Birmingham could work much better by having a local rail network. The lines that it has are spectacularly successful and bring the national railway network within easy reach of many thousands of people. Now is the time to make Birmingham’s case heard to the funders of Network Rail, the Department for Transport.


The timing is because Network Rail has submitted its case for spending, the Initial Industry Plan (IIP). The IIP claims to set out how the railway can be better value for money and ‘can play a key role in driving sustainable economic growth’. On these counts, Birmingham, a city that is discouraging for outsiders to visit as they cannot get about, has a good case for local rail.


In recent years, Network Rail has made great improvements to the railway meaning that a bumpy ride is almost unheard of. The number of trains and the usage of them has shot up. Unfortunately, despite its good intentions, the Initial Industry Plans fail to look at ways that a train journey is part of a door to door transport choice; this is not surprising as Network Rail was never intended to set transport policy. Transport policy is decided by ‘Local Transport Plans’ (LTP) and by the Government.


Birmingham FOE published its manifesto for local rail (to be found on its website) that faces the need for construction of two short connecting railway lines that can connect up existing routes. These two lines, the Bordesley chord and the Benson Road curve are not ‘inventions’ but are proposals from a few years ago by the rail industry’s regulator. The two lines were also included in Birmingham’s land planning documents.


The IIP does propose spending some money in the West Midlands and some of the schemes are welcome; extending the area that can use electric trains, for instance, could mean fewer fumes in Birmingham New Street station.


If you have not written to your MP but know the name, the address is:

House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.


You could also write to your local councillor.


Read the IIP for yourself.