Monday, 20 November 2017

Lacking far too much!

Dear Stewart   (Stewart Towe, Chair, Black Country LEP)

Thank you so much for organising the meeting yesterday (6 November 2017).

Here are three serious accusations of first incompetence; secondly, a failure to behave with integrity; and, thirdly, a deliberate misleading of the public that regional and national trains will be able to return when 6.7 Kms on the 120 Kms has been blocked by six trams an hour, as Stuart told us.

I don't think we can leave our transport officers from Network Rail and TfWM to get on with the job.  Stuart told us, yesterday that he has had many meetings with his colleagues in Network Rail.  Yet, even with the rapid growth in the popularity of train travel since the mid 90s, we have had urban railway lines being built on, being left unused and being given over to two - only local - phenomenally expensive, tram services replacing buses and trains.  Professional officers will cover up for one another and support each other.  You can never query a management decision, let alone challenge your manager.  As a result, you and I have to step in and challenge them and watch them like hawks.  We, occasionally, have to be whistleblowers.

There is the stupid blunder of failing to build the tram line to Birmingham International Airport in the 80s and 90s.  Instead, sending it up a double track railway line to Wolverhampton; then, not even connecting it to either the bus or railway station but demolishing the latter!  All of that idiocy is about to be repeated.  This time on the UK's only HALF USED, main line, strategic railway through the heart of the industrial W Midlands between Worcester and Derby.

  1. THE LACK OF COMPETENCE
  2. We both heard Stuart repeat what Managing Director, Laura Shoaf first told me in January 2015.  That Network Rail has no interest in the wasted 56 Kms out of the 120 Kms "until the 2040s, at the earliest and then only for freight."
  3. The authorities have built all the engineering structures needed for the railway line to cross every motorway, dual carriageway, other road and canal.  The Borders Railway was virtually starting from scratch.  Yet, still only £6m/Km for a 49 Km single and double track rural railway in the back of beyond with NO congestion.
  4. The popularity of train travel has more than doubled since privatisation and is expected to continue to rise.  Over the years, about 40 Kms of railway line in the Black Country and Birmingham were used for roads, homes and trading estates.  20 Kms of railway line were used for Metro One and, that led to one Wolverhampton railway station being demolished and 3 Kms of railway line built on.  No wonder we lack capacity on our railway network!
  5. Consequently, nationally too, we are so lacking in capacity (and sense) that we have to spend £55.7 billion just to increase capacity.  And, that is only as far as Brum with its two spurs and two spanking new railway stations!
  6. That the Black Country Railway should have to be unused, wasted for yet more decades is a scandal - until the 2040s for freight only and goodness knows when for passengers.  Such a scandal, Stewart that I think it is now your responsibility to use what I have told you and to report it to Andy Street and, in particular, to Chris Grayling and Peter Wilkinson.  Unless you do pass this information on to Chris Grayling, you are also responsible for a cover up of major proportions.  You will be responsible for failing to report, at a time of desperately needed more capacity on our railways, that there are 56 Kms without passenger trains.
  7. I forgot to mention that out of the 56 Kms, 26 Kms are already used for freight.  That leaves only 30 Kms of brand new track and signalling that are needed for the passenger trains to be reinstated.  It seems that nine stations are needed over the wasted 56 Kms.
  8. From the Borders Railway rebuilding, that is not needed for ours, at £294 m for 49 Kms (£6 m/Km), this makes 30 Kms x £6m = £180 million for the Black Country Railway.
  9. If you were to see Chris Grayling in person, I have no doubt that he would understand the cock up that your professional transport experts are solely responsible for - and in no way your good self, Stewart.  However, if you fail to pass on to Grayling and Wilkinson these facts and figures that I have regurgitated from 'Railnews', you will be as guilty as these professional transport experts who have so let you down.  You, should have been able to trust them, all of them at Network Fail in Baskerville House, in Wolverhampton and at 16 Summer Lane.  You should be as livid as me at the shockingly poor performance of a railway industry that has destroyed its very own infrastructure and wasted, even for decades still to come, the UK's only, mothballed, double track, principal main line railway running SW to NE through the industrial heartland of the West Midlands.
  10. If you were to see Chris Grayling and, perhaps, Philip Hammond, he/they would want to re-allocate the £207 million from the terrible tram idea for 11 Km to, instead to the finishing of the full 120 Kms railway.  What superb value for money that is.  What a superb cost benefit ratio.  Both men would be delighted at the good news, Stewart!  They would thank their lucky stars that they had met you!
  11. Chris Grayling wants the full Oxford to Cambridge railway rebuilt and reopened, as I said.  Our Black Country Railway is far more important and vital to the mighty Midlands Engine for Growth.  Worcester to Derby via the Black Country is virtually all there except for the trains and nine stations to serve the new settlements that have sprung up.
  12. It is incompetence to put the innovation centre on the only feasible site of Dudley Castle Hill main line station.  The Victorians knew what they were doing; the Elizabethans do not.  Especially, stupid when there is a superior, larger site at Moor Street, Brierley Hill with 3 Kms, not 2 Kms, of double track for the test track.
  13. THE LACK OF PROBITY
  14. For many months, from 2014 through to 2015, Nick Mallinson was perfectly happy with what Dudley Council had (wrongly, as it eventually transpired) given him, viz 2 Kms NE away from the railway tunnel at Dudley Castle Hill.  Therefore, why is there this misinformation, actually a lie, that he must now have a railway tunnel for 800 metres, as part of the test track?
  15. Nick Mallinson has never corrected me - by phone, text, or e-mail - over the tunnel business.  Therefore, I can only assume I must be correct in my charge that someone is lying.
  16. The person who has put about this lie has behaved unprofessionally and is guilty of quite disgraceful behaviour to block the return of Dudley Castle Hill main line station and, our railway line that could reduce road and railway congestion.
  17. THE LACK OF BRAINS over TfWM putting it about that heavy rail trains over 120 Kms will still be able to return once the trams have blocked it.
  18. "Light rail investment provides the basis for restoring heavy rail services at the appropriate time."  So wrote Tom Magrath, Passenger Services Director, Centro, in a letter to me dated 18 September 2000.
  19. This must be the ultimate self delusion, the ultimate waste of public funds, the ultimate absurdity.  In reality, another lie.  Complete stupidity.  For seventeen years, at least, our top professional transport bosses have consistently thought that a passenger regional train service can co-exist with six, slow trams an hour on one set of double tracks that cannot possibly be widened in a densely populated, heavily congested urban conurbation.
  20. In fact, "restoring heavy rail services" is now turning out to be the tram train that is still a tram and is not appropriate for a 120 Km principal, main line railway between the South and North of the country, through the heart of England, the Black Country.
  21. It is suitable for 20 Kms between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate - but the costs of developing it have increased five fold and, it is way behind schedule.  All it needed was to import the thing from Germany and to follow what they had done!!  More ineptitude.
  22. CONCLUSION
  23. For decades, many millions of pounds of public funds, our taxes, have been squandered on an invisible network of 15 tram lines covering 200 Kms - to be delivered by 2000.  While they were failing to get the trams, these same transport experts were putting one tram line on a perfectly good railway line of 20 Kms because, so I have heard, one MP didn't want the tram through his constituency on its way to Birmingham International Airport!
  24. Many millions of pounds of our money wasted for many years on bridges and tunnels for the 120 Kms railway to cross two motorways and three dual carriageways.  But still no train service!
  25. Many millions wasted in congestion in failing to return passenger trains to the 106 Kms of mothballed or freight only lines in the Black Country and Brum.
  26. Your transport experts, that you should be able to rely on, have led you up the garden path, Stewart.  The tram project has been a diversion from putting the trains and stations back on wasted lines.  Some are now used for freight but many have been built on and lost for ever.  Now, instead of electrification of our railways being completed, that project has been stopped and we are only allowed electric trams at £75,000 per metre in the case of the tram extension to Edgbaston and over £30,000 per metre for the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension.  And this in a time of austerity!  Please expose these corrupt practices, Stewart.
  27. Electric buses would be a tiny fraction of that price. After all, UK Tram Ltd with its HQ so conveniently at the HQ of TfWM (more conflict of interests/corruption), do themselves admit that the Metro tram is simply a "bus on rails" (interview on the 'Today' programme after the Croydon tram crash that killed seven in November 2016).

Please do ask for an appointment with Chris Grayling or, as high ranking a mandarin that you can get, in London.  Next week, I am planning to go down to London to spill the beans to the journalists at Wapping.

This is what our transport professionals should be working to:​
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With very best wishes in your endeavour to stand up to the nonsense by people who should know better.

Tim 7 November 2017

Is this some kind of joke?
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has been named best in the UK for the second year running after landing the main award at the transport industry’s equivalent to the Oscars.
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), took City Region Transport Authority of the Year at last night’s (Thursday October 12, 2017) National Transport Awards in London.
The award was in recognition of a number of key projects that TfWM had delivered over the last 12 months including;
  • Birmingham city centre Midland Metro tram extension, which has seen passenger numbers increase by more than two million
  • Collaborative work with Government to put more control of local train services in local hands through West Midlands Rail
  • The innovative Bus Alliance working with private bus companies and local councils to secure a £150 million investment in new, low polluting buses, new bus lanes and other passenger improvements
  • A series of major operations by the region’s Safer Travel Partnership which saw recorded crime on the transport network fall by more than two per cent over the year contributing to a drop in offences from 7.500 a decade ago to just 2,700
Beating tough opposition from other regions attending the ceremony at London’s Westminster Park Plaza Hotel, the award also recognised TfWM’s work in the continuing roll out of the Swift smartcard through a range of new products for local trains, buses and trams. Swift is now the most advanced smartcard in the UK outside London.

13 October 2017

Monday, 23 October 2017

Robin Yassin-Kassab

  1. I was at Wigtown Book Festival yesterday when I heard Robin speak very powerfully and assuredly about Syria. He said, “I stand with the people not the states”. His oratory brought a round of applause. For me, this is all very well but when the people get clobbered when they stand up to their oppressive dictator, is it really worth all the bloodshed and mayhem?
    In both Christianity and Islam, aren’t the adherents urged to obey the earthly powers, the authorities of the land that have been ordained of God/Allah? I have not been impressed with the behaviour and foreign policy of our English monarchs and rulers down the centuries. However, I would not dream of trying to overthrow them, knowing I would simply end up in jail or with my head cut off or being burnt at the stake! Here in Wigtown, two women were drowned at the stake in the 17th century because they would not acknowledge the authority of their earthly king over and above that of their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
    Today, we Westerners continue to enjoy great comforts and ease of life. But then we are the top dogs in the world, still. Our economic wealth has partly come from the armaments and ammunition that we make and sell that end up in the hands of any old dodgy regime! Far better to gain employment in more ethical ways. But then the Scots will get their wages from building and maintaining WMD at Faslane for the English to sail beneath the high seas to threaten nuclear annihilation on a huge section of humanity! Our own aggression, immorality and illegality sets a very bad example to other countries and peoples, like Assad and Islamic State.
    September 29, 2015 at 1:06 pm
    • Tim, I think it’s a misconception that people in Syria in 2011 (or Russia 1917, or France 1789) all decided to have a revolution. It doesn’t happen like that. Instead, regimes collapse when they can no longer bear the weight of their own economic/social/political contradictions. And yes, Islam has an idea about loyalty to the ruler even if he’s unjust – but it’s not an idea I agree with. I don’t blame the revolution for what’s happened in Syria, but the violence of the counter-revolution.
      Robin Yassin-Kassab
      September 29, 2015 at 1:52 pm
      • Thanks, Robin for the reply.
        I think you have lived in Syria and know all about what’s going on. So could you tell me if the present ‘civil’ war started from a peaceful protest demo being put down by force by Assad, please?
        Or, how did it start? Was it part of the Arab Spring revolts?
        I think I know why you want shot of Assad but, would you mind putting in down for me so that I know and understand your position, please?
        Was Assad a friend of the West, at one time? If so, why did they turn against him?
        Thanks for your help.
        Tim
        October 8, 2015 at 3:13 pm
  2. Tim, I’m afraid I don’t have time to respond to your questions now, but I have a book coming out January 20th 2016, with Leila al-Shami, called Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War. That answers your questions. Or, you could read back on this blog from March 2011.
    Robin Yassin-Kassab
    October 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm
    • Robin, could you listen to this 6 mins, 10 October Radio 4 ‘Today’ interview with Peter Ford who was UK Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006. The interview starts at 1 hr 35 mins 10 secs
      What do you make of it? 27 days left to listen. Tim
      October 12, 2015 at 9:04 pm
      • if you want to learn what an ex-ambassador to Syria who understands the situation thinks, follow Simon Collis.
        Robin Yassin-Kassab
        October 14, 2015 at 11:07 am
    • Is the angelic West on the side of governments (regimes) or rebels?
      Why should a government NOT be ruthless in putting down a rebellion? Any UK government would be. Even the good people of Scotland in 2014 had the fear of God put up them, if they dared to be so stroppy as to vote for independence from big brother England. Our problem, in our so well meaning, we know what is best for you fortress, is supporting the rebels to overthrow their governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and now Syria. And look where it gets us.
      Rage against the oppressor with extreme care and with non-violence. Only overthrow an oppressive government (regime) by the ballot box, not the bomb and bullet. If there is no ballot box, put up with the tyrant or get out of his reign of terror, oppression, sheer nastiness.
      October 14, 2015 at 8:06 am
      • Tim, who do you think you are to be telling people to ‘put up with the tyrant’? When state officials torture your children to death, rape your wife and destroy your home, I hope someone tells you to put up with it. That’s first. Second, when you say ‘why should any government not be ruthless in putting down a rebellion’ you are talking like a fascist. Are you aware that the Syrian regime has killed 300,000 people and driven out millions? Why shouldn’t it? you ask. Do you leave comments on Jewish people’s sites telling them Hitler had a right to be ruthless? And the armed rebellion was a response to months of state murder, rape and torture. Third, believe it or not, the West is not the prime cause of events in the Middle East. The Tunisian, Libyan and Syrian revolutions were initiated, led and fought by the Tunisians, Libyans and Syrians. Fourth, I already told you I don’t have time to do answers to individual questions, but then you post an ex-British ambassador and ask me to comment. Well here you are: this man is either ignorant of the situation is a straight-forward racist and imperialist. Now please stop trolling.

Both sides argue it out here

Managing Editor, 'Railnews', Sim Harris in the black corner; Tim Weller in the blue corner

Tim – you have missed the point.  From other railway passengers I have spoken to, I seem to have raised a most pertinent point.  Millions of pounds spent on a half completed, 120 Kms mainline railway that is about to be further broken up into a 2 Kms test track, a 6.7 Kms tram line in two halves, a trail of trees, Himalayan Balsam and undergrowth and, a cycle-walkway!  Thus, many millions wasted that was spent on the bridges and tunnels to cross two motorways and three dual carriageways but , even so, STILL NO TRAINS, NOT EVEN FREIGHT TRAINS on 30 Kms, anywhere near these major congested roads!  Your side, Sim has forgotten to put the regional and national trains back.  How foolish and irresponsible is this as we all sit in bumper to bumper traffic and, on overcrowded trains?  Regrettably, it must be called incompetence and financial illiteracy to describe such absurdity.
If I think we risk endorsing your views, then that’s the ruling. Not your call.  I was simply wanting the opinion/feedback of readers, since they were most welcome from your good self.  I also need others to influence my thinking - and, to put me right.

Actually, could you please cease your campaign now?
It must be plain to you that no one else is interested, and I am including all the hapless recipients of your recent message in this reply, because I am sure they would appreciate an end to this too.  In fact, 183 people are most interested, Sim!  183 supporters, sympathisers and activists:​

I "would appreciate an end to this."  I would appreciate an end to the railway industry standing meekly by as their infrastructure gets wasted and even destroyed for homes, roads, trading estates and, for rather a lot of retail therapy!  £0.75 billion, in fact, for our lengthy named but quite magnificent 'Grand Central Shopping Centre and Diesel Perfumed Station Tagged Along as an Afterthought in the Basement of the John Lewis Store'!

£0.75 billion "to enhance the passenger experience" for shopping, as I was told by David Golding of Network Rail in 2015!

Homebase built on Kings Heath railway station, too, with occasional trains to and from Bristol sweeping by but, mainly freight!  The line is parallel to, and alongside, bumper to bumper traffic on the main radial road into Brum city centre from the M42.

I am now going to try – for one last time – to point out why this campaign is going nowhere.  The campaign has had the full support of Mayor Andy Street who is now to put the passenger trains back on the 39 Kms of freight only railway lines in Brum.  This is certainly his intention.  I hope he succeeds.  I have spoken to him, he has listened and he sees the sense of railway trains on perfectly good, existing railway lines.  We are both on the same side.  Please come on board, too, Sim.
There are two potential reasons for restoring a direct rail route between Derby and Worcester via Dudley.
There are two main reasons, as I and my supporters see it.  A former Railfuture committee member put it to me like this.  "Derby to DEVON via Dudley and Burton to Bristol via Brierley Hill."  Rising demand for railway trains as our roads and motorways get clogged up.  More than a doubling of passenger numbers since privatisation.  Yet, a principal mainline railway between London and Scotland remains broken, wasted but available for commuter and fast trains over 56 Kms in a heavily congested and populated urban conurbation with clogged motorways as bad as the M25.

The second main reason is to take the pressure off train congested 'Grand Central Shopping Centre ... '  BBC Midlands Today transport and business correspondent has called Brum's mainline station  "one of the worst rail congestion bottlenecks in the UK".  Birmingham is such a greedy honeypot, they want all trains to go via their building site of a city.  Why not spread out the largesse and help the Black Country grow economically so that our four boroughs are less of a backwater?

As regards population, the Black Country is larger than Brum, according to Wikipedia.  One newspaper reporter wrote that Dudley is the largest town in the UK without a railway station.  The site is about to be lost for ever for an innovation and engineering centre to built there!  How stupid is that, Sim?

A third reason is that even the Ordnance Survey think our mainline railway is in use between Stourbridge and Walsall.  See their current maps here:​
One is demand for through or regional journeys – Dudley to Derby, say. Derby to Dudley to Devon, please. The other is demand for local journeys.  Exactly, because this forgotten, this unique, this unused, this wasted railway can fit that requirement, too.
As for the first, there seems precious little likelihood that there is much demand in Derby for a through train to Dudley, or anywhere else in the Black Country. Through rail passengers between Derby and Worcester can complete the journey in 1h40 with a single change at New Street. Why will you not let them, Sim have their journey in less than 1 hr 30 mins by going direct via the Black Country, without needing to change?  And, in the process, reducing a little of the train congestion at Grand Central.  Why does every passenger have to travel via Birmingham and never the direct route through the Black Country?  There are other connections available which route passengers via Snow Hill and New Street, and these journeys take just over two hours. Together, these trains offer a 30min frequency, which seems adequate.  Certainly NOT adequate with economic growth, population growth, road growth and the growth in railway travel in the Black Country and Brum.
As for local journeys, the closed line skirts the West Midlands conurbation, and would not offer any new links towards Birmingham city centre – unlike the trams.  The wasted, the forgotten Black Country Railway does NOT skirt the W Midlands conurbation, Sim.  It goes through the middle of three Black Country boroughs, exactly where our infamously M25 like, congested, M5/M6 runs.  The Borders Railway goes through the middle of nowhere, the beautiful Southern Uplands but, is still popular and successful.  The Black Country Railway would be even more so if the middle section was finished with the trains (NOT trams) and with stations (NOT tram stops) and NOT a test track or linear woodland - please!!

The Black Country Railway offers a local commuter service via Stourbridge and the Black Country through Bescot into Snow Hill station with its still wasted, unused platform 4.  It is 50% longer than the present Jewellery Line but, with four station stops, should take the same length of time but with Birmingham city workers getting a seat instead of too many, now being treated like sardines.

A wasted platform 4 because the tram used it until the tram bypassed the station to go to Grand Central Shopping Centre, instead.  This was the tram that left 3 Kms of double track railway line wasted in Wolverhampton (now destroyed) and led to the demolition of Wolverhampton's second mainline station.  There is now NO tram stop at Snow Hill station.  The business case must have lied, for the main reason the money was given was to connect Snow Hill with Grand Central Shopping Centre.  The nearest tram stop is Bull Street, a walk of 300 metres to the station platforms.

