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Investing in the Midlands

Network Rail is exploring ways of improving two key areas of the Midlands rail network – the investment will benefit both passenger and freight traffic. Peter Plisner has been looking at plans for pinchpoints in Alvechurch and Norton Bridge, where a new loop and flyover are being considered to increase capacity and reduce delays

programmes during a recession. The reality is that economic downturns often mean the number of passengers fall and so, too, does farebox revenue. Nevertheless, in the Midlands, Network Rail is pressing ahead with plans for two major improvements and has already been consulting stakeholders in an effort to further refine its proposals. The first scheme involves the popular Birmingham Cross City Line. Once a ‘Cinderella’ among Midlands rail routes,


‘According to Network Rail, by 2020 the total number of passenger journeys into Birmingham in general is predicted to increase by 32 per cent’


lthough maintenance and renewals on the rail network are a continual process, there is always a temptation to postpone or shelve big investment

electrification in the early 1990s meant new rolling stock and more frequent services. Passenger numbers increased so much

that a few years later the train service was increased again to six trains an hour. But not all parts of the line have seen such a big enhancement of services. The southern terminus at Redditch only gets two trains an hour. One of the problems is that the Worcesteshire town, which is still growing, remains on a single track connection to Barnt Green, where it branches away from the mainline to Bristol. The existing single-track line limits the amount of services that can run to Redditch and nearby Alvechurch, the other station on the branch.

According to Network Rail, by 2020

the total number of passenger journeys into Birmingham in general is predicted to increase by 32 per cent. Jo Kaye, route director at Network Rail says: ‘The Cross City Line is one of the busiest routes into Birmingham city centre, with the line expected to be operating at around 115 per cent capacity, in terms of the number of passengers on trains during the morning and evening rush hour. There is an anticipated population growth in Redditch itself, which this scheme will help to prepare for.’ Catering for that

kind of demand will require an increase in the number of services to Redditch, so Network Rail is making plans to help provide them. It’s proposing to build a new ‘loop’

section of track, which would start just north of Alvechurch Station and run south

Alvechurch is the proposed site for a new loop

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