If you used to make a trip to Nuneaton or to Tamworth, to catch a main line train to the North West or to London Euston, change your plans. Welcome to more train changes and an overcrowded Birmingham New Street station, from December.
Over in Nuneaton, the local Friends of the Earth group are keeping people informed about sly train cuts that leave the UK worse off after huge public railway spending. Train changes come into force in December 2008, and according to ‘those with responsibility’, nothing can be changed.
In August, the strange situation was explained on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’, from the viewpoint of Nuneaton travellers. The problem is that from December 2008, 8 out of 10 Fast Virgin Services from Nuneaton to London and from Nuneaton to the North West/Wales are to be cut by the Government’s Department for Transport and Virgin Trains.
On website greennuneaton.org.uk, Keith Kondakor states that Nuneaton has already lost the direct Nottingham Service, and asks what next ? Answer, nearly everything long distance. That is not, however, where it stops; an article on the Birmingham FOE website some months ago had explained that land use decisions, peoples choice of homes, and many other factors, have been based on an assumption that train services will at least stay the same and probably improve. Affected people are not just those who live or work in Nuneaton, but also those who change trains there.
The (proposed) train timetables were on a website ‘for consultation’ for some weeks. There were some responses and there were meetings with DfT, Warwickshire County Council where they made a stand, but no concessions were made. Warwickshire, a body that unlike Network Rail employs some transport planners, where concerned about the damage the train withdrawals would have. Handy though it is to blame Virgin Trains, the train slotters at Network Rail have probably been working to their own mantra ‘the role of rail is to move people to and from Major Cities quickly’ (1). It would appear that the unaccountable company has been in the background adding poison to the cauldron. Quite simply, the idea of running non stop trains (the Watford Junction stop is to go too), could have been snuffed out at any early stage with a better structure in place.
Looking at the ‘proposed timetable’ 2008 timetables changes http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/wcml/wcms2008timetables/ another matter leaps off the page and that is the total absence of morning northbound stops at Tamworth – an Intercity interchange station. The effect of this is that Tamworth and its catchment (including Burton on Trent) are faced with a journey to Birmingham to change there. Birmingham New Street station, we are advised, is already overloaded with passengers and has to be closed at busy times. For this reason the holding area above the platforms is to be enlarged under a Birmingham Gateway railway scheme. Why then are we losing train changing at Lichfield, at Tamworth, and at Nuneaton to add to train changing at Birmingham?
Personally I do not see why the proposed train service changes have to go ahead – and as it is largely publicly funded, the public should have more say than a consultation in a dull website in a disused waiting room locked out of use by a train franchise that has gone out of business.
If you have a minute, write to your MP and toWest Coast Timetable Consultation (2008),
DfT Rail Projects,
Zone 5/23,Great Minster House,
76 Marsham Street,
London SW1P 4DR
(1) A quote from the Black Country Study, of policy attributed to DfT / Network Rail