Solihull and Leamington Rail Users Association


SALRUA UPDATE – DECEMBER 2020

Covid-19 continues to severely impact life and the West Midlands remains in the highest category, Tier 3.

CHAIRMAN’S COMMENT

Throughout the pandemic to date Train Operators have been providing near-normal levels of train services despite massive reductions in passenger numbers, especially during the earlier lockdown period. Numbers started to recover at the end of that period, rising to about 40% of normal levels but with the second lockdown and now the Tier 3 restrictions levels are about 25% of normal. This is all a great change from last December’s overcrowding problems.

Timetables have had to be regularly revised with eight timetables having been published this year, the latest being from 14 December. This is expected to be in force until next May. For Chiltern there is an almost two-trains per hour service to and from London while for West Midlands there will be two trains an hour between Dorridge and Birmingham, with one of those continuing to Stratford. The Leamington to Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry service has however been badly affected by driver shortages due to Covid-19 and has been reduced to a once-every-two-hours service (but with replacement buses scheduled for the intervening periods). This is sure to have a significant impact on the route’s ability to service commuters in particular; it is a pity that for this period almost-empty Cross-Country trains could not have been amended to call at Kenilworth

As such printed timetables have disappeared with passengers being urged to check the various websites for the latest picture.

In addition there will be the normal Christmas and New Year alterations, effective between 23 December and 1 January.

Chiltern and West Midland Railways have been operating at high performance levels of 90% plus with Chiltern nearer to 100%, so the services are there to be used but so few are using them. It is all a far cry from 2019 when the West Midlands had the highest passenger growth figures in England.

Despite the present gloom there is a lot of positive news to bring you with SALRUA being heavily involved in a wide range of initiatives to improve our line services but also its infrastructure which is often overlooked?

SALRUA have been unable to hold its usual Committee Meetings and for the first time in its history the AGM had to be cancelled.

I would like to thank our members for their continued support, our Committee for their diligence, and wish you all a safe and Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

TRAIN OPERATOR NEWS

The present Chiltern franchise agreement ends in December 2021, but subject to negotiations with the DfT could be extended by either 2 or 6 years. Richard Allan is the new Managing Director.

The first of the much delayed Class 196 Diesel Multiple Units for West Midlands Trains are now on test and driver training on the Shakespeare Line, formerly known as the North Warwickshire Line. The deliveries have been held up due to supply problems associated to Covid-19 in mainland Europe. What is striking is that the orange colour used is now much brighter in comparison to the dull orange presently in use, a return to the 1970’s where many British Leyland cars used such a colour scheme!

HEART OF ENGLAND COMMUNITY RAIL PARTNERSHIP

Community Rail Partnerships are about integrating stations into their communities and finding out how the railways can best socially and economically support the areas they serve. The Heart of England CRP has been established to bring together rail industry partners, local authorities, businesses, and communities to help maximise the economic, social, and environmental benefits of the rail network to residents, businesses, and visitors. There are now over 70 CRPs in the country.

The Heart of England partnership was founded in 2019 and is formed of 11 principal partners and funders, who are: Coventry City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire District Council, Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry Trains, West Midlands Railways, Vintage Trains and West Midlands Rail Executive. Network Rail and the Community Rail Partnership also support the work of the Partnership. As of November 2019 Julia Singleton-Tasker was appointed Community Rail Partnership Officer and is based at Shire Hall Warwick, although presently operating remotely. Her contact details are e mail juliasingletontasker@warwickshire.gov.uk, telephone number 07827 954 022. Members can contact her directly if required.

The Partnership covers 36 stations over 3 train lines operating between Birmingham, Coventry, Nuneaton, Leamington Spa, Warwick, and Stratford-Upon-Avon and serves a diverse range of stations, from rural request stops to larger urban stations.

Their website is https://heartcommunityrail.org.uk/.

STATION NEWS

DORRIDGE STATION

The refurbished Waiting Room on platform 2/3 is now open and in use and looks brilliant. The information systems at the Station are being replaced with Chiltern’s own system, the present one was from London Midland days.

