Posts Tagged ‘LMS’

Birmingham spotlight – part 3

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

More shops, but no more trains…

The winning design for New Street Station,
© FCO Network Rail

Its obvious to all, but the most myopic civil servants and Ministers, that at many points in its network Network Rail is running out of capacity. Those of us who actually travel by train will remember the bargain basement sale of railway land to property developers, particularly in urban areas, and may wonder whether these two phenomena are in some way connected.

The concept of safeguarding railway land for future growth was until recently totally unknown in the Department for Transport and its predecessors. After all, the orthodox thinking was that they were managing a facility whose use was declining. Nowhere is the government’s (regardless of the actual political party in power) bias against railways more clear than when it comes to planning for the future. Whereas new roads are built in anticipation of future growth. Railway development occurs on an ad hoc basis in response to current congestion and grumbling commuters. Railway prices are maintained at the highest levels in Europe to deter the much faster growth growth which would otherwise occur.

Birmingham is a classic case study. In the good old days, Birmingham had two main line stations, and two railway lines from London, which shared the load between them. Birmingham Snow Hill on the former Great Western Railway, received trains from London Paddington, via High Wycombe, Banbury, Princess Risborough and Leamington Spa and then forwarded them on via Wolverhampton Low Level, to Wellington, Shrewsbury; and then to Chester and Holyhead; or via Welshpool to Aberystwyth, or Pwllheli. Birmingham New Street received trains from London Euston, via Rugby and Coventry and then sent them on via Wolverhampton High Level, to many destinations further north served by the former LMS railway. Meanwhile there was a third North to South railway (the former Great Central main line) which had a connection to the GWR route from London at a point between Banbury and Leamington Spa.

The two London-Birmingham-Wolverhampton railways worked splendidly together, particularly when things went wrong on one of the lines. The arrangement also helped to reduce overcrowding at peak hours, but it seemed terribly wasteful to the car-bound civil servants in London who determined that Birmingham did not need two principal railway stations. Snow Hill was closed at the end of the 1960s, its wonderful ‘winter garden’ glass roof demolished, and the site was turned into a car park. Subsequently, Snow Hill has been reopened as the eastern terminus of a Birmingham-Wolverhampton tramway, and the western terminus for the Chiltern Railways service running from London Marylebone, but it is only operating at a fraction of its previous capacity.

Arup’s proposed location for a ‘Grand Central station in Birmingham

Now Birmingham New Street is bursting at the seams and there has been some debate as to what to do. It doesn’t need an Einstein to open up a map of the city centre and to notice to that the former GWR and LMS main lines cross each other a little to the East of the City centre and that this is an area of derelict former railway and run down industrial land in need of development.

There is plenty of room here for a much larger station with a much greater capacity for serving trains than at New Street. Such a new station could be served, both by the ‘bursting its seams’ line from Euston, and the line from Marylebone or Paddington, which still has surplus capacity. In the future the railway line from Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level could be restored, relieving the pressure still further.

Now comes the stroke of genius! Much of the GWR line into Birmingham is four track or more – two fast tracks, two slow tracks and various goods loops and sidings. If HS2 is constructed, its ‘Birmingham branch’ will have to penetrate the Birmingham suburbs somehow. What better way, than alongside the old GWR route. Moreover, if HS2 is constructed along the route of the old Great Central main line, then this route actually had a branch which connected with the GWR line. So the new station would be in the right place and have the spare capacity to serve HS2’s Birmingham branch as well!

We would like to claim the credit for all this creative thinking, but although using the former GCR main line for HS2 has been one of our on-going campaigns, the proposals for a Grand Central station in Birmingham are the work of Arup.

And how has the Department for Transport and Network Rail responded to Arup’s visionary proposal? Why, they’ve come up with a £ 600m plan of their own to redevelop New Street at its existing location which will not add a single train to the station’s existing capacity, but will have plenty more room for shops in the concourse. At least it will give frustrated passengers something better to do than milling round aimlessly in the concourse when waiting for their delayed trains.

I suppose it’s no good thinking that Ruth Kelly’s successor might reconsider the decision?

On the shed

Monday, 16 June 2008

London Midland & Scottish Railway Publicity Film, Part 1

As long-time readers of BTWT will know, we love the old railway corporate identity films. So grab a crate or two of beer, turn up the volume and sit well back from the screen.

London Midland & Scottish Railway Publicity Film, Part 2

Oxenholme then and now

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

(Clicking on the above image links to the original on Wikipedia and the details of licensing.)

I was going to return to Poland today, but I’ve just come across two picture of Oxenholme Station which I thought UK readers and ex pats might find of interest. Oxenholme is the junction where the Windermere branch leaves the West Coast main line.

The first picture is modern photograph by Rob500. The second is a a painting by Peter Owen Jones depicting the station at the peak of the LMS in the 1930s. What is amazing is how little has changed. Yes, the station canopy and overall roof over the bay platform are now clad in ugly plastic covered steel sheet and the overhead catenary is prominent in the modern picture. But the station has survived intact, without being cut down to a bus shelter and the Windermere branch trains still run from their own platform. It shows how more of the UK’s railways could have loked and survived if HM government had not been seduced by the road lobby.

Those who read the Swallows and Amazons books as children may already know that Oxenholme is the model for Arthur Ransome’s station, Strickland Junction in the sixth book in the S&A series – Pigeon Post.

Peter Owen Jones prints

(Clicking on this picture leads to an on-line gallery showing-casing the work of Peter Owen Jones, including paintings of trams and vintage railway scenes.)