In the West Midlands passenger numbers have shown a rapid increase in the last few years, probably due to the booming economy and the worsening congestion on our roads. The consequences of the relentless increase in road traffic are adverse effects on both human health and the local and global environment. Although railways still have an environmental impact it is considerably less than road or air travel. Railways, when they serve local communities, also extend the range for people relying principally on walking and cycling. Rail in urban areas can attract not only its own following but also enable car-dependants to make the switch. A substantial shift of passengers and freight from road and air to rail would benefit everyone through reduced congestion and less damage to the environment.
Nationally up to 24,000 vulnerable people are estimated to die prematurely each year because of poor air-quality, and transport is a major contributor to this problem through engine exhaust emissions. Although rail carries 7% of U.K. traffic it emits only 0.2% of Carbon Monoxide, 2% of Nitrous Oxide, 1% of Volatile Organic Compounds and 2.5% of Sulphur Dioxide emissions.
So its hats off to Centro who thirty years ago took the ailing railways between Lichfield and Redditch, gave them a good shaking, and brought in a frequent train service. The Cross City Line has not looked back since. Trailing in the shadow of those bold moves comes Birmingham City Council who in 2006 commissioned a study into putting trains on another Birmingham route, the Camp Hill Line through King’s Heath.
Birmingham’s municipal leaders wanted to show their confidence in a revival of Longbridge and Birmingham as a place for local employment. Putting local trains on the Camp Hill Line, to link Bromsgrove to Longbridge, King’s Heath and Birmingham Moor Street shouts it out. Not only have the local MPs been supportive but also Network Rail, whose suburban railways were singled out by the Eddington Report for their importance, is currently resignalling the Birmingham railways and can accommodate the short new length of railway at Bordesley.
The only real uncertainty is going to be the Department for Transport who have spent huge sums of late on the railways and are being asked for money for London’s CrossRail and work elsewhere to expand railway capacity. That is where you, the reader, comes in . By writing to your MP in support of Birmingham local rail you can make a difference.
Trains to King’s Heath can and must happen and surely can only be thwarted by one thing – Jeremy Clarkson being crowned King of Network Rai.
Editor’s note: A few years ago Birmingham consulting engineers put the cost at £19m. It is probably double that now. The new roof for New Street Station ‘Birmingham Gateway’ is priced at £500m and the A3 Hindhead road improvement is running at £394m.