you can get your bearings of the city. This has been done well at London Kings Cross, Liverpool Lime Street, Huddersfield and Cardiff Central and some station rebuilding and expanding, is embracing such a concept.

I hope that Leeds develop the concept to a new level, when they create a new southern entrance. Perhaps on a personal level, they could create an easy way to get a bus to Elland Road.

2. Reading Station

Reading station has also been rebuilt and is surrounded by development, as this Google Earth map shows.

Around Reading Station

Around Reading Station

In the future it will be getting Crossrail,the new western link to Heathrow and probably more offices around the station. Network Rail, who now manage the station, have already created entrances on both sides of the station and I hope that development in the next few years, will make what is a spectacular station, a true gateway to the City.

3. Birmingham New Street

Birmingham New Street station is approaching the end of its  rebuilding, which is now Gateway Plus. It includes a lot of retail including a new John Lewis. The station will also be connected to the Midland Metro. This Google Earth map shows the station and it’s surroundings.

Birmingham New Street

Birmingham New Street

It shows the problem that the station suffers, when compared to many. It is in a deep dark hole surrounded by busy roads, with the buses some way away. I don’t think you would design a station like that these days, as they did in the 1960s.

The station has a problem, as does Leeds, that there is not enough lines and platforms, but whereas at Leeds space is available, it would appear that at Birmingham New Street, it will be difficult to find.

The design of the station means that natural light on the platforms is difficult to provide. Hopefully, though by providing that light on the concourse and lots of lifts and escalators to get to the trains, the architects may have improved things. At present, it’s a bit like a bad Underground station experience arriving and departing at the station. One of the reasons, I generally travel between London and Birmingham by Chiltern Railways, is that Moor Street is a light and airy station, that has been tastefully updated for the modern age.

One of the biggest problems at New Street, is getting onward connections around the City Centre. On my visits to Birmingham, I often walk to Brindley Place to have a drink or lunch with friends. It’s not a difficult walk, but in a few years time, I’ll be able to do this sort of journey on the Midland Metro from the stop in Stephenson Street. When HS2 opens, this tram will be used as the connection between all four Birmingham city centre stations.

4. Manchester Victoria Station

The updating of Manchester Victoria station is  the centrepiece of two big projects in Manchester; the Northern Hub and the extensions to the Manchester Metrolink like the Second City Crossing. This Google Earth map shows The station and the surrounding area.

Manchester Victoria

Manchester Victoria

This image is quite old and doesn’t show the new roof, but it does show the roof of Manchester Arena next door, how the tram lines call at the station, the nearby green space and the river. All the station needs now is completing, the Metrolink extensions and new electric train services to Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool, Bolton, Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull.

I would also personally, like to see an hourly service to the South and Euston, so that I can avoid, the mostly dreadful Piccadilly. This will be possible once the Ordsall Chord is opened, although some might say that it is a real pity, the Picc-Vic tunnel was never built. Perhaps Virgin will get permission to run a service to Huddersfield via both main Manchester stations.

5. Newcastle Station

Newcastle station is a station that I don’t remember as anything special from my last visit some yeas ago, although it is a Grade I Listed Building. But since then, several millions have been spent according to Wikipedia, mainly on internal and retail facilities and on opening up the area round the station. So perhaps I should pay the city a visit. This Google Earth image shows the unique position of the station.

Newcastle Station

Newcastle Station

It is high above the Tyne on the edge of the city centre and uniquely the station is on a curve. It must be a very difficult to add extra tracks and platforms, which seem to be needed, as both through and local services are going to increase significantly.

I have only given five major examples, but they show how stations are becoming the focus of development.

One of my manual searches on the Internet picked up this article on Modern Railways entitled Snow Hill ‘transformation’ plan. This is the first paragraph.

Birmingham City Council has released its Snow Hill Masterplan, which outlines plans to grow the business district surrounding the station and includes proposals for the ‘transformation’ of the station into a transport hub.

Snow Hill is Birmingham’s station that is ignored by visitors from around the country, although it is important for commuters and others brought into the city on the Snow Hill Lines.

The Snow Hill Masterplan is here on the Birmingham Post website. Some of those who have commented don’t like it and they could be right. But the principles behind the plan of creating high quality offices, retail and apartments over a well-connected station is one that has been proven to work at Canary Wharf. After all it does actually make double use of the same piece of land. This is a Google Earth image of the Birmingham Snow station and its location.

Birmingham Snow Hill

Birmingham Snow Hill

You don’t see much of the actual station, as it is covered by a multi-story car park. As someone who can’t drive and manages well without a car, I can’t see why cities don’t do what London, Cambridge and Oxford have done and discourage people from driving in by providing top quality public transport.

The Snow Hill Masterplan would need an updated Midland Metro and also extra trains and routes through Snow Hill station.

I think that if I could get trains direct from Marylebone to Snow Hill, then that would be my preferred way of going. Snow Hill is in a much friendlier and welcoming part of the City than New Street.

I think on balance it is a good plan.

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Stourbridge And Back

I went to Stourbridge today essentially to see the town and the Parry People Mover, but I took these pictures on my way up by Chiltern from Marylebone and back on Virgin to Euston.

The trips illustrated the best and worst points of the two companies and their trains.

Chiltern has the more comfortable trains, with big windows and free wi-fi, but the journey takes longer.

One small thing that surprised me was the quality of both the Class 172 trains and the stations it passed through, on the way from Birmingham Moor Street to Stourbridge Junction. In some ways though it is a reasonably modern line, as it was only reopened in 1995 as the Jewellery Line Project, which created Birmingham’s cross-city passenger route between Moor Street and Snow Hill. Wikipedia says this about the Birmingham to Worcester via Kiderminster Line, on which Stourbridge Junction is located.

It is a future aspiration of Chiltern Railways and Network Rail to electrify the entire line, including the Chiltern Main Line to London Marylebone.

I’ve always thought that electrification of the Chiltern Line should be done before HS2, so that there is adequate capacity between London and Birmingham, whilst Euston is rebuilt.

Another reason to electrify the Snow Hill Lines sooner rather than later would be so that some of these Class 172 trains could be released for other routes.


November 20, 2014 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birmingham Moor Street Station

Of all the stations, I have visited on my trip, Birmingham Moor Street is one of the best. It is not a modern steel and glass c reation, but a well-refurbished station with a 1930s theme. Just look at these seats.

Seats At Moor Street Station

It is also home to the cosmetically-restored 2-8-0 steam engine, GWR 2885.

GWR 2885 at Moor Street Station

More of these engines should be displayed at stations, just like Locomotion No.1 used to be at Darlington. The story of that is described here.

It has been a very good restoration of a station, which has won awards according to Wikipedia.

Refurbished in 1930s style, the station has reproduction lamps, clock, seating, and signage. The renovation won the Railway Heritage Trust award for 2004 and The Birmingham Civic Society’s Renaissance Award for 2005.

I doubt the Dyson hand-dryers in the Gents are original though.

Please Adjust Your Dress

The sign may well be original though.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 1 Comment