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, slow, "bus on rails" trams every 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.
- THE LACK OF COMPETENCE
- 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."
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- THE LACK OF PROBITY
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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
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.