Railway track owner ‘Network Rail’ (NR) has published, with the train operators club ATOC, a new document called ‘Planning Ahead’. The slim volume, available on the Network Rail website (networkrail.co.uk) at http://www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/imagelibrary/detail.asp?MediaDetailsID=2285, claims to be a vision of the next thirty years for rail.

Why NR is spending money on strategy documents (when that role is a Government one), is a puzzle. The bonus-paying ‘company’ not only does not have transport planning expertise, but it is also struggling for funding. NR’s track record in the West Midlands is patchy as lack of capacity on the Wolverhampton to Coventry route means the local trains run on the skippy principle (missing some stops) that is also proposed for other routes.

A possible funding source for Black Country Rail improvements, the RSS, was soured by a statement that ‘Network Rail’s view is that rail is to move people to and from large cities quickly’. That statement is hardly in tune with a local rail network and local stations as part of economic revival.

Piling on the grief, NR have sneaked a paragraph into the internet version of their West Midlands Route Plan advocating that Longbridge’s freight branch railway be grubbed out (having cooperated in moves to deny Frankley a passenger train service). Unhelpfully too, despite strong support and a report backing up its feasibility, NR are not programming-in the Kings Heath local stations plan.

To be charitable, perhaps different parts of NR have different agendas. For the West Midlands, NR’s agenda is not sustainability focussed.

John Hall