Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year - 2012


Well as I write this the last hours of 2011 are ticking away and soon we will be into a New Year. A year of hope for those taking part in the Olympics as well as those organising such a mammoth task. Its going to be a testing year for all public transport as operators gear themselves up for what will be one of the biggest movements of people from home and abroad since the war.

I’m sure that there will be problems along the way as we have seen during 2011 when we have had more disruption on the railways due to metal theft, breakdowns, staffing difficulties and all manor of things that has caused considerable disruption to passenger services her in the Midlands and elsewhere.

2011 has seen the re-introduction of faster passenger services from Birmingham Snow Hill and Moor St to London Marylebone due to heavy investment by Chiltern Railways. New investment and introduction of  Class 172 trains by London Midland on the Leamington – Snow Hill – Worcester Lines. £10,000 raised through the Farewell 150 Railway Tour organised between London Midland, Severn Valley Railway and Network Rail. The 150 units being the ones replaced by 172’s

We have seen the continuing work being done to modernise New Street Station and over Christmas 2011  a footbridge replaced in readiness for expansion work and new entrances and lifts.

And only this week Network Rail/London Midland have announced work to improve the line speed on the chase line (between Walsall and Rugeley TV) and Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury.  (more details here)

So a lot is going on around us on our railway networks at a time when road traffic is ever increasing as well as the increased cost of fuel. Which brings me to the cost of price rises in rail fares and season tickets. Is it justified or not in this economic climate. There are arguments for and against but personally for local travel in the West Midlands area compared to motoring  I am far better off continuing to use public transport and in particular our railway network. Not always convenient  especially when delays occur but i have found i have been more held up overall in the car in traffic jams than on the train. It also has the advantage of not worrying about parking charges which are always rising.

For longer distant commuters things may be different but you cannot easily compare road with rail as railway passengers bear the brunt of the cost of the rail infrastructure whereas roads and motorists in general don’t

If the South Staffs Railway line between Stourbridge and Alrewas via Walsall, Brownhills and Lichfield was open today I’m sure we would see the amount of growth that has been witnessed on the Walsall RugeleyTV recently and that the trains would be very crowded and would benefit the whole of the West Midlands Economy. But alas at the moment we can only hope the powers that be will become more than a talking shop and take action to ensure passenger growth across the whole of our area with new investment in infrastructure as without it no one wins.

Wish all who have an interest in railways and specifically the future of the South Staffs Line a Happy, healthy and fruitful 2012 and beyond

For more on the South Staffs Railway line and group go to www.southstaffsrail.co.uk

PS - For those of you who have asked, the picture for my background is Brownhills station. This station closed in the Beeching era and Brownhills was where i first lived

Monday, 5 December 2011

Mainline trains on South Staffs Rail and Cross City Line


On Saturday 26th November the northern part of the Cross City Line (Aston to Lichfield City) and South Staffs line (Lichfield City to Wichnor Junction) was busier than ever.

Due to engineering work elsewhere Cross Country trains between Birmingham and Derby and beyond were diverted over the line. London Midland who are currently running a special leaf fall timetable ran a modified service to enable the diverted trains a suitable timing path through.

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Some Cross Country services ran late and therefore caused delays to London Midland services. London Midland had to issue special instructions to its drivers to not stop at some of the stations on the route so that they could get back to time once arriving in New Street. I know as I was videoing  at various stations and several London Midland services were shown as cancelled en-route. It was not the best of weather with biting winds and many passengers including myself had to wait 20 mins or longer for a service.

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A compilation of video footage that myself and Rob Taylor took can be found at http://southstaffsrail.webs.com/apps/videos/videos/show/15406318-xc-diversions-full-x-city-coverage
It was a peculiar sight seeing mainline trains going through the Junction at Aston on and off the cross city line interspersed with London Midland trains. Incidentally London Midland trains looked a lot cleaner than the Cross Country Services.

Some freight trains were even diverted over the route which I’m sure hasn't seen a lot of freight through there since the steam days (unless of course you know different)

 
Of course it could have been a very different story up until the early 1980’s when the lines between Walsall (Ryecroft Junction) and Brownhills (Anglesey Sidings – Newtown Bridge) were lifted on the South Staffordshire line.

If the lines had been there then London Midland wouldn't have had to create a special timetable or delay or cancel some train stopping points.

Cross Country and freight trains could have used the South Staffs line between Birmingham and Lichfield City to good effect. Again in hindsight I wonder if the powers that be in the 1980’s had considered that freight traffic would grow again as the latest statistics show and that people would return to the railway.

There’s no more a telling point on this than the ever increasing amount of passengers on the Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham via Walsall Services. Again a Line that John Robinson McClean created under the South Staffs Railway Banner to move Coal from the various pits.

 
And its a bit ironic that the former South Staffordshire line from Pleck Junction to towards Dudley is going to be used as a turn back siding as far as the M6 Bridge for Freightliner Coal trains from Rugeley which will then go onto the Sutton Park line and Vice-versa

Travel West Midlands run a very frequent Bus Service between Walsall and Brownhills every ten minutes during the day and some run through to Burntwood. The number of people I hear these days saying they wish that the railway line was open to Brownhills and Lichfield and I bet London Midland the current main local train operating company in the West Midlands wishes so two.

As for the passengers who wish to get to Lichfield from Walsall  its probably quicker and more reliable to catch the train from Walsall to Lichfield changing at Aston or Birmingham New Street than catch that bus which runs roughly every 90 mins if your lucky.

For more info on the South Staffs Railway please click here southstaffsrail.co.uk