Last Wednesday a public meeting was held about the progress (or lack of it) in the campaign to re-open stations in Balsall Heath, Moseley and Kings Heath. The meeting was jointly hosted by Moseley and Kings Heath forums and included speakers councillor Martin Mullaney and John Newson from Birmingham Friends of the Earth.

Councillor Mullaney spoke first and answered questions from the audience for over an hour. The main points from what he said (disregarding the irrelevant parts about High Speed Rail and the new station at New Street) were:

A feasibility study was done for the stations in 2007. The full report is on his website
This showed there would be passenger demand to justify £40m to build a curve into Moor Street and the stations at Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell..

There may be a case to include a station at Balsall Heath to bring in visitors and allow residents to access jobs, e.g. at Longbridge.

City planners will protect the entrances to Moseley station. A lift for disabled access can be included in station design.

The Business case is for a Moor Street to Kings Norton service only, but train operators may be interested in running trains form cross country trains from Cardiff via Bromsgrove, and/or a through service via Snow Hill and Handsworth to Walsall.

Electrification of the line may be possible by lowering the track under the Moseley tunnel.

An updated business case is now being prepared, to include a 2nd curve bringing in the line from Fort Dunlop & Sutton to Walsall. More passengers helps the business case. This is for inclusion in the West Midlands Rail Development plan 2014-2019 rail programme – hoping to open in 2018.

This is part of relieving capacity at New Street station, which is full, using the renovated Moor Street station that has under-used capacity.

After this other points were made by transport experts in the room, such as Tony Woodward of rail future, who said the rebuilding of New Street station has funding agreed. It will cause disruption and loss of capacity during the construction phase, so they should bring forward the building of the new curves to allow more trains to be diverted to Moor Street as soon as possible, rather than doing this years down the line.

Kevin Chapman from Campaign for Better Transport added that the Camp Hill line should complement the local bus service as part of an integrated public transport network. It needs to be part of a wider strategy both for the West Midlands rail network and for the Alcester Road corridor. In order for a viable local service to be provided (i.e. more than three trains an hour) freight trains will need to be diverted to the Walsall – Stourbridge line.

Tony Woodward responded that freight trains weigh 2,000 tonnes, so moving them to the Stourbridge line, and bringing in more passenger trains could reduce the noise and vibration for trackside properties.

Residents need to have a simple demand. Just ask for your local passenger stations and services as a high priority – do not complicate or mix with other issues.

Kevin Chapman also emphasised that other areas (including Manchester and the South East) are pushing for improvements to their local rail network, but the DfT budget has been frozen due to the state of the public finances and all parties are committed to the High Speed 2 line. It is likely that some projects will be cut and if we do not make the case for the Camp Hill line it is likely that DfT may choose it as one to cut.

John Newson spoke last and spoke passionately about the need for rail stations in these areas. He said that these are railway suburbs, built so that thousands of people could walk to the stations. Also, journey time will be much faster than by bus or car, especially in peak periods. He also said that we have to provide low carbon alternatives to the private car.

Centro is asking which schemes should be prioritised in its West Midlands Rail Development Plan.

If people in the area don’t reply, the scheme could be pushed into the future. Non response could be understood as lack of support for it, and plans could be decided that exclude our local stations. Public consultation is open already and ends 11th September. Therefore, everyone who cares about this should respond here