Longer trains, more train carriages and an improved rail service are the Government’s main priorities for Birmingham, the minister for transport has said.
During his six-day rail tour of the country which called into Birmingham yesterday, Lord Adonis said the priorities for the Department for Transport (DfT) were improving existing routes and boosting capacity. Reinstating rail lines was not a priority.
“We consistently look at applications for rail lines and services but we do not have unlimited funds,” he said. “Our priorities are for existing routes and boosting capacity across the network.
"This is why we are investing in longer pendolino trains, getting additional train carriages in service in the next five years and looking at how Chiltern Trains can improve its service. The rebuilding of New Street Station is one of the ways of meeting these priorities and this will benefit people in Birmingham, but doing this doesn’t come cheap. There are proposals for re-opening lines that have closed but it is not a priority and it is not going to come cheap.”
Lord Adonis’s comments seemed to signal that the DfT would not support the reinstatement of services along the Wolverhampton to Walsall route.
Although the service is not disused, the DfT withdrew funding for it last July and since December it has run one train per day. The Passenger Transport Authority Centro has kept the line open and