The Anonymous Widower

A Trip Around The West Midlands

Today, I did a trip around the West Midlands, using five different trains.

Tain 1 – 19:10 – Chiltern – London Marylebone To Leamington Spa

This was one of Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

I like these trains.

  • They are comfortable.
  • Everybody gets a table and half sit by a big window.
  • There is more space than Virgin Train’s Class 390 trains.
  • They may be slower, but they are fast enough for most journeys I make.

The train arrived seven minutes late at Leamington Spa at 11:32.

Train 2 – 12:02 – West Midlands Trains – Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

This is a new West Midlands Trains service, via the new station at Kenilworth and Coventry.

The trains are Class 172 trains, that used to run on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.


  1. The have been repainted and refreshed.
  2. The seat cover on the driver’s seat is a relic of the London Overground.
  3. The train now has a toilet.

The train was about half-full and I got the impression, that the new service had been well-received.

The train arrived on time at Nuneaton at 12:38.

Train 3 – 12:54 – West Midlands Trains – Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived eight minutes late at 13:29.

These pictures show Rugeley Trent Valley station.

It is very minimal with just a shelter, a basic footbridge and no information on how or where to buy a ticket.

Passengers deserve better than this!

Train 4 – 13:43 – West Midlands Trains – Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street

This is a new West Midlands Trains electric service.

Compared to the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton service, passengers were spread rather thinly in the train.

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived five minutes late at 14:44.

Train 5 – 15:55 – Chiltern – Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

Another comfortable Chiltern Railways train back to London, which arrived four minutes late at 17:47.

Customer Service

Customer service and especially that from West Midlands Trains was rather patchy.

  • Leamington Spa station was rebuilding the entrance, but staff were around.
  • Nuneaton station was very quiet.
  • Rugeley Trent Valley station needs a lot of improvement.
  • The two Birmingham City Centre stations were much better.

I actually had to travel ticketless from Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street, as the Conductor on the train didn’t check the tickets.

But Virgin Trains were very professional at Birmingham New Street.

Service Pattern

I have some observations on the service patterns.

  • For comfort reasons, I would prefer that Chiltern ran Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives on all Birmingham services.
  • In the future, it looks like Leamington Spa and Nuneaton needs at least a half-hourly service.
  • There definitely needs to be more services on the Chase Line.

There also is a serious need for staff and better facilities at Rugeley Trent Valley station.

No-one even a hardened member of the SAS would want to spend thirty minutes changing trains there on a blustery and cold winter’s day.


I tried two new services today, that started on the May 2019 timetable change.

  • A diesel service between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry.
  • An electrified service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street.

The first would appear to be what passengers want, but the second needs a bit of promoting.


May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Progress On Chase Line Electrification

This morning, I went up the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley station and took a few pictures.

I am not publishing any of the pictures, as nothing seems to have changed since I wrote Up And Down The Chase Line in September last year.

I am still puzzled at the lack of progress!

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Up And Down The Chase Line

I went up the Chase Line to look at the progress of the electrification from Walsall to Rugeley Trent Valley.

The train was an improvised three-car consisting of a two-car Class 170 train attached to a Class 153 train.

So I have to assume that most of the platforms are probably now long enough for four-car trains. It also looked to my untrained eye, that all the signalling had been renewed and the all the stations were up to a high standard, as they usually are around Birmingham.

The line is fully electrified between Birmingham and Walsall and Rugeley Trent Valley station has a fully electrified bay platform, from where the electrification stretches a couple of hundred metres down the Chase Line.

There was no sign of any electrification work and it was almost if they had tidied everything up and gone away, just leaving a few builders putting the finishing touches to the new and raised bridges on the route. There was no piles of steelwork for the overhead lines or yellow special-purpose vehicles anywhere! I didn’t see them on my last visit to Blackpool, which I wrote about in What’s Gone Wrong With The Blackpool To Preston Electrification?

As the target for introducing electric trains on the route between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street is December 2017, they would seem to be cutting it fine, to get the work done in time. Especially as so many of Network Rail’s projects like the Todmorden curve have been delayed.

A short time ago, I wrote Electrification May Be In Trouble Elsewhere, But The Brummies Keep Marching On, which was based on this article in Rail Engineer, which said it was going so well.

What’s happened?

I have come to the conclusion, that this line could almost have been specially prepared so that it could be run by Aventra IPEMUs.

The length of the section without electrification  is only perhaps a dozen miles, so an Aventra IPEMU that  charged up on the existing electrification between Birmingham and Walsall, could easily make Rugeley Trent Valley, where it could charge itself again on the new electrification at the station, if it was thought necessary.

I have found this article in the Wolverhampton Express and Star which is entitled Walsall railway bridge rebuild begins in £30m line electrification.

So how much of that cost is electrification of the dozen miles of double-track between Walsall and Rugeley? In this press release from the Green Party, they give the cost of railway electrification at £3million a mile. If that includes bridge and track modification, then that figure ties up well with the £30million for the whole project from the Express and Star, given that as there is electrified lines at both ends, the major cost of bringing power to the new section is probably not very large.

In The Cost Of Aventra Trains, I said that a standard four-car Aventra train will all the extras and servicing costs around £8million. So conservatively, I would suspect that a four-car Aventra IPEMU would come in at a little bit more.

So long as all platforms and the signalling could accept a four-car train, the extra costs of introducing an Aventra IPEMU, should not be much more than training drivers and other staff.

Would the savings on not completing the electrification, pay for the purchase of the probable two Aventra IPEMUs needed to provide a half-hourly service on the lines? As the trains would be faster over the route, two trains might be able to provide a three trains an hour service, which is what Redditch on the other side of Birmingham gets.

Are the clever engineers in Derby, going to give the good citizens of Walsall, a brand new, but very affordable electric train service to Birmingham and Rugeley?


September 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments