Friday, 24 July 2015

Midland Metro history and costs

Dear all

The Wikipedia account of Midland Metro tells us that it was in 1981 that a joint planning committee between the West Midlands County Council and Centro "formed a joint planning committee to look at light rail as a means of solving the conurbation's congestion problems.  In the summer of 1984 they produced a report entitled "Rapid Transit for the West Midlands" which set out ambitious proposals for a £500 million network of ten light rail routes which would be predominantly street running, but would include some underground sections in Birmingham city centre."

In 34 years and, still to this day, there has never been any kind of consideration given, it seems, to reversing the urban Beeching cuts for our own national and local trains that had been so successful for about 100 years.  To this day, no trams, let alone the much easier to achieve trains, on nearly 50 miles of freight lines for 50 years in a densely populated and growing urban conurbation!

When you don't deliver even just the ten Metro tramlines from 1984 when you are paid to do so, it must be a mixture of corrupt practice, incompetence and negligence.  Especially, when you were given 31 years to get it done.

Even after many years of many people working on the project, it was never delivered - yet, you all came up with even more!  Hence, I read: 

"The first of up to 15 lines was intended to be operating by the end of 1993, and a network of 200 kilometres was planned to be in use by 2000.[7]   Annual Report 1988–1989, West Midlands PTE."  Fifteen lines and 200 Km (124 miles) in 12 years is preposterous and totally unrealistic, especially after their previous experience, above!

When after, say 10 years (1994) you are not being given the money to do the three tram lines - and, most were to be on rail lines that should never have had their trains and stations removed - you should have got the message and changed to something more obvious, cheaper and, therefore, easier to achieve, namely putting right the idiocies of the 1960s urban rail closures.  Yet, you and your predecessors have all gone on taking the money in salaries and expenses without, it seems, any feeling of unease, let alone guilt.

The Wikipedia account of Midland Metro history ends with this:

In 2005, "The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) gave an overall cost estimate for British systems of £3.79 per light-rail vehicle-kilometre in 2003–2004, compared with £0.94 per bus kilometre in 2002–2003, according to Rapid Transit Monitor 2004. CfIT estimated that the fare required for Midland Metro to break even was twice that of Manchester Metrolink, London Tramlink and the Tyne and Wear Metro.[89]"

Therefore, Midland Metro's running cost is four times more expensive than buses.  In addition, it seems, from the figures I have been given in recent weeks, Metro is ten times more expensive to build than reversing the rural Beeching cuts in depopulated southern Scotland for the return of trains.  That cost is £294 million for 29 miles, according to RailNews (March 2015).

In a letter dated 18.9.2000, from Tom Magrath, Passenger Services Director, wrote, "light rail investment provides the basis for restoring heavy rail services at the appropriate time."  To tell me that light rail Metro was needed to be put on the Black Country Line in order to be able to restore heavy rail services at a later date on that line is complete nonsense.  That idiocy is now repeated with the insistence that Very Light Rail must go on that intercity line but that it will not stop express and local trains returning at a later date (conversation with David Golding, Principal Strategic Planner, Network Rail at ITA meeting on 16.7.2015)  No wonder, I am thinking that there is something very corrupt, very wrong at the heart of Network Rail, ITA, Centro - and, for decades, too.  They all want express and local trains returning but want Light Rail and/or Very Light Rail, first to help get the everyday trains back!

This scandal over the misappropriation of public funds for trams on rail lines instead of trains (and stations rebuilt) has gone on for long enough.

Yours sincerely

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Letter from Cllr Peter Lowe, Leader of Dudley MBC

21 July 2015

Dear Mr Weller

Re The Rail Crisis and HS2

Further to your letter to the Times of the 29 of June copied to the Council I would make the

following comments.

I am sure you will be aware that the Staffordshire line fell to Dr Beeching’s axe in the early

1960’s as part of swinging cuts to those parts of the railway network which were uneconomic in

this case for passenger heavy rail services.  Although it continued to be used for freight services

the line was finally mothballed in the 1980’s.

The reintroduction of heavy rail services on the Staffordshire line, as you discuss in your letter,

has been investigated a number of times since its closure but has proved to be as uneconomic

as when it was originally closed in the 1960’s.  Unfortunately heavy rail cannot deliver the

frequency and accessibility provided by the latest tram technology and so although apparently

easier to implement struggles to compete in the inter urban context.

The Black Country District Councils, although still strong supporters of the Metro proposals,

recognise the difficulties in bringing them forward.  We have therefore recently commissioned a

new rapid transit study to consider the best way to deliver improvements to passengers’

services and in particular utilising the abandoned rail lines.  I believe you may have provided

input to the study being overseen by Walsall Council on behalf of the Black Country.

With regard to the development of a new lighter and cheaper light rail passenger system known

as Very Light Rail you will also be aware that Dudley Council are working with Warwick

Manufacturing Group to build an innovation centre at Castle Hill.  I can assure you that the

centre which will include a test track on the mothballed line will not affect any of the current

proposals for passenger services or the need to reintroduce freight services at some future date

as demand dictates.  The development of the centre and of the technology it will produce is not

a pre-requisite for its use in the Black Country but I assume if successful could be considered at

some future time.

I hope this clarifies the situation and allays some of your concerns regarding the future

reintroduction of passengers’ services on the old Staffordshire line.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Norman          Peter Lowe

Chief Executive Leader of the Council

Cfi. M.Holloway - Head of Traffic & Transportation

Monday, 6 July 2015

Letter to Peter Lowe, Leader of Dudley MBC

Dear Peter

I am really sorry that I find it necessary to speak/write like this.  I don't like doing it.  However, only your good self and Khurshid can put a stop to this nonsense, below.  The sooner you do so, the quicker you will shut me up.

How is it that you and all your councillors have no sense of shame, let alone guilt, for your odd behaviour?

First, you keep express and local trains off your very own railway line for 50 years.  This is the Black Country ICE (inter city express) Line that runs literally alongside commuter congested main roads in places from Stourbridge, past the Waterfront and on to all of our Black Country tourist attractions at Castle Hill.

Next, last December, you announced that you were going to use one track for a shuttle service by a still to be developed Very Light Railcar on one mile of your 13 miles Black Country Line to shuttle passengers to the next inter city express line in your neighbouring borough of Sandwell.  Not to run your own smart, sleek ICE trains, mind you but, to rely on the next line that crosses yours one mile down the line in Sandwell!

The second track, for all of one mile, will be a test track for this university based project.  Elsewhere in Dudley is a much more suitable site for the Warwick Manufacturing Group to develop the Very Light Railcar.

However, our dear councillors' stupidity is now capped by your intention to put a speedway stadium on Halesowen's farmland and Green Belt.  You don't want our food grown on fertile soil but, instead, even more greenhouse gases from motorbikes racing round in circles to further mess up our climate and threaten, eventually, our very existence.

Can these councillors' abnormal behaviour get anymore weird and wonderful in their work on our behalf?

Will just one councillor resign to disassociate him/herself from these peculiar antics?

Yours sincerely

Sustainable Society or Growth (and wrong growth!) Society

Haven't all the parties in power, over the years, found land for some use or other to cope with rising/growing expectations, standards of living, population growth, hyper-mobility ... ?

The Greens are unique for pointing out that this cannot go on for ever and a day.  Hence our 'Manifesto for a Sustainable Society'.  Living for tomorrow, living within our means, our limits and our boundaries.  Living for others.

Don't be impressed by 'Combined Authority' or 'Enterprise Zone'.  We have seen it all before.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Always more of the same - unethical and aggressive foreign policy, more for us less for you, fortress Europe!

Extravagance for the authorities; austerity for the rest of us - my definition of corruption!

Extravagance for the authorities; austerity for the rest of us - my definition of corruption!

£750 million for the grand Grand Central Shopping Centre, atrium and concourse with the mainline station put in the basement - tagged along as an afterthought.  Still, on the platforms and in the ‘Stop and Crawl’ car tunnel, poisonous diesel fumes for us all to harm our health.

£190 million magnificent New Library of Brum opened as smaller libraries closed or were given restricted opening hours.  Just like the new library in its second year of opening!

£86.6 million for Midland Metro trams to Centenary Square from Snow Hill Station (less than one mile).

£62 million to promote cycling in Birmingham and to give away 5,000 free bikes to Brummies.

£10 million per mile for Beeching rural line re-opening in depopulated southern Scotland in September.  In this age of austerity, a strong business case was made.  Yet, nothing for the Black Country ICE (inter city express) Line that remains closed.

£100 million per mile for smooth, sleek electric trams to return to Brum city centre to replace hybrid buses.  In this age of austerity, a robust business case made the funding vital.  Yet, nothing for the Black Country ICE Line that remains closed.

£130 million for 1.5 Km (just under one mile) that includes some new trams for the Eastside extension.  In this age of austerity, an unassailable business case was made for the project to go ahead. This is 13 times more expensive than reinstating passenger trains and stations on nearly 50 miles of freight only lines, like the unused Black Country ICE (inter city expressLine.

£1,000 million per mile for HS2 to come to Curzon Street Station in 2026.  In this age of austerity, the business case made this project impossible to deny.  It is absolutely vital for the transport and economic health of the nation.  Isn't it funny, that there is still nothing for the Black Country ICE Line that remains closed to passengers?