Posted 5th April 2013 | 7 Comments

Passenger growth arrives eight years early

THE problems facing Britain’s rail industry in coping with ever-increasing passenger demand have been starkly highlighted in Birmingham and the West Midlands where the Regional Rail Forum says that rail travel has increased so much that Network Rail’s growth forecast for 2020-21 has already been achieved — eight years early.

“In effect, since 2008-09 the West Midlands travel-to-work area rail network has seen 11 years’ forecast growth in passenger numbers (30 per cent) achieved in just four years,” the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum states in its Draft Rail Vision, ‘A World Class Rail Network for the West Midlands.’

“To some extent, the West Midlands rail network is a victim of its own success,” says the Forum, “with some routes already operating at or near capacity. 

“Strong growth, over and above that predicted in industry and government forecasts, is continuing in both the regional and intercity passenger markets and also the rail freight sector. This will require urgent investment in longer/more frequent trains and additional infrastructure capability in order to meet the increasing transport demand.” 

The Forum says that passenger growth in recent years has been at an average of 5.5 per cent a year, while station usage figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation on 4 April showed that passenger journeys in the Cento area in one year, 2011-12, actually increased by over 10 per cent.

Despite this, however, the Forum claims the government’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS) and the Industry Strategic Plan assumes the West Midlands will only need to cope with growth of 2.5 per cent per annum during the next Control Period (2014-19) — even though the forecast number for 2020-21 has already been reached.

Some of the Forum’s members — including Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and several Warwickshire districts — are actively opposed to plans for HS2, but the Draft Rail Vision says “improved connectivity to the new HS2 stations will be essential if the transport and wider economic benefits of this significant investment in transport infrastructure are to be maximised across the wider West Midlands region.”

It says the new HS2 station in Birmingham city centre and the Interchange near Birmingham Airport “should provide the catalyst for new office, retail and housing developments, stimulating the economy and creating jobs.”

And it adds: “In order to maximize the benefits of HS2 to Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire, and provide improved access from the north to Birmingham Airport and the NEC, the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum is calling for the majority of HS2 services between London, the North and Scotland to call at Birmingham Interchange.”   

The Forum also calls for “regular direct international services from both West Midlands HS2 stations via the proposed link between HS2 and the existing HS1 route to the Channel Tunnel.”

It says ‘A World Class Rail network for the West Midlands’ ( sets out a vision for the future development of rail services and infrastructure “in order to allow the regional rail network to play an even greater role in supporting future regional prosperity, higher rates of employment, including the long term structural change towards the knowledge/service economy, and, in particular, in maximising the benefits of the high speed rail network.”

• Figures recently issued by the Association of Train Operating Companies showed that in the past five years rail commuting in the West Midlands to and from Birmingham more than doubled (105 per cent), and of 14 cities with the greatest increase in rail passengers Coventry recorded the highest — with 30 per cent growth.


Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Leslie burge, leicester

    As the price of fuel for our cars keeps rising more and more people are bound to switch to rail. Which is why the government etc need to get their finger out and pump more money into public transport

  • Alan Crosby, Preston

    Melvyn, the 1970sa Piccadilly - Victoria (Picc Vic) scheme was actually in Manchester, not Birmingham ... perhaps they all seem the same when viewed from Canvey Island, but it's a different conurbation and a different local rail network, 90 miles apart!

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    So obviously we need many more coaches, both diesel and electric. NOW!! So come on Whitehall and Westminster, damn well get your fingers out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jim Campbell, Solihull

    And London Midlands response to this growth.
    Reduce opening hours of ticket offices.
    The number of journeys I make when no one looks at my ticket is a joke.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    This news shows that rail growth is not unique to London but is occurring around the country especially major cities where car use is becoming both more difficult and expensive .

    As to solutions a short term measure might be to re-configure more trains like those on London overground with longitudinal seating creating more space to stand oN trains used for short services. Longer term Artic trains as on overground will need to be ordered!

    The other solution lies in trams and tram trains providing services. That are more door to door and thus can replace buses !

    Perhaps it's time for Birmingham to reconsider the Piccadilly-Vic scheme?

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    The West Midlands urgently needs its services upgraded especially the Tram system. The line from Stourbridge through Brierly Hill and Dudley is still closed even though this should have been upgraded years ago (as promised) to take freight trians and trams. A U-Bahn system with trams in tunnels for the final few miles (under Wolverhampton and Birmingham)would be wonderful. I wonder if the money can eventually be found ? Motoring in Conurbations is now deeply unpleasant becuase of Traffic Wardens and huge Parking fees.

  • Bel Eben, GB

    For every West Midlands local rail journey, there are 7+ bus journeys, and at least 28 car journeys.

    As always nowadays, there are no figures for passengers using individual lines, but the idea that the WM rail network is "close to capacity" doesn't stand scrutiny.

    Even the Coventry line isn't "at capacity". If if were, why would Centro have proposed running tram-trains on it, from Coventry to Bickenhill HS2?