Posted 5th June 2013 | 23 Comments

Plan to restore crucial Midlands rail link is unveiled

A PLAN to give millions of people in central England direct access to HS2 and Birmingham Airport by reconstructing a railway that last carried passengers 97 years ago is being unveiled today.

The proposal is being made by Railnews editorial director Alan Marshall and specialist quantity surveyor Michael Byng, who both live in Warwickshire near the route of the former 11.7km Stonebridge Railway, which used to run from a junction near the present-day Coleshill Parkway station roughly south to another junction between Birmingham International and Hampton-in-Arden. 

It was the original link between the East Midlands and London in the early days of railways, but was closed to passengers in 1916 and then to all traffic in 1933.

However, much of the alignment remains intact and – crucially – will be crossed by HS2 close to the planned Birmingham Interchange station, near Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre and the existing Birmingham International station.

The proposal to restore the line is particularly relevant to Birmingham Airport’s plans to be an alternative to airport expansion in South East England, and will be included in the airport’s evidence to be submitted this month to the Commission led by Sir Howard Davies investigating future airport capacity requirements. 

The authors say rebuilding the old railway would be key to creating a major transportation hub alongside the M6 and M42 motorways, HS2, the nearby NEC and the present Birmingham International station, as well as Birmingham Airport itself.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Neil Bennett, Swindon Wiltshire

    This comment was deleted. Guidance Note 6 (old stories: window for comment closed)

  • Paul Milner, Kings Langley, Herts

    Any link to HS2 would be a good move, I think a link to the new proposed east - west line connecting Oxford & Milton Keynes so the people of the Chilterns would benefit the new line & it would improve transport links in the area.

  • Davey Milo, Birmingham

    This would be very good as a extra diversion route too

  • Andrew John Blurton, Stafford

    If This New Railway Line Is To Be Re-Opened & Re-Built & In The Near Future For The Black Country & The West Midlands Will Wolverhampton Railway Station Need Expanding & Should The Low Level Station Also Be Re-Built To Accommodate Local Services With London Midland & Centro Service's & The High Level For Virgin Trains & Cross Country Service's & If This Needs To Happen Should A New Junction To Stafford & Walsall Be Built & Oxley Junction Be Re-Open & Should They Also Re-Open Walsall To Stourbridge Junction Via Dudley Low Level & To Merry Hill Shopping Centre & Round Oak & Brierley Hill & Wednesbury & Great Bridge As Well For A Birmingham Bypass With Walsall & Cannock & Bloxwich & Rugeley Trent Valley To Plan Ahead For Now!!

  • c, london

    Could be a way of proposed MML trains from E/W line to run via MK instead of via Bedford I guess.

    What services would use it?

  • Adam, Birmingham

    @PeterB, Cheshire

    To be a pedant, BNS is the station short code for Barnes railway station in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Birmingham New Street's short code is BHM (Birmingham International is BHI).

  • PeterB, Cheshire

    What we really need in the West Midlands is a Wolverhampton to Worcester link, so that WCML orignated traffic North of Stafford doesn't have to route via BNS to go to South and South-west.

    It would knock an hour off journey times and ease New Street's congestion considerably.

  • Michael Barge, Rugby, Warwickshire

    I think this scheme would be absolutely fantastic. HS2's major downfall in my opinion is its lack of connectivity with conventional rail and this would solve that problem almost completely. We must also make sure that this doesn't just benefit Birmingham and that other places such as Coventry, Nuneaton, Rugby, Kenilworth and Leamington Spa see better and more varied services too.

  • Peter jarai, Wolverhampton

    I like this proposed reopening this disused railway line in the Birmingham area. I also propose reopening the Wolverhampton to Birmingham Curzon street rail link via Bushbury and there wood be two railway stations 1. Bushbury-Fordhouse road and the 2. Wolverhampton - wolverhampton city centre. This wood be good time to reroute the Wolverhampton to Birmingham rail link away from New street to Curzon street. i hope you like this idea

  • Lutz, London

    Its not really a plan unless it has financial and a backer.