SOLIHULL STATION

As per Dorridge the information system is being replaced by Chilterns own.

Following a public consultation about the future of the Station which garnered 500+ resident responses the design proposals should be available in the first quarter of 2021.A Birmingham based Architects Practice is working on the designs.

LEAMINGTON STATION

Work is progressing on the design proposals for the forecourt at the Station. This project is led by Warwickshire CC and Adkins Consulting Group. It is hoped that this can be completed in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 where Leamington will be the centre of some of the games.

FRIENDS GROUPS

LAPWORTH & WARWICK PARKWAY

SALRUA has requested the Community Rail Group try and get both Lapworth and Warwick Parkway to form Friends Groups. The present lockdown measures have rather delayed this initiative. These are the only Stations without Friends Groups on our line.

FRIENDS OF MOOR STREET STATION

Informal discussions have been held with Chiltern to see if a viable scheme can be prepared to bring a Friends Group into formation.

FRIENDS OF THE SHAKESPEARE LINE

As all the Stations from Small Heath to Stratford Town now have Friends Groups a new entity has been created to manage the work and funding for the volunteers to carry out their work and this will become active from 2021.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

STRATFORD – HONEYBOURNE RAILWAY REOPENING

The most exciting news is the progress being made on restoring the Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne railway line, closed since May 1969. SALRUA along with the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, Cotswold Line Promotion Group and Stratford Rail Group jointly worked on a proposal as part of the DfT’s Beeching Reversal scheme for an Economic Impact Study. In late November 2020 it was announced that our proposal was successful and that we can move onto the next stage. Our proposal had the support of 11 MP’s covering the areas served. Now the hard work starts.

It is interesting to note that the Tyseley to Bearley Jcn line was also scheduled to close from 5 May 1969, leaving the Hatton to Stratford line as the sole survivor but an Appeal Court hearing granted an injunction against the British Railways Board postponing closure leading to the eventual retention of the line. The Railway Magazine reported that Lord Justice Sachs, one of the Appeal Court judges, noted that the conduct of the British Railways Board in the matter had been ‘singularly unattractive….’. 

CAMP HILL / BORDESLEY CHORDS

This is a project that has been around for a decade, it has never been funded and Network Rail has never considered the land requirements to build them. Then last year a planning application was made by a property company to develop the present Sulzer site adjacent to Bordesley Station into a mixed use and residential development. The development was initially supported by Birmingham City Planners as there was no similar application from Network Rail. However following objections raised by various Rail User Groups, including SALRUA, the planning application was dismissed. The developer has now gone to appeal. It should be pointed out that SALRUA is not against the development in what is a rundown area but purely to safeguard the land requirements for the Chords. Without the Chords the reopened stations at Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell will have to continue to use New Street Station which in normal times is running at capacity. It also impacts on the proposed Moor Street updated plans for more services, again to take the pressure off New Street Station.

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

NEWSLETTER

A newsletter has just been published and should be with all members. For the first time in its history SALRUA has had to cancel its AGM for 2020. Hopefully things will have sufficiently returned to some form of normality so that we can hold a meeting in 2021.

ANNUAL SUBSCIPTIONS

Subscriptions are £5 per annum and are due from April. If you have yet to renew or would like to join please could you send cheques (payable to SALRUA), not cash, to our Membership Secretary Reg Banks, 49 Shelsley Way, SOLIHULL B91 3UZ. For those who would prefer an electronic transfer option please contact us at enquiries@salrua.org.

The Committee who like to thank all members for their continued support in these challenging times and we wish you all well.

FINALLY

For passengers with an interest in the history of railways, it is worth looking at a short piece of track discovered at the station end of platform 1 at Leamington. This track has the rail keys positioned on the inside of the rail. This arrangement was common in the very early days of railways, and the chairs in this section of track are believed to date from between 1870 and 1885. It is hoped eventually to clean this section as an exhibition piece. At present access to progress this work is difficult.

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