The Anonymous Widower

Govia Loses The West Midlands Rail Franchise

This article on the BBC is entitled London Midland loses West Midlands rail franchise.

The new lead partner in a company called West Midlands Trains is Abellio.

This page on the Government web site gives full details.

There is also this interactive map, which details changes by line.

The next few sections detail a few points.

Four Hundred New Carriages

West Midlands Trains are promising four hundred new carriages.

Currently, there are 476 carriages serving the routes they will be taking over. The trains that are modern include.

  • 77 x four-car Class 350 trains – 308 carriages – Built in 2004-2014
  • 17 x two-car Class 170 trains – 34 carriages – Built in 1999-2000
  • 6 x three-car Class 170 trains – 18 carriages – Built in 1999-2000

This is a total of 360 carriages.

This group probably lack wi-fi, which could be retrofitted.

It looks to me, that the West Midlands are going to be seeing a hell of a lot more trains.

Abellio should know what trains to buy, as they’ve just spent nearly a billion on new trains for Greater Anglia and are introducing a large fleet of Hitachi electric trains in Scotland.

Are we going to see a complete fleet change, as is happening with Greater Anglia and South Western Railway?

I think it will be very likely that the new train will be an Aventra or similar, with the following characteristics.

  • Based on four or five car units.
  • Ability to work in pairs.
  • Possibly some longer ones. of eight or ten cars for busy routes.
  • Walk-through design.
  • Large lobbies and wide doors.
  • Ability to stop at a station and get started quickly. Could save up to two minutes every stop.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Some bi-mode or trains to work independently for perhaps thirty miles are needed.

They could be very similar to the Class 720 trains ordered by Greater Anglia or the Class 710 trains ordered by London Overground, if Aventras are chosen.

I will look at a simple example on the Cross-City Line  between Lichfield Trent Valley and Redditch stations.

This currently takes 83 minutes with twenty-two stops. This would probably give a three-hour round trip. So on a rough estimate, to provide this service on a two trains per hour (tph) basis, would require six trains or twelve, if each of the current Class 323 train is a pair of six-cars.

Running a five-car Aventra or similar, which would save over a minute a stop and would be faster, would probably bring the round trip time down to under two hours. So two tph, would need just four trains.

The capacity of the Aventra would be greater at over 800 passengers as opposed to 500 in the pair of Class 323 trains.

Birmingham To Rugeley Trent Valley

The electrification on the Chase Line is being extended to Rugeley Trent Valley and new electric services should start from May 2018.

Wolverhampton To Walsall Line

The Wolverhampton To Walsall Line is an oddity in that is electrified and doesn’t have a passenger service.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line under Future Plans, this is said.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line using either conventional trains or tram-trains. Along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

So will these plans be implemented in the next few years?

Birmingham To Bromsgrove

The new electric trains would also be able to serve the newly electrified route to Bromsgrove station from May 2018.

Does The B In Birmingham Stand For Battery?

If Bombardier or Hitachi get their energy storage working, then the new trains would be able to continue to Worcester from Bromsgrove, as it’s only fourteen miles.

Birmingham is getting battery trams, so is it getting battery trains?

Battery trains would certainly be able to work the Camp Hill Line.

But it will be interesting to see if battery trains can sneak through on other routes in the centre of Birmingham.

The Snow Hill Lines

The Snow Hill Lines across Birmingham are the classic cross-city line that should be electrified, as you don’t want to have diesel trains in the centres of cities.

My thoughts.

  • In the current financial climate, large scale electrification is not going to happen.
  • Battery trains wouldn’t help, as there is no electrification with which to charge the batteries.
  • Traditional bi-modes aren’t much use either, as they’d run on diesel all the time.

The only alternative is probably more efficient diesel-electric hybrid trains that incorporate regenerative braking with batteries.

Could these trains be coupled with limited electrification in the centre around the Snow Hill Tunnel?

There’s a solution in there somewhere and I suspect that West Midlands Trains have used it.

Leamington To Nuneaton via Kenilworth And Coventry

This route via the new Kenilworth station will be getting an hourly service.

It’s only nineteen miles each way with scraps of electrification at Nuneaton and Coventry.

Could an Aventra or similar with batteries do this trip?

Conclusion

The West Midlands are getting a much better train service.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Where Is London Midland Going?

This excellent article on Rail News is entitled Franchising timetable slips again.

This is the first two paragraphs.