  • Malcolm George, Coleshill

    Peter, Kenilworth wow massive investment ? hardly, yes there has been a few peripheral pieces of investment Coleshill itself, Stratford Parkway, goodness knows we need it, but its peanuts in the greater scheme and yes a huge chunk of money thrown at New St, but how many new or restored lines / platforms has that built? Yes I was ranting, 500m spent on a better queuing system to get onto overcrowded platforms & trains. Try and get a seat on a train between Nuneaton and Birmingham any time of day, or direction, or day of the week or am I just unlucky that I end up standing, I pity anyone travelling through from Bham-Stansted or reverse 3 hrs or so standing.
    Chris, Northern Hub fantastic news there is investment there but how long has it taken to get? I must admit I don't no all the details of it, is it all that was needed? I hope so, I don't object to other area's getting investment we all need it, I just wish there was some joined up thinking for the Greater West Midlands, Loads of ideas, South Staffs line,Tamworth to Moor St, Stratford to Honeybourne, Burton to Leicester, the local authorities have been crying out just to get passenger services back on the existing Sutton Park Line & Moseley Line, even the short spur towards Frankley from Longbridge with no success. I'm just old enough to remember steam on the Dudley dasher, Now there is a town not even on the rail map, yes there are 2 stations in the suburbs of the borough that bear the name but they're still a bus ride from the town centre , when the line that runs through the centre of the place is disused and there is a massive market potential there.
    Claydon, Coventry west chord, If I visualise correctly the re instated Stone Bridge line would turn at Whitacre from the existing Leicester line and go straight to the airport/HS2 station without having to transit the Nuneaton Coventry line. Look I know we all need investment, it seems to me they(politicians) just spend it in the wrong places

  • Les Fawcett, Coventry

    It gets ever more bizarre. You only need to devise ways to connect the proposed WM interchange station to the airport, NEC, etc., if you put it in the wrong place to start with - in the green belt, remote from the places it's supposed to serve and with an 8000 place car park that will increase road traffic instead of reducing it.
    Let's start again. We'll almost certainly need new rail tracks north from London. Run them beside M1 where the opposition will be a fraction of what we are having now, at a sensible speed (300km/h), connect to the existing rail network so that communities like Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham are HS-served instead of being by-passed, build incrementally instead of waiting until after 10 years of construction before it's of any use, link midlands and northern towns together rather than linking a just few of them to London.
    NEC and Birmingham airport have a station perfectly positioned between them; use it. HS tracks will eventually reach Birmingham via M6 with a station near Water Orton/Castle Bromwich where there are already rail tracks radiating in 4 directions and easy access from the motorways and the local roads.
    How much longer before the government wakes up to the weakness of the HS2 plan? Their officials let them down over WCML franchising, but HS2 is a let-down on a vastly bigger scale.

  • claydon william, Norwich Norfolk

    IMHO, there are only a couple of schemes to the existing Midlands network that deserve consideration.

    1. A Nuneaton south flyunder, allowing direct Leicester to Coventry services.

    2. Coventry west chord, allowing Leicester-Birmingham services to operate via Birmingham International

    3. a Coleshill to NEC line allowing a Birmingham 'eastern loop' with more stations in Eastern Birmingham.

    4. Quadrupling of the Birmingham to Coventry section. (This was of more importance IMO than the recently completed TV4 scheme).

    (Item 3 is, of course, the Stonebridge Railway.—Editor.)

  • Peter Davidson, Alderley Edge, NW.England

    @Malcolm George, Coleshill: "Common sense? The Govt. will never finance it. Its outside London, will never happen."

    errrrr.........Dear Mr George, only a few days ago Railnews carried a story about a new station for Kenilworth - you can see story under the headline " Kenilworth station plan almost a 'done deal' "

    So Mr. George, another couple of quick questions;
    1. Is Kenilworth in London or the South East?
    2. Which Region is Kenilworth in?

    I don't suppose you would now like to reconsider your seemingly rash statement?

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "Its outside London, will never happen."

    Two quick questions:

    a) Is the Northern Hub inside or outside London?

    b) Is the Northern Hub happening?

  • david c smith, milton keynes

    If I've understood this correctly, it could open up a much needed new through route from points south( Coventry, Northampton, Milton Keynes and perhaps right down to Brighton ) to Yorkshire and the Northeast , via Derby but avoiding reversal in New Street.

    Also a possible through freight route linking Daventry International Freight Terminal with Yorkshire / the NE.

