The refurbishment of New Street station should be derailed by the conclusions of a Commons inquiry which warned it would not solve Birmingham’s rail needs, according to a former chairman of Travel West Midlands.
Lord Snape, former Labour MP for West Bromwich East as Peter Snape, and chairman of Travel West Midlands from 1995-2000, called on the region’s leaders to embrace alternatives for a new station in the city centre, dubbed Birmingham Grand Central.
It followed a report by the Commons Transport Committee which warned the planned £600 million refurbishment of New Street Station was “cosmetic” and alternatives needed to be considered.
The study, which followed a seven-month inquiry into the nation’s rail network, concluded: “We acknowledge the importance of improving the serious passenger overcrowding at Birmingham New Street Station, but are not convinced the current project is adequate.
“The Government must address the issue of whether Birmingham New Street is ever going to be able to accommodate the throughput of trains required in two or three decades, when the number of services might have doubled.”
Birmingham City Council has dismissed the findings, with deputy council leader Paul Tilsley insisting: “There is no Plan B.”
But writing in The Birmingham Post, Lord Snape backed the MPs’ conclusions and insisted Birmingham and the West Midlands “can do better” than New Street. He said: “In questioning the issue of whether New Street is ever going to be able to accommodate the number of trains likely to be using the station in two or three decades, they do the city and the national rail network a service, and deserve better than the predictable, semi-hysterical and incoherent response of the scheme’s supporters.”
Birmingham needed more rail platforms and more track, he said.
“Councillor Tilsley claims there is no Plan B. But there always was an alternative. Build a bigger and better station at East Side around Curzon Street. Such a station would provide huge advantages. Up to 17 platforms. No disruption to existing services. Integrated with Moor St giving Chiltern Line connections and trains to Hereford, Stourbridge and Worcester.”
Refurbishing the existing station would cause huge inconvenience for passengers, he warned.
“Does anyone with an iota of railway operating experience believe the extensive, albeit cosmetic, work necessary to ‘tart up’ the passenger accommodation can be carried out without further massive interruption of train services in and out of the station? The answer to that has got to be no.
“Have rail passengers not suffered enough because of West Coast modernisation in recent years?”