THE Department for Transport’s franchising timetable is slipping again, possibly because of delays introduced by the snap General Election.

The winner of the West Midlands franchise should have been announced in June, ready for the new contract to start in October.

It is now getting very tight for a new West Midlands franchise, currently held by London Midland,  to start in October.

The Current Fleet

The current fleet is a mixture of diesel and electric multiple units, most of which are in reasonable condition, although it does need a certain amout of updating and the addition of some new or refurbished trains.

  • I don’t think any of the trains have wi-fi, whereas some of their competitors have it installed.
  • The several Class 153 trains probably need replacing or augmenting with larger units.
  • More 100 mph electric units are probably needed for the West Coast Main Line.
  • More Class 350 trains from TransPennine Express must be a possibility.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Class 769 trains going to the new franchise to work partially-electrified routes.

But the train fleet doesn’t look like it will need a massive number of replacement trains.

Planned And Proposed Lines Around Birmingham

The next few sections detail some of the developments either in progress or proposed.

The Chase Line

The Chase Line electrification should be complete by May 2018 and this will need more electric trains.

Although, I do wonder if the new franchise might use the new electrified route to introduce new services.

The Cross City Line

The Cross-City Line electrification to the newly-rebuilt Bromsgrove station should allow a new three trains per hour (tph) electric service to start across Birmingham in May 2018.

Unless of course, the electrification is late.

The Camp Hill Line

The Camp Hill Line is another cross-Birmingham route and effectively acts as a loop for the Cross-City Line.

It is a long term aim of Birmingham to reopen this line to passengers and the new franchise could include this line in their plans.

Wikipedia talks of a £170million pound scheme to reopen the line with the following features.

  • Three tph
  • Three new stations
  • A connection to Moor Street.

But as the line is open to freight and long distance passenger traffic, I do wonder if now that responsibility for this line has been devolved, that something simpler could be done in the short term to increase services across Birmingham.

Kenilworth Station

Kenilworth station should open this year on the Coventry to Leamington Line.

It will probably open with single-car Class 153 trains, which will probably be totally inadequate.

I wonder if the Coventry and Leamington Line could run back-to-back services with the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, thus creating a Leamington to Nuneaton service via Kenilworth, Coventry and Coventry Arena.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

  • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
  • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
  • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton.

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

A Bi-Mode Train For The West Midlands

The lines around Birmingham are very much like those around Liverpool and Manchester, with a mix of electrified and non-electrified lines.

More trains are needed and needed very soon to make the most of the following.

  • New stations like Bromsgrove and Kenilworth.
  • New electrification like the Chase Line to Rugeley and the Cross-City Line to Bromsgrove.
  • Reopened lines like the Camp Hill Line.
  • Capacity on electrified lines through Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

I suspect that an ideal train for the West Midlands would have the following characteristics.

  • 100 or even 110 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Perhaps 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Possibly a range of perhaps a dozen miles on batteries.
  • Four coaches.
  • A modern interior.
  • Wi-fi

This specification could have been written for one of Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains. Batteries might need to be added, which is something Porterbrook may do if a customer needs the feature.

But it doesn’t have to be a rebuilt train from the 1980s, as I suspect Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode Stadler Flirts as ordered by Greater Anglia would do the job well.

And who’s in the mix to run the new West Midlands franchise? Abellio, who recently won the new Greater Anglia franchise.

So could we see some flirting around Birmingham?

Regional Services

The current franchise runs services to Liverpool, but not Manchester.

Applications in the past have been made to run to Preston and I suspect that the new franchise will seek to improve services to Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Preston, although some of these routes will be opposed by Virgin.

As Manchester Airport seems to be developing as a rail hub, perhaps we’ll see the new franchise serving the important airport!

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see the plans of the new franchise, when they are announced.

But as this brief analysis and speculation shows, I think that there will be an order for new or refurbished bi-mode trains.

 

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 5 Comments

Birmingham Airport Mulls Plan For Terminal Inside HS2 Station

This is the title of an article in Construction News.

This Google Map shows Birmingham Airport, the current Birmingham International station, the NEC, with the M42 Motorway going North-South down the Eastern side.

Currently, it is planned that the Birmingham Interchange station for HS2, would be on the other side of the M42 to the NEC.

Surely, the Construction News headline is indicating that something better can be done.

In an ideal world, Birmingham Airport would have one station for HS2, West Coast Main Line and local train and tram services, with a step-free lift/escalator connection between all platforms and both Departures and Arrivals at the Airport.