  • Malcolm George, Coleshill

    Common sense? The Govt. will never finance it. Its outside London, will never happen. What Govt. would allow thought through development in the centre of England. HS2 will only make money if it carries passengers direct to Europe and not to just London, HS2 should by pass London and go straight to the tunnel, London has HS1 to get to Europe on. Now here is a plan that could see both HS2 and Birmingham Airport find its customers from the Derby Line Leicester/Nuneaton Line even the Coventry Line and all avoiding that waste of money the new New St, which despite having 0.5bn spent on it has no real extra train/platform capacity just a bigger more comfortable space to queue in. Sorry but it won't happen just like the South Staffs Line won't get re instated despite obvious need, if only as a freight line. Look at the lack of vision with light rail in the West Mids, look at the investment spent in Nottingham Croyden and other places, not that they don't deserve them, but why can't the West Midlands get investment like that, all we are getting is a mile or so extension after nearly 20years of operation. I know its all down to cash but if they can find 33+bn for HS2 if they really wanted to invest, they could find a bit more for the regions.
    There you go rant over....

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham

    Just in case anyone is wondering what "Birmingham Crossrail" is, this is a scheme proposed on, err, the beleben blog, which involves building two new chords so that you can run a service from Redditch to Walsall via Moor Street / Snow Hill. Never mind the fact that the existing network is perfectly capable of supporting a Reddith-Walsall service anyway. All it does is reroute one service from the overcrowded New Street to the equally overcrowded Moor Street, at substantial cost in new build and - as far as I can tell - the demolition of a primary school.

    I'm confident the Stonebridge railway will deliver more benefits, simply because I estimate the benefit of "Birmingham Crossrail" a la beleben is round about zero.

  • Tim, Devon

    The south junction appears to point in the wrong direction, so any trains using the new line wouldn't go past the airport interchange?

    It looks like it would also require a lot of new bridges for various A roads and the motorway which appear to bisect the old right of way on the flat.

    (Not sure where the south junction appears to point in the 'wrong' direction. The maps show this as a triangle, allowing trains joining the main line to travel either towards Hampton-in-Arden (Coventry, London) or Birmingham International (New Street, Wolverhampton). A bridge has been assumed at each intersection with a road, since new level crossings are no longer acceptable.—Editor.)

  • Windsorian, UK

    An article in the Coventry Telegraph reports this project will cost £240 million; if so it works out at £20 million / km.

    The business plan will make interesting reading !

    (Alan Marshall comments: The report makes clear that the total project equates to 40 single track km, [£6m per single track km], which includes a four-platform terminal station, grade separated junctions at both ends and a substantial bridge over two adjoining motorways. I doubt if a road project would cost any less. At Coventry, the approved widening of just 1.6km of the A45 from four to six lanes and a new grade separated junction with the A46 is budgeted by the Highways Agency at £120 million.)

  • Bel Eben, GB

    You really think this project has a better case than building Birmingham Crossrail, or introducing trolleybuses on Birmingham's public transport trunk routes?

  • Graham Nalty, Derby

    HS2 is very poorly connected to the existing rail network so any possible link adding connecting facilities is most welcome. However the promoters seem very vague on which places would benefit from the link and what stations would be served by trains using the link. I would like to take this suggestion one stage further. Build another 2 tracks from Coventry to Hampton. Those new tracks would turn right at Hampton on to the old line and follow it until they reached Birmingham Interchange HS2 station where there would be at least 2 crossing platforms at a different level to HS2. The tracks would continue in the direction of Birmingham as additional tracks next to the Derby to Birmingham line and into New Street station. At Birmingham Interchange there would be a junction where the line from Birmingham would also diverge in a northerly direction towards Nuneaton, and possibly also to Derby. Birmingham could have a 10 minute service to Birmingham Interchange by providing 2 trains per hour to each of;(a) Nuneaton and Leicester, (b) Coventry, Northampton and MK and (c) Coventry, Oxford and Reading. Covenrty to Wolverhampton stopping services and London - Birmingham - Wolverhampton IC services would still use the existing tracks via Marston Green. In addition there could be scope for trains from Birmingham International to Nuneaton and Derby imrpoving the access to Birmingham airport for towns along their routes.

    (The report makes many of these matters clear, and can be downloaded from this page.—Editor.)

  • tony hill, BIRMINGHAM

    Good news...anything to boost transport in the Birmingham area has to come to fruition!