I am sure that Mayor ANDY STREET understands the value of a second, quick TRAIN commuter route with the double tracks already there in the Enterprise Zone that is DY5, in Brierley Hill.  It goes through Dudley and Sandwell to Snow Hill.  Under the latest plan, with the grossly extravagant tram (£30 m/Km + £2.5 m for each tram), people from Stourbridge Jct would have to change at Harts Hill for the tram that stops on average every 650 metres on the UK's only unused, easily reinstated mainline railway that we are then promised (actually lied to) will also have fast trains and freight trains.  Some, perhaps all, tram passengers would also have to change at Wednesbury to get by tram to Brum.  Finishing the 120 Km railway line by putting TRAINS on it would give a faster, direct, train commuter route into Birmingham.  Obviously, more sensible, Sim, don't you think?
There is undoubtedly peripheral commuter traffic within the Black Country, between Dudley Port and Wednesbury, say, and some commuters might be willing to transfer to rail-based public transport. They are going to have the opportunity when the new Midland Metro line opens. Incidentally, the trams will serve Dudley town centre, unlike the heavy rail line, which implies that trains would be less likely to attract commuters travelling to and from Dudley.  It is most inappropriate for a flash, glitz and glam, £2.5 million tram at £30 m/Km, should be seen running through a rundown Dudley town centre with its two huge, empty office blocks, one with every window smashed and a town centre without a department store.  There is no reason for us Dudley folk to visit our town centre.  We all go to Merry Hill for excellent shops, stores and leisure attractions.  There are more attractions where the former mainline station stood, at the foot of Castle Hill (four major tourist/leisure attractions) and at Dudley Castle Gate that is on the other side of the railway station from the tourist/leisure attractions.  But the mainline station site is to get a suite of buildings for the innovation centre that would be more sensibly placed by the 3 Kms branch line at Brierley Hill that can be used for the test track.  Thus, our 4th (the other 3 were not mainline) Dudley railway line gets obliterated by this one foolish decision and the whole 120 Kms is nicely severed at Dudley Castle Hill!

You have told me (many times) that we are discussing 56km of route. At present costs, restoring it as non-electrified heavy rail seems unlikely to come in at much under £500m.  But, Sim it was your own excellent 'Railnews' that told me, in 2015, that the REBUILT Borders Railway was £294 m for 49 Kms of diesel locos and mainly single track.  That works out at £6 m/Km.  Ours is double track but many millions of pounds have been spent on every single structure except for Parkhead Viaduct that simply needs strengthening for £10 million (as I was told by West Midlands Rail expert, Toby Rackcliffe in November 2014).  Out of the 56 Kms, 26 Kms already has freight trains.  That leaves 30 Kms at £6 m/Km = £180 million.  Your £500 m is wrong, Sim.

Chris Grayling is going to give them £207 m, as his contribution, for only 11 Kms of trams.  That is more than enough to finish the 120 Km principal, mainline railway.  Your wish for "bus on rails" trams will prevent FOR EVER the completion of the mainline railway to bypass congestion bottleneck Brum and to bring some economic growth to the Black Country.  Yet, the authorities are telling us that "light rail investment provides the basis for restoring heavy rail services at the appropriate time." (letter to me dated 18 September 2000)  Such stupidity must be unheard of anywhere else in the world!
The rebuilt section of the Borders Railway was almost as long – 50km – and the final construction cost was around £300m. But that was at 2012 prices, and part of the route is single track (unfortunately). One of your 2015 issues, when the line was soon to be opened, said it cost £294 million for 49 Kms.  Even so, the Borders line has done very well, and has demolished the ‘white elephant’ argument which was used by its opponents.  For £300 million, three major structures had to be built.  ALL have already been built for the Black Country Railway - the most recent over the M6 Toll in 2003.  Yet, still, only phantom trains.
But the BR has been built through a largely rural area where there had been no rail-based public transport available for many years, and provides a direct link to the centre of Edinburgh, which has proved attractive to commuters as well as tourists and other leisure travellers.  I have driven on the parallel A7.  The only bumper to bumper traffic I have ever seen was at traffic lights on red.
So the core question is this. Reopen your 56km of railway between Stourbridge and Burton, and restore a through route between Derby and Worcester in the process. Where is the longer-distance regional traffic to come from? What is the more localised demand that trams cannot satisfy? In particular, as you rightly say, the line bypasses Birmingham, which I suspect planners would see as another weakness.  The fact that it bypasses Brum is its greatest strength and help to that city, Sim!
I also suspect any attempt to establish a business case (vital – not a luxury) would founder very quickly on points such as this, which is perhaps why no one seems willing to fund one.