 

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tram 18, Where Are You?

This article in Rail echnology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

It describe how Tram 18 is on its way to Zaragoza to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, so that the UK’s first battery tram can start running in 2019, after the track is laid to Victoria Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton.

February 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Route Of The Midland Metro Extension To Victoria Square

The extensions at both ends of the Midland Metro in Birmingham and Wolverhampton City Centres will be a first for the UK, in that they will be catenary-free and the trams will run on battery power.

This Google Map shows the area, where the initial extension will go in Birmingham City Centre.

birminghammetroextension

Places of interest are.

  • The cathedral is in the North-East corner.
  • New Street station is in the South-East corner.
  • Victoria Square and the Town Hall are just to the East of the middle.
  • Centenary Square is towards the West side.

This description comes from this page on the Metro Alliance web site.

840m of twin track from Birmingham Grand Central at Stephenson Street, up Pinfold Street through Victoria Square, Paradise St, past Paradise Circus into Centenary Square at Broad St.There will be an intermediate stop outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square, and we will interface with the Navigation Street link.

One of the problems at the moment, is that the development of Paradise Birmingham, seems to sit in the middle of the route.

These pictures show the area of Victoria Square and the route up from New Street station.

Note.

  • The steep hill of Pinfold Street.
  • The route seemed to have been prepared ready for the track to be fitted into the road surface.
  • Utilities seemed to have been moved.
  • When I took the pictures, the Midland Metro had parked a tram at the limit of the current track at the bottom of Pinfold Street.

Climbing The Hill

You can’t accuse Birmingham of lacking ambition, as Pinfold Street is a proper hill.

But then!

  • It is the only steep hill on the route to Centenary Square.
  • The tram will start the ascent with full batteries.
  • There will be no problems coming down.
  • This extension is only 840 metres in length.
  • The MetroCentro in Seville has used similar technology on a 1.4 km. route since 2007.
  • CAF have technology that charges batteries fast.
  • Battery technology has moved on in the last ten years.

If in practice, it does prove a difficult climb, overhead wires could be put on sufficient of the lower part of the up-track on Pinfold Street.

These wires wouldn’t be visible from Victoria Square, so wouldn’t effect the architectural integrity pf the area.

Onward to Edgbaston

According to this article in Rail Technology Magazine, the further four kilometre extension to Egbaston, is also intended to be catenary-free.

As the trams could be charged at Edgbaston, I think this could be possible.

But I doubt CAF would propose the use of batteries, if they hadn’t already proven the range, which is not outrageous.

The Next Step

I looked at a lot of the route of the first section to Victoria Square today, and it would appear that the roadway has been prepared for fitting the track.

So could we see an accelerated development of the first part of the extension?

It would be a good test of the technology, with little risk to the Midland Metrolink!

If the trams can’t make the hill on baqtteries, it would need to be wired, but you could always blame Spanish engineering.

Conclusion

It is a very well-designed scheme.

I wonder, if we’ll see Edinburgh batteries on their CAF trams?

 

 

 

January 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost Of Tram Batteries

This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

One Midland Metro tram has been sent back to the factory in Zaragoza to be fitted with two roof-mounted lithium-ion cells and after testing it will be returned to the West Midlands in the Autumn, where more testing will be performed, prior to starting running on the catenary-free streets of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

After a successful completion of testing on the first tram, the other twenty trams will be converted.

This is said in the article about costs.

The total cost to the WMCA of fitting out the fleet will be £15.5m, but the authority says that it will save £9.24m on infrastructure costs on the first four extensions to the Metro network alone, with further infrastructure savings planned as future extensions take place.

So the savings can go a long way to help pay for the trams to run on the four extensions.

The cost of the modifications to each tram is £738,000, but if the infrastructure savings are factored in, the modifications cost just £298,000 per tram.

I also wonder if the layout of the Midland Metro, with a fairly long wired central section and a catenary-free section at either end is ideal for battery operation, as the trams will have a long section to fully charge the batteries.

But it looks like trams will reach Victoria Square and Wolverhampton station in 2019, Edgbaston in 2021 and the Eastside extension to Curzon Street will be completed in 2023.

Perhaps, the most interesting section in the article is this paragraph.

The WMCA is also evaluating a proposed Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension to identify the viability of catenary-free sections.

Could this mean that the South Staffordshire Line, which will be used for the extension will be without catenary? As the tram does small detours into Dudley and at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, then these sections could be wired to charge the batteries, leaving the South Staffordshire Line without any wires. I estimate that the distance the tram would travel would be about seven miles each way.

As Network Rail want to run both trams and freight trains on the South Staffordshire Line, this might allow both to share an unelectrified line, if they have the right wheel and track profiles.

There certainly seems to be some very innovative ideas around, when it comes to using trains and trams in City Centres.

 

 

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out Of The Mouths Of Brummies

The December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways has a special report on railways and trams in the West Midlands.

There are some choice quotes from those involved in planning the future of the rail network in the area.

On HS2

“It’ll be half an hour from Birmingham Interchange station to the Crossrail interchange at Old Oak Common. That means Birmingham Airport will be in London Zone 4, timewise.”

On Stations

“Nobody looks at their strategic value to the community”

On New Street Station

“The Birmingham New Street Gateway rebuilding has quadrupled the passenger circulation area in the station, but it hasn’t addressed the key issue of lack of track capacity”`

On Battery Power For Trams

“Since then there has been lots of work and we’re now comfortable that battery technology has advanced sufficiently for it to be viable.”

“Under test conditions with plain straight track a tram could travel 20 km catenary-free. In practice, this would be rather less for a fully laden tram ascending the 9% gradient on Penfold Street. The longest catenary-free run we’ve envisaged is around 2 km, and we’re comfortable we can achieve that”

On More Trams

“They will have to be bespoke to a degree in order to operate catenary-free, but the rail sector is embracing alternative technology and on-board energy store so we may be looking at something more advanced afain.”

Conclusion

It’s all upbeat and it looks like Birmingham is looking forward to the battery trams.

No-one mentioned the B-word!

 

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

The New Bromsgrove Station

This is the new Bromsgrove station, which opened this week.

It is not what you’d call a spectacular station, but it certainly fulfils the objectives of the design.

  • Act as a second Southern terminus for three trains per hour on Birmingham’s Cross-City Line.
  • Be able to accept trains up to nine cars on the Cross-Country route from Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford through Birmingham and onto the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
  • Provide a step-free interchange, between trains, buses, cars and cycles.
  • Provide a Park-and-Ride station for Birmingham.

But as it has four platforms, will soon be electrified and have connections across the City, will it after the timetable has settled, become an important interchange that takes the pressure from Birmingham New Street? I think it will, as Reading does for Paddington, Stratford does for Liverpool Street and Clapham Junction, does for ictoria and Waterloo, in London.

It is also not finished and needs a shop and coffee stalls. In some ways it has a similar aura to the new Lea Bridge station in East London. Both stations shout that they are open for business, so please send us some trains and we’ll make the passengers happy.

It could turn out to be a masterstroke.

The electric trains on the line that will work the electrified service are Class 323 trains. There are forty-three, three-car units of which London Midland have twenty-six units, or just thirteen six-car trains, which is the train-length, the line obviously needs.

Will they get the other seventeen units from Northern, as that company gets new rolling stock, to create a fleet that could serve the line adequately?

They could also be looking at new trains. Something like four-car Class 710 trains, which are being built for similar urban routes on the London Overground, would be ideal. And in these Brexit times, they are built in Derby.

If Class 710 trains were to be used, they open up the intriguing possibility of fitting some or all of them with on-board energy storage.

This would enable the following routes.

  • Bromsgrove to Worcester is only a dozen miles, and doesn’t include the notorious Lickey Incline, which will soon be electrified. So it would be possible to run a frequent Birmingham to Worcester service using onboard energy, which would also serve Droitwich Spa and the new Worcestershire Parkway station.
  • The Camp Hill Line provides an alternative route across Birmingham City Centre. It is not electrified, but as it is short, it would be well within onboard energy storage range.
  • On the other side of Birmingham, it is only about twenty-five miles or so from the electrified Cross-City Line to the electrified West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton.

So could we see a second Cross-City Line in Birmingham from Worcester to Nuneaton via Bromsgrove, Camp Hill, Water Orton and Coleshill Parkway?

It would need no new electrification and just appropriate track and station improvements.

 

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mainland Birmingham

Just listening to Adrian Chiles doing a live broadcast on the Brexit debate from the Bull Ring in Birmingham.

He has just interviewed a third-generation Indian sub-continent stall-holder, who described himself on-air as born in Mainland Birmingham.

Even Adrian, who is a Brummie, was caught out by the phrase.

The wonders of the English language.

May 17, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment