Friday, 27 February 2015

Questions for the Secretary of State for Transport

Suggestion for MPs to put down a question to the Secretary of State for Transport.  May I suggest, this question?

Why, in the Black Country, is the UK's last remaining, unopened, north-south inter-city rail line to be relegated to a test track for a still to be developed Very Light Rail (VLR) tram train, that may be appropriate for branch lines and road running, only? Especially, when there is an unused branch line in the same borough of Dudley that would be a more appropriate alternative.
(NB: The Black Country Rail Line of 13.5 miles is in your constituency and is one that you could use to and from Parliament - if you and I were allowed to!)

Further possible question:
Why, in Birmingham and the Black Country, are there 45 miles of double track rail lines that, for 100 years had passenger trains but, only freight trains for the last 50 years?

Very many thanks, if you can help us all in this way, please.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Scandalous, stupid neglect of our rail network

Since the December 2014 announcement we have all four transport authorities (DfT, Network Rail, ITA, Centro) backing not only light rail Metro but, the still to be developed, Very Light Rail (VLR) on the most important UK north-south rail line that can be but has not been reopened since the Beeching cuts of fifty years ago.

Having failed with light rail Metro, over the last 34 years, the transport authorities are now trying their hand at VLR and, on 2 Km of the only, unopened, north-south, inter city line between the Hereford-Shrewsbury line in the west and congested New Street Station in the east.  This was the line that they failed to get Midland Metro light rail on.  Not to be put off, they are now seeing if they have better luck with VLR.  If they succeed, it will prevent for ever, inter-city trains from London to Glasgow or Bristol to Edinburgh, returning to this nationally important but forgotten heavy rail line.

This is truly bizarre behaviour when all they have to do is to return existing inter-city and commuter, diesel trains on a line that literally runs alongside or near to commuter congested roads through the heart of three Black Country boroughs.  VLR and LR are great to replace the buses feeding into and out of the rail network.  But re-opening our closed rail network must have top priority.

Hundreds of million of pounds have been found to re-open the Scottish Borders Railway of 48 Km but nothing for the 21 Km Black Country inter-city Line that should then be extended to Lichfield, in my opinion - a further 17 Km of re-opened track.

My map of Birmingham and the Black Country has one Metro line out of the dozen or so Metro lines that ITA/Centro wanted after these last 34 years.  The map also shows the 45 miles of double track freight lines that have no passenger trains and stations.  Yet, for about 100 years these empty, unused lines did have passenger trains and stations.  For the last 50 years - nothing.  In fact, for 100 years, there were about 100 miles of passenger trains and stations in our growing but far less populated and congested, urban conurbation than it is now.  For the last 50 years, nothing, as we all have to rely on the roads and a much diminished rail network.  This, at a time when rail passenger numbers have been rising for many years!  Is lack of capacity also, partly, due to so many heavy rail lines having been built on and given over to trams and guided busways?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

"Remembrance is not enough"

(banner, Peace Museum, Bradford)

Remembrance over these last 100 years has meant, for us good angelic Brits, remembering to wage war on foreign countries in every single year since, at least, 1914 (source: Guardian 12 Feb 2014).

Perhaps, we need to try forgetting our war heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in killing and being killed. How about remembering my heroes like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr and Jesus of Nazareth and following their more worthy example?

We have difficulty in remembering Magna Carta - admittedly, it was over 800 years this year. For example, the illegitimate Guantanamo Bay has gone on for over ten years in order to get round the US constitution that has Magna Carta at its heart, apparently. Magna Carta was imported to America with the British and European settlers.

We have difficulty in remembering our own British wars of religion and our own barbaric behaviour by pious monarchs down the centuries. Particularly brutal and barbaric in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Upping the anti; more militarism; and, Western warring with more Trident

For me, it's immoral and unacceptable to threaten to wipe out much of humanity with these Western weapons. We used them twice in 1945, too and that was a spur to the Soviet Union also getting the ultimate WMD. And, we can't blame the Muslims for this barbarity that also sets them a very bad example.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Network Rail has questions to answer

  1. Do you agree over the 45 miles for 50 years of no passenger trains and stations in Birmingham and the Black Country?
  2. How many Rail Utilisation Studies has Network Rail written over these 50 years?
  3. How many miles of new rail lines have you and your predecessors actually utilised?
  4. Why has £600m just been spent on "reducing passenger congestion" at New Street Station (David Golding in phone conversation with me last month) but nothing to reduce rail congestion?
  5. Why are the approach roads to New Street so congested that it takes half an hour from the far side of Holloway Circus to get into the 'Stop and Crawl' tunnel?
  6. Why is that tunnel perfumed with a cocktail of poisonous gases to harm the health of all of us?
  7. When is NR going to start agitating for new rail tunnels on both approaches for trains to get more easily into the platforms to reduce the glorious new "passenger experience" as we wait, up above in the shopping malls spending more money, for our delayed or never to appear train?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Never winter and always Christmas!

There has been no public consultation, as yet, on the VLR proposals for the Black Country passenger line.

