AreaThe counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, the unitary authorities of Telford & Wrekin, Stoke-on-Trent, and the Metropolitan Districts of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton.
- For HS2, ensure connectivity for travellers to the proposed Curzon Street and Interchange stations. Urge HS2 to include provision for a link into the existing network to access New Street for direct London - Wolverhampton HS2 trains and for future use by Cross Country services.
- Re-instate passenger services between Wolverhampton and Walsall (WMT are receptive to this aspiration)
- Extend Birmingham local network - via Kings Heath and towards Castle Bromwich with new stations
- Reopen the line between Stourbridge, Walsall, Lichfield and Burton for passenger services
- Support re-instatement of Stratford - Honeybourne with chords east and west for Stratford-Worcester and Oxford services SUAWOOX campaign
- Redouble Coventry-Leamington and four-track rail route between Coventry and Wolverhampton
Forthcoming EventsBRANCH COMMITTEE MEETING: Wednesday 10th April 2019, Chiltern Railways meeting room, platform 3, Moor St Station, Birmingham B4 7UL. Commencing 6pm, all members welcome as observers. (please inform branch secretary in advance of your intention to attend)
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: Saturday April 27th 2019, 10.30am at the Priory Rooms, Bull Street, Birmingham B4 6AF (opposite the Bull St tram stop). Guest speaker Peter Sargant, Head of Rail Development, West Midlands Rail Executive will be discussing the regions strategic plans for the next 30 years. Plus an opportunity to review the campaigns of the previous year, and elect our new committee. Light refreshments available.
Click events for regional and national events for rail campaigners, including Railfuture and other conferences.
Previous EventsAnnual General Meeting 2018 - Saturday, April 21st
Special Guest - MD of West Midlands Trains
This year we were most fortunate that Jan Chaudry-van der Velde, the Managing Director of West Midlands Trains, attended the meeting to discuss with us the company’s plans for the new franchise.
This was our chance to learn more of what the branch committee had been doing since April 2017 and, more importantly, what we plan to do in 2018, and for you to have had your say on these or any other pressing issues.
We secured a rather special venue for the event, the National College of High Speed Rail, near Aston University, Birmingham. We had exclusive use of the premises and the Event Organiser provided a tour of the facility. This included the train driving simulator, set up in a former Eurostar driving trailer cab.
At the business section of the day Steve Wright was elected Branch Chairman, all other committee members were re-elected. Former branch chairman William Whiting agreed to continue as a member of the committee.
West Midlands AGM 2017 - Guest Speaker Christian Wolmar
The 2017 branch AGM was held on Saturday 22nd April in Birmingham close to the Bull Street tram stop. The official business included receiving reports from officers and electing officers for 2017-18 including the officer posts of Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer and other committee members. William Whiting was re-elected as Chairman for the following year and Michael Tombs elected as Treasurer. The post of Secretary was left vacant at the AGM but at the following committee meeting Colin Major volunteered to stand-in for a year.
In 2016 we were most disappointed that our invited guests Nigel Harris (Managing Editor of RAIL magazine) and Christian Wolmar (transport journalist, author and regular RAIL columnist, and Railfuture's Honorary President) both had to withdraw at the last moment. Therefore we were pleased Christian was able to speak to our members and the public in 2017.
Please click HERE for more info.
THE WILLIAMS REVIEWThe Williams Review, chaired by Keith Williams, former chair of British Airways is calling for evidence to support a review of the organisational and commercial framework of the UK rail industry. Railfuture West Midlands branch have submitted the following statement to the Railfuture Board for inclusion in the formal response.
Railfuture West Midlands initial response to the Williams Review
We are less than impressed by the review panel’s terms of reference. They appear so general as to be almost impossible to satisfy. We think the review should have started with an examination as to the shortcomings of present structures, organisations and methods – principally its fragmentation generating poor coordination, even conflict, between different sectors of the organisation.
Furthermore, the review panel needs to establish at the outset its overall aims and objectives and what it believes are desired outcomes. Our view is that the primary objective should be to meet the needs of the travelling public in reaching their places of work, educational or leisure, and beyond that the needs of the wider public by improving their environment by transferring transport of people and freight to rail where practicable, so reducing congestion, air pollution and impacting on climate change – all of which are missing from the ToRs,
Nevertheless, knowing how government ministers and departments function, we have attempted to concentrate on the six ToRs detailed and subsequent “clarifications”. We believe the review team initially are seeking information on the detailed issues/options that need addressing or evaluation. The following therefore are our ideas on the implications and/or possible approaches for each of the Terms of Reference. They are a mixture of issues to address and possible solutions. We recognise that some of these are complementary and some contradictory. This is deliberate in attempting to ensure the debate encompasses all possible approaches.
1. Commercial Models & Industry Structures
(These two topics are so closely linked that we have combined them)
a) The review should consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of franchising, commissioning and direct operation or a combination of two or all approaches. (By commissioning we mean the setting of timetables, fares and customer facilities by local and/or national authorities and contracting operators to provide the specified services.);
b) Where franchising is retained consider whether these should be for larger geographical areas, such as the” big four” of the 1920/30’s, or by service type such as British Rail’s Inter-City and Provincial Divisions. Alternatively, consider whether franchises should be smaller and self-contained.
