Network Rail launches £1bn West Midlands train services wish list for 2043
Plans for an additional ten commuter services into Birmingham Moor Street as well as significant improvements to lines running from the city centre to Leicester and Worcester have been published by Network Rail – but passengers may not fully benefit until 2043.
A strategy for the future of rail services in the West Midlands sets out proposals to deliver several long-awaited projects including re-opening passenger services from south Birmingham into an enlarged Moor Street with pedestrian links to New Street Station and the new Curzon Street HS2 terminus.
It’s also proposed to deliver four-tracking of the West Coast Main Line between Birmingham International and Stechford, freeing up capacity on the crowded route, as well as providing an additional platform at Snow Hill Station.
But the huge financial investment required to modernise the West Midlands rail system, in excess of £1 billion, means that most of the improvements will have to wait. Network Rail says its strategy up to 2024 is to address growing demand by providing longer trains able to accommodate more passengers.
The strategy document which has been released for consultation suggests there will be an additional 3,300 seats on key commuter routes and 2,900 seats on long distance services by 2024. Most of the high-cost improvement schemes will be delivered between 2024 and 2043, if the plans are accepted by the Government.
Of significant interest to Birmingham will be a proposal to re-open the ‘Bordesley Chords’, effectively building new tracks into Moor Street, which will enable passenger services to resume from Kings Norton and Moseley. The project has for years been high on a city council transportation wish list.
The cost of the Bordesley Chords project, running ten additional services into Moor Street each day, is put at up to £375 million, or £500 million if the route is extended to Longbridge and Barnt Green.
The strategy document states that demand for travelling by train has rarely been greater.
Rail’s share of travel into Birmingham at peak times was just 17 per cent in 2001. Today it is 38 per cent. Forecasts show commuting into Birmingham will grow by 49 per cent in just 10 years from 2013 to 2023, and 114 per cent by 2043, according to Network Rail.
Network Rail says the arrival of HS2 in 2026 will be transformational, with new stations at Curzon Street in Birmingham city centre and a Birmingham Interchange at to Birmingham Airport/NEC.
The document adds:
It is a great time to be planning for the future of rail travel on these routes, but meeting this growing demand is not without its challenges. The network in the West Midlands benefits from relatively modern infrastructure, with renewed signalling across the route and the landmark enhancement of passenger facilities at Birmingham New Street.
However, the level of on-track capacity available to meet growing demand for services into central Birmingham has remained largely unchanged for decades. Meeting further growth beyond 2024 would require increased network capacity in central Birmingham to be provided.
Network Rail pays tribute to the work being carried out by Midlands Connect, a partnership of councils and LEPs across the Midlands which has a remit to transform transport infrastructure.
The arrival of HS2 at Birmingham Curzon Street in 2026 provides an opportunity to consider central Birmingham in a different way. The new station will be located adjacent to Birmingham Moor Street station and is planned to drive significant regeneration, in terms of both jobs and housing around the station.
The Midlands Connect partnership is identifying the economic benefits of the HS2 network and strongly endorses the objective of maximising the opportunities for as many passengers as possible to access these services. A key element of this is the West Midlands HS2 Connectivity Strategy, under development by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.
Midlands Connect has named Birmingham to Nottingham and Leicester as key growth corridors for the Midlands. Network Rail says the route is critical to the freight industry, taking traffic from Felixstowe as well as heavy freight traffic, including oil and metals, with terminals located at Lawley Street, Kingsbury oil depot, Castle Bromwich, Birch Coppice and Hams Hall. The Freight Market Study forecasts large increases in intermodal freight volumes
To accommodate demand to 2043, two approaches have been considered; one looking at providing longer trains, and the other at providing additional services. These additional services would deliver both demand and connectivity conditional outputs, but would only be achievable if additional capacity is also provided in central Birmingham.
The Birmingham to Worcester rail line has been identified by Midlands Connect as an ‘Intensive Growth corridor’. The route takes in the redevelopment of the former Rover car site at Longbridge, Birmingham University and the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
The strategy document says Kings Norton could become an important passenger interchange if services that currently call at University Station are diverted to Birmingham Moor Street Station.
- Four tracking between Birmingham International and Stechford £175m-£375m. A longer term option to meet demand for passenger and freight services by 2043.
- Water Orton grade separation. Will help to maximise route capacity and reduce potential crossing moves between passenger and freight services in the Water Orton area. £250m – £500m. A longer term option to meet demand passenger and freight services by 2043.
- Bordesley to Birmingham Moor Street and Barnt Green and Kings Norton grade separation. Will help to maximise route capacity and reduce potential crossing moves between passenger and freight services. Indicative cost £250m – £500m A longer term option to meet demand for passenger and freight services by 2043.
- Snow Hill Station. Reinstatement of Platform 4, signalling enhancements, extension of sidings.
- Indicative cost £35-75m
- Birmingham to Nottingham/Leicester corridor. Four track layout between Water Orton East Junction and Castle Bromwich Junction, reconfiguration of the track layout and enhanced crossings on the main lines. Reconstruction of platforms at Water Orton Station. Upgraded signalling between Wichnor Junction and Kingsbury Junction. Indicative cost £100-250m
- Birmingham to Worcester/Hereford via Bromsgrove corridor. Reinstatement of Platforms 2 and 3 at Kings Norton. Track remodelling at Kings Norton and new station facilities. Indicative cost £10-20m.
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