Wednesday, 16 May 2018

26 transport tragedies for 37 years - so far!


  1. In 1981, our transport chiefs began their fascination with Midland Metro trams on railway lines and roads, instead of protecting our closed railways for future use and then re-opening them for passenger and freight trains.
  2. Cllrs Richard Worrall, Angus Adams and, now Roger Lawrence are the transport chiefs over decades who have let us down, misspent our taxes and had the most weird and wonderful set of priorities.
  3. These men put everything but trains down Dudley to Wolverhampton, Dudley to Birmingham, Dudley to Netherton, Old Hill, Halesowen to Longbridge and, Birmingham to Wolverhampton railway lines.
  4. One e-mailer to me wrote, “ … people who could be regarded as complicit in questionable decisions.”  He meant our fully trained professionals in Network Rail (NR), Transport for W Mids (TfWM) and Midland Metro Alliance (MMA) who need to be questioned, challenged and watched like hawks because of their disastrous decisions over many years.
  5. I think Beeching was right to close the lines he did as we deserted trains and went out and bought cars.  It was the railway industry, our transport chiefs, the unions and the many groups of railway enthusiasts who failed to ensure that they were mothballed in case they were ever needed in the future.  They are certainly needed now but the railway industry, the unions and the railway enthusiasts all allowed them to be lost for every kind of built development imaginable, to roads and, to slow, frequent stopping, extremely expensive “bus on rails” trams!
  6. Wikipedia has: Ian Hislop comments that history has been somewhat unkind to "Britain's most hated civil servant", by forgetting that he proposed a much better bus service that ministers never delivered.
  7. The politicians and transport experts got diverted from increasing the popularity of buses to building seven tram networks in the UK.
  8. All the experts were happily building steam locomotives up to the 1960s as part of our supposedly modern railway.  This was the first decade of railway closures and the sale of our railways to any old Tom, Dick or Harriet instead of their protection for future use by trains.
  9. My e-mailer wrote, “Routes such as Dudley to Wolverhampton were not just closed to traffic but the tracks were removed.”  Yes. Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton councillors were all happily giving planning permission for houses, roads and a trading estate to obliterate this important railway line!  How foolish is that? “The same was the case for Birmingham to Wolverhampton via West Bromwich”, my e-mailer wrote. This was the valuable Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level line that could be giving additional trains into Shropshire and North Wales, one former railway worker has told me (see 8).  Instead, Metro line One took it over. This meant that platform four at Snow Hill is still not used, to this day for trains, Low Level station is now a conference and events venue and 2 Kms of the line in Wolverhampton was destroyed. This was because the tram line went on the road for 2 Kms to St George’s Square and the useful direct link to Low Level railway station was lost forever!
  10. The former railway worker texted to me about the 1999 Metro One, “What a waste opening the wolves - bham line to a tram.  This has prevented through services from snow hill to Wales or the north from ever returning.”
  11. If the trains had been allowed back, we would still have commuter and regional trains using the line that the tram now uses and, grand Low Level station would still be in use as a much needed station rather than a conference and events centre.
  12. It would still be a  station if only our darling politicians had thought of that great wheeze of railway trains on railway lines! This summer, main work starts on the even more important 120 Km Black Country Railway "of national strategic significance" being transformed into a ‘bring your own cushion for the tram’ tramline over all of 6.7 Kms, a test track, a trail of trees, Himalayan Balsam and undergrowth
  13. Trams will, one day connect St George’s Sq to the bus station and the last remaining railway station but at a cost of £33m.  All it needed were the trains back between Snow Hill and Wolverhampton Low Level and it would have been at a fraction of the cost of the trams.  This was another blunder by PTA/Centro and by Roger Lawrence, plus predecessors.
  14. Four businesses closed on Bilston Road in 2017 when Metro One tracks were renewed after only 18 years.  This would never have happened if the trains and stations had been allowed back.