c) Consider devolution of local and possibly inter-urban services to local or regional transport authorities. Our experience here in the West Midlands is that local devolution is most effective in obtaining transport that meets local needs;
d) Consider enabling branch and lightly-used rural lines to be managed by local communities on a not-for-profit basis. This could include branch lines in Cornwall, Devon and East Anglia and also lines such as Whitby to Middlesbrough, Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Cumbrian Coast and Central Wales. In these cases, local management should include decisions on infrastructure to avoid the present problem of over-engineering;
e) Whatever model is adopted, consider establishing an overall rail governing body covering infrastructure as well as passenger and freight services, to set principles, strategy and priorities, and to resolve differences and disputes within the industry. Such a body would need to be independent of government ministers and departments, other than with respect to financial support;
f) Structures must take account of the competing needs for local, inter-regional and inter-city transport;
g) Consider segregating operation of local, stopping, services from long distance inter-city services. This enables management teams to concentrate on their main function. It is already the model adopted for West and East Coast main line services.
h) We have considerable misgivings about infrastructure and train services being re-combined into franchises or commissions. The skills required and the perceived priorities of each are fundamentally different and we believe combined functional organisations would have some difficulty in recruiting and training staff to the required calibre. It makes more sense for skills associated with infrastructure and signalling are best maintained in one or very few organisations. However close day-to-day liaison between train operators and infrastructure managers is essential to resolve any conflicts on track use and especially major stations.
a) Financial support will always be needed to enable a full range of local and national services. Local services in particular require support to ensure a suitable level off provision in terms of both frequency and geographical coverage. The panel should consider what is the appropriate split between direct revenue and local/national support, taking account of the environmental and social benefits of encouraging travel by rail. Our view is that the present split has swung too far towards direct revenue (about 75% in 2018). This is considerably more than most other European railways and acts as a deterrent to modal shift of transport from private cars by making trains fares more expensive;
b) Inter-city services generally run at a profit or at least break-even. However, we do not think that operating companies should be forced to use these profits to subsidise loss-making local services. Rather they should be available to enable the operators to improve their services and/or to help develop the strategic national network;
c) Although infrastructure is specifically excluded from the review’s terms of reference, nevertheless, the panel should consider the benefit of a rolling programme of electrification, since this not only assists in reducing emissions of carbon, NOx and diesel particulates, but also provides for cost reductions in both train operation and maintenance of trains and track.
3. Fares and Costs
a) This aspect of the review must operate in tandem with the fares and ticketing review being undertaken by the Rail Delivery Group
b) As already noted above in 2(a), current fare levels, other than advance purchases and season tickets, act as a major disincentive by penalising the non-regular walk-on traveller particularly when s) he is forced by personal circumstances to travel at peak times.
4. Industrial Relations
a) Clearly there is substantial resistance by some sectors of staff to changing their long-established working practices. The review panel should consider the cost of buying-out these out-of-date practices, using pay enhancements and/or profit-sharing and/or rewards for innovation.
b) Additional measures to consider for improving industrial relations are establishing joint councils of staff and managers and staff representatives on management boards
c) Consideration should be given to new staff being employed on more flexible contracts, with the aims of reducing the need to rely upon overtime working to operate Sunday and Bank Holiday services, and to improve the contact between staff and passengers, particularly on trains.
5. Ability to Respond
a) Measures suggested above for consideration should enable railway managers to respond quickly to changing circumstances, especially: - devolution to local/regional authorities; enabling operators to concentrate on a more limited range of services; allowing operators to use any profits generated to develop new or improved services;
b) In addition, franchises/commissions should contain clauses encouraging flexibility and innovation
Integration at Snow Hill finally agreedIt has been over 2½ years since the article Metro reaches New St was published on 3rd June 2016.
The article stated that although trams were at long last running past the original terminus in the Snow Hill main line station through to New Street/Grand Central, there was still a major flaw in the project – no integrated passenger transfer facility from Metro to National Network at Snow Hill.
Following this major omission, Railfuture West Midlands branch immediately introduced the subject onto the agenda of their regular meetings with TfWM (or Centro as it was then known). A temporary ‘sticking plaster’ solution was initiated on 1st January 2017 by renaming the Snow Hill Metro stop ‘St Chads’. A good and obvious choice, as it is opposite St Chads cathedral, but still no integration with the national network.
In December 2018 TfWM announced a new third entrance to Snow Hill Station, with direct/combined access to St Chads Metro stop. The scheme involves opening up another of the arches under the Victorian viaduct that carries trains and the West Midland Metro trams into the city centre. Currently passengers wanting to get from the Metro stop at St Chads to trains in Snow Hill Station have to walk down a flight of external steps and then along A4440 Queensway before turning into Livery Street and accessing the station through its second entrance. Alternatively they have to walk past the Snowhill Three, Two and One office developments and into the main Snow Hill entrance.
The new third entrance will remove both of these external walks and instead give passengers a direct way into the station from the tram stop.
Rail passengers wanting to catch a Metro service will also get direct access without having to leave the station. Work on the new entrance is set to start in summer 2019, and it will link into the existing Livery Street entrance to the station. No completion date set, lets hope it is well before the Commonwealth Games is staged in Birmingham in 2022.
artists impression of new entrance, from TfWM press release
Branch contactsBranch Chairman & Local Media Contact - Steve Wright - steve.wright at railfuture.org.uk
Branch Secretary - colin.major at railfuture.org.uk
General Enquiries - westmidlands at railfuture.org.uk
Branch eNewsClick view or download to see West Midlands Branch September 2017 eNews. (149Kb)
West Midlands Rail user groupsRail user groups in the West Midlands are shown on Railfuture's Regional List of Rail User Groups, which can be viewed or downloaded (860kb PDF document, dated July 2017).
Branch NewslettersGo to the Dashboard for West Midlands to read archived issues of the West Midlands Branch eNewsletters.
Other documentsReport of visit to Tyseley Depot on 11th June 2018.This meeting with West Midlands Trains was to discuss their new rolling stock. Read Branch Secretary Colin Major's notes here.
West Midlands Rail Franchise for 2017 - view or download our consultation response.
West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study (July 2016) - view or download our consultation response (254kB).
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