Dear Toby - please make time to read and re-read this and then reply
Many thanks, as in 2014, also in 2015 giving me some of your time on the 15 October. My delay in writing is due to my shooting off to enjoy my retirement with more walking and cycling the big hills in Scotland on the day after we met with Cllr John.
I rather rashly said, "I'll give you a break for five years" - that I now withdraw! It was some wishful thinking on my part, at the time, when I wanted to move on to other matters and to forget about this whole ghastly business! However, I still have many questions and so much I just do not understand. Hence:
- When the Borders Railway can get diesel trains back on 49 Km without first putting either freight trains back or electric trams, why must goods trains or Metro go on the 38 Km Black Country Line, first? Please could you explain in laymen's terms.
- Laura wrote, on the 15 Sept: The main obstacle to reopening the Stourbridge – Walsall railway would be the need to completely replace the derelict 15km double track alignment between Round Oak and Bescot with new track and signalling built to modern standards and also repair the underlying infrastructure (including Parkhead Viaduct) to enable it to safely carry heavy rail trains once again.
- Could you please explain to me how replacing derelict 49 Km "track alignment, with new track and signalling to modern standards ... " was no obstacle of any kind for Network Rail and Transport Scotland at £10 million per mile. And, this was the very first Beeching closure reversed by the professionals. Done, too in beautiful countryside and not in our heavily congested Black Country, where the need is far greater.
- Laura wrote, "Similarly the Lichfield-Brownhills section of railway would also need to be completely rebuilt to accommodate future passenger trains whilst the Brownhills - Walsall section of railway was been removed completely many years ago and now is partially used as a cyclepath." All of this applies, exactly to Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank - the Borders Railway. Yet, the money was found and the work done. Even on all the new rail structures!
- There is a huge "potential role of Walsall – Stourbridge for rail" PASSENGER not "freight for the next 30 years" as Laura wrote. Please have some consideration for commuters and rising demand for passenger trains in the Black Country. With human climate change and resource depletion, it is urgent that we stop wasting transport infrastructure like the 38 Km Black Country Line.
- Could I please have the business case study for electric trams on the roads and railways of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall instead of diesel passenger trains on the nationally important 21 Km and wasted double track rail line through an increasingly congested and populated urban conurbation. This, when according to Patrick McLoughlin, the city centre extension is costing £75.4 million for three quarters of a mile of Metro. This works out at £100m per mile for road running Metro. It is also likely to be a similar enormous figure for Metro in Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall when road running.
- See letter from McLoughlin to Louise Ellman MP, dated 30 Sept 2015 that gives this and the £750 m Grand Central Shopping Centre as the sole railway money for the seven district authorities in the West Midlands. Nothing else for us in how many years? A complete page, in McLoughlin's letter, of rail investment and projects being delivered to the North of England and its Northern Powerhouse. Nothing more for us. We are being bypassed and ignored!
- I agree with Laura's e-mail as regards the costs,
"The newly opened 30 mile rail line cost around £300m for largely single track railway (albeit with some long double track passing loops). In some ways the reopening of this line was actually simpler than, for example re-opening Walsall – Round Oak would be, as rebuilding the track-bed didn’t require the removal of the existing, derelict tracks first."
This, therefore, is £10 million per mile for diesel trains on new rail lines and new structures. This is ten times cheaper for diesel on new rail lines on the existing formation, than light rail electric trams on roads.
Laura cannot be right with her second sentence, above. According to the website, Borders Railway did have to lay new track bed and rails. In addition,
"There are a number of structures along the route: 137 bridges, 42 newly constructed and 95 in need of refurbishment. A variety of work is required to existing bridges in order to help them comply with safety standards and make them suitable for the railway to run over or under." (How to Build a Railway, from Borders Railway website) Yet, still, £10 million per mile. Ten times cheaper than road running Metro. How does the business case resolve this? Please may I have sight of it?
9. Could you please give me the amount of the bid that you and the team have put together (during public consultation, too) for road and rail running Metro in Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall?
10. I cannot understand why you did not make it clear, in the draft plan out for consultation, that you and the team had no intention of putting VLR or heavy rail on the old line. It seems, that your intention has always been Midland Metro and nothing else for road and rail running through the Black Country boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.
11. Why were the public and I told that the ITA and Cento were keeping an open mind over the 21 Km from Stourbridge to Walsall when, all the time, you were working on a new bid and business case to get the money for Metro?
12. Could you please tell me. Are you (ITA/Centro) in talks with Intu over Metro coming to Merry Hill and the Waterfront?
13. Could you please explain why you are no longer pursuing Metro on the Camp Hill Line and nearby roads. Peter Plisner did a report, some years ago, that I saw on 'Midlands Today'. Why did the business case, at that time, not tell you that it was far better value for money to rebuild the stations and to return the passenger trains?
14. For me, the PTA/Centro reopening of Walsall to Wolverhampton years ago was not nearly as important as the Black Country Line to bypass road and rail congested Grand Central but, to still allow trains from Dudley Waterfront and Dudley Port (on the WCML) to bring passengers into Grand Central, as you said, Toby that Metro trams would be able to do. Diesel trains can do it, too but much more economically!
15. There is much in common between your profession, Toby and mine! I was a Brum and Sandwell social worker for 35 years. We all know about the media highlighting of social work blunders, neglect and failures. I can remember how my colleagues and I all got into a rut of the one and only (foolish) decision that had to be made and no-one challenged it in case conferences (out of respect for, or fear of, the managers). As a retired, old man I am asking you to think of the alternatives, of a different way of doing things, of brainstorming all the options. For 34 years, since 1981, the councillors and Centro said that the 200 Km Midland Metro network would be the answer to our road traffic congestion problems. However, it was never delivered over these last three and a half decades. Yet, you are still endeavouring to get it - to this day!
I am really sorry to be such a pain, Toby. However, I hope you can understand why I am so critical and dissatisfied with ever worsening road and rail congestion. It has gone on for the nearly fifty years of my being a student, a failed teacher, a social worker and, now, a one foot in the grave OAP in the Black Country and Brum. In addition, there remains worsening train and traffic congestion in and around Grand Central and its basement station. Now, the grandest of many road/rail congestion bottlenecks in England.
All of this - and much more I have recorded, previously and elsewhere - is not nearly good enough.
But, my genuine good wishes to you, Toby. Thanks again for seeing me.