  15. I would like the whole 120 Kms railway “of national strategic significance” (Network Rail and DfT letter to me dated, 8 March 2018) from Worcester, the Black Country and on to Derby, to be called the Black Country Railway.
  16. My e-mailer wrote, “Some opinion is that in an 'unhelpful' environment and with limited funding, various campaigners and the efforts of individuals within organisations and organisations such as Centro, British Rail, some local authorities, some enhancements and reopenings were achieved.”  From what I have seen, the heritage railway groups have achieved much more than the professional railway ‘experts’ and councillors. From my research, only 6 Kms out of 112 Kms of double track railway line in freight or officially mothballed have been re-opened. In addition, there was the Walsall to Rugeley re-opening.
  17. Our trio of former, including the incumbent Roger, transport chiefs are wholly responsible.  They need to work with the professionals but also to stop obvious blunders like the many we have seen and are still seeing.
  18. The only official, ‘Out of Use’, Black Country Railway, “of national strategic significance”, is now precluded from returning to railway use for ever by Dudley Castle Hill mainline station that is about to be built on, by the Metro tram line and, a test track through Castle Hill tunnel between the two short sections of tramway.  Thus my feeling that we, ever so clever, Brexit Brits are incompetent and negligent!
  19. I attended a Community Forum in Dudley borough last month.  Before, I spoke and without one councillor knowing who I was or why I came, he told the meeting that when on the Centro Passenger Transport Authority years ago, he was told that “heavy rail trains would still be able to return” once the Black Country Railway, “of national strategic significance”, had been turned into a tram line.  I told him that this was a lie. Freight trains might be able to use it at night but certainly not the former passenger service between Worcester and Derby via the Black Country that we saw for 100 years until fifty years ago.
  20. This light rail scheme is a throwback to the 1980s when the Black Country Railway was unwanted, out of use, disused, dismantled, unloved and it was thought that it would never be needed, ever again.  Hence, put the tram on it that was all the rage at the time. Kind of anachronistic, now that we are four decades on.​ We are seeing a renaissance in railway travel.
  21. Never again, fast passenger train services from Derby to Devon via Dudley or Burton to Bristol via Brierley Hill.
  22. One professional railway ‘expert’ explained to me that Network Rail does not like running passenger trains on freight lines.  Yet, the Victorian and Edwardian railway men did so for decades. Why not the so smart, tech savvy, Elizabethans?
  23. Is Cllr Roger standing up to Network Rail and insisting on passenger trains and stations for our urban lines not yet obliterated?  I don’t think so. He gave planning permission for homes, roads and trading estates on the railway lines, after all.
  24. My e-mailer wrote, “The passenger train operator for the West Midlands is supposed to be introducing a train service from Birmingham to Stourbridge and then to Brierley Hill. This will require a new station at Brierley Hill.”  Thus, we all pile out of the train to get on the tram into Brum when the train could take us the whole way without changing.  And, when extended to Walsall, it will require from Worcester, a change from train to tram at Canal St tram stop, near Brierley Hill and back to the train at Walsall station for progress to Derby!
  25. Wikipedia has: “Passenger services were terminated between Walsall and Wolverhampton in 2008 on cost and efficiency grounds.”  Shortly after they were introduced! Yet, now, trains are to be re-introduced with two new stations when there is a good Platinum bus service between the two places.  The trains need to go all the way to Brum via the Sutton freight only line. But, finishing the Black Country Railway is much more desperately needed to reduce road and railway congestion.
  26. On the unused, wasted, 56 Kms, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on two motorway crossings and three tunnels to cross three dual carriageways - for the 120 Kms Black Country Railway "of national strategic significance".  But this is the same unused, wasted, middle section that is to be turned into a 6.7 Kms tramline, a test track, rusting lines and a jungle of undergrowth. What a waste of tens of millions of pounds!

All of this is such complete nonsense that Cllr Roger needs to step down, with Keith Harrison using the ‘Express and Star’ as a way to help him to give way.