We have had vital business cases written to justify that this principal railway line should be given bridges and tunnels to soar over or under the M6, M6 Toll, A452, A5 and the Black Country New Road.  These robust, verifiable and clear business cases were written and cost huge sums of money.  Yet, such was the worthlessness of the business cases, that the huge expense argued for never included a single train or station.  Yet, the structures were still built.  This is utter madness!!
​​​​
Strong as steel business cases written to justify the part building of railway lines without a single train.  What a joke!  
Robust business cases to justify any expense that  the extravagant authorities want at a time of austerity for the rest of us.
Irrefutable business cases to justify £75,000 per metre for the new tram to Edgbaston from Grand Central when an electric bus could do the job just as well for a tiny fraction of the price.  Diesel buses already do, from only slightly further away!
The ever so competent (I don't think) business case for Metro One in the 1990s justified the closure of three Kms of double track railway line in Wolverhampton, the demolition of Low Level station and the failure to even bring the tram to the bus station, let alone the railway station.  The business case never conceded that restoring the train service would have avoided all of that idiocy and, at a fraction of the price, too.
The latest business case for the Black Country tramway on the Black Country Railway is no better.  It justifies 6.7 Kms for "bus on rails" trams, leaving 49.3 Kms of railway infrastructure, costing millions of pounds, for trees and Himalayan Balsam, a test track and a cycle-walkway.  This is absurd.
An expert business case that argues for the return of main line services of freight, commuter and intercity trains on the one set of double tracks to complete the 120 Kms Black Country Railway BUT, FIRST, a middle 6.7 Kms section has to be given over to trams stopping, on average, every 650 metres and with a frequency of 6 mins at peak times.  This is totally unacceptable.

Unlike in my September 2000 letter from Centro, I think they must have only meant tram trains in recent years.
And, tram trains that must stop almost as frequently as buses are inappropriate for a 120 Kms railway between London and Scotland.  In Germany, tram trains I believe, don’t cover any greater distance than 20 Kms.  We are to get 12 Kms and 14 tram stops between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate for the still being developed tram train, when they have already been developed in Germany.  And, so far, it is five times over budget and is way behind schedule!

I am embarrassed and ashamed to be British and for my country to be a laughing stock, like this.
You point to congested roads in the area, but restoring trains would only ease that problem if the diverted motorists are making journeys which a reopened Burton-Stourbridge railway would offer.  Of course, they are making car journeys from the many new settlements that have sprung up next to or near the forgotten main line.  What about all the car journeys going to the greatly expanded National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Sim?  Why must there never be a station there?
I suspect that a great many of the road journeys are local (the school run, as well as short-distance commuters and shoppers) and the people making them would not be attracted to trains – at least, not along that corridor. Trams, however, are set to relieve some of the pressure because the alignment of the route from Brierley Hill towards central Birmingham and also Wolverhampton really could get some people out of their cars (as has happened in Manchester and other places with restored trams).  The railway line goes to central Brum, Sim.  And, without changing - anywhere.  Build the Benson chord in exactly the way Birmingham FoE suggested in their document last decade.  It really is shocking that complete amateurs have to tell the authorities their job.
I am not going so far as to argue that no-one would use the reopened line, but a decision to spend £500m+ would have to rest on very much firmer ground than any argument you have been able to offer.  Less than £200 million, at the 2015 price for Borders Railway, when so much work has already been done for the Black Country Railway.  £200 m would include the nine stations built over the 30 Kms, as Railfuture wants.
One final point. This is cannot be the springboard to a new discussion and, indeed, I fear I cannot undertake to respond to further correspondence, because I do have a paper to get out.  I quite understand.  But, please stand up for your industry, Sim.
I really hope you find something more rewarding to occupy you soon.  This sad saga reflects so badly on the railway industry and the transport bosses.  My 183 supporters/sympathisers and I should not have to remind them of their duties!  I exclude, ANDY STREET, who is relatively new to the game and is saying all the right things about getting the trains back and the stations built.  Chris Grayling is also saying many of the right things.  See:​

Best wishes    Tim

Yours, etc.
Sim Harris
Managing Editor
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