FOR EASE OF READING, THEY ARE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, dated 30 January 2015.  Nick is Nick Mallinson of WMG who wants his VLR project in Dudley.  My suggestion gives all of you all you want - Christmas every day!:

Dear Nick

Could your ultra light rail project and the Innovation Centre go on the cleared site of the former Brierley Hill Steel Terminal at Moor St, Brierley Hill DY5 3AG?  It could then be tested and developed using the 3 Km line from there to north of Pensnett High Street to terminate at Tansey Green Road or Stallings Lane (B4175).  This is Shut End on my A-Z.  Earlier this month, I walked the length of the old line and nothing has been built on it.  One new bridge over the canal would have to be built.

Once perfected, the tram train would be ideal for road running to Merry Hill Shopping Centre and, a second line to Stourbridge Town interchange.  Intu, the current owners of Merry Hill might provide funds, as Nigel Hugil, MD of Chelsfield was prepared to do in the 1990s for Metro going to his shopping centre.  If I remember correctly, he was offering £25 million!

Best wishes

From Nick Mallinson:
Hi Tim,

Thank you for your email and your suggestion of an alternative site for the Innovation Centre and test track.

I am not familiar with the site and track formation so I cannot say whether or not it would be a suitable alternative.  In practical terms WMG is in the hands of our partner, Dudley Council, with regard to the siting of the centre in the Borough.   I note that Martyn Holloway has replied to you and explained that the present proposal delivers benefits other than VLR research capability and jobs to the Borough – the Castle Hill to Dudley Port rail link will reconnect Dudley to the line into Birmingham and provide a channel for many tourists to reach Dudley and visit the Zoo and Black Country Living Museum.

It is the sum of the benefits that has made this proposal so compelling to the Black Country and other public bodies including Future railway. DfT and Centro.

Kind regards,


From Martyn Holloway (Roy is Roy Burgess, who first told me of the Black Country Rail Line 20 years ago):

The line to Pensnett is still protected from a planning perspective and so could be available for the test facility as you suggest. 

The old Moor Street freight liner site is well placed for ultimately serving Stourbridge and Waterfront but there are operational issues with the live freight line that still need to be considered.  Primarily this is over the mixing of heavy and light rail systems but that applies to any proposals on live (track) line.

However, what your proposal does not do is address our current objective to build on investment in Dudley town centre and Castle Hill by reconnecting it to the national rail network.  This is integral with the proposals for the VLR centre.

As Roy will attest, I am always open to constructive proposals but in this case it doesn’t deliver the objectives for Dudley


Martyn Holloway
Head of Traffic & Transportation
Directorate of Environment Economy and Housing
Telephone 01384 815426

Many thanks, Nick for the e-mail.

Below is my reply to Martyn's e-mail that I will paste, here:-

Thanks, Martyn for your e-mail, that was good to receive.  It was kind of you to reply promptly.

What WOULD "address our current objective to build on investment in Dudley town centre and Castle Hill by reconnecting it to the national rail network" is to have the national rail network come to Dudley Castle Hill.  This can be done, much more quickly, by returning diesel trains from Oxford, Worcester and beyond to the heart of three Black Country boroughs and then going on to Crewe and the NW in one direction and, Derby and the NE in the other.

In this way, investment would come to Dudley and to the to the somewhat rundown but still attractive Waterfront area of Brierley Hill, that would get a new lease of life.  In fact, why not have the pleasant Waterfront as the new administrative centre for Dudley MBC that would then be, directly, on the national rail network?  And, without waiting the many years for the ultra light rail tram train to be developed and tested before, finally running up and down Castle Hill in public service?

In this way, you would be returning passenger trains to the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company line that saw passenger steam trains for about 100 years until the 1960s when the line was closed.  For 50 years, no passenger trains have been seen on the 13 miles of double track line from Stourbridge Jct, Castle Hill Dudley, Wednesbury and on to Walsall.  Your proposal continues the tragedy of your good self missing out on the sheer wonder of seeing the delights of Dudley from the window of a commuter or inter-city train as it powers to and past our Castle, Zoo, Canal Trust and Museum.  My proposal puts a stop to this disappointment of yours!

Seriously, Martyn (and Roy) don't you think this makes Dudley a double winner?  The 13 miles Black Country Line is a huge asset for regeneration, employment and economic growth.  Perhaps, more choice for some car commuters to leave their motors behind and use the train, too.

It would still leave 32 miles of freight lines in Brum and the Black Country with no stations or passengers - let alone the trains.

With every good wish

Sunday, 1 February 2015

My scathing denunciation of UNUSED, urban rail lines!!

End 34 years of apathy, drift, indecision, fudging and failure over Midland Metro trams.

You wanted a dozen tram lines throughout the West Midlands.

They have NOT been built - anywhere!

One tram line, on almost all of a passenger rail line that you should never have closed, is very poor performance.


Reject today's report for a review of Metro - more time wasting.

STOP wasting our taxes.

Instruct your officers to scrap Metro and to work on URGENTLY re-opening our urban passenger rail lines and rebuilding the stations.

STAND UP to Network Rail and order them to co-operate with you.

Send a delegation to see George Osborne and Patrick McLoughlin to get them to make the funds available for something worthwhile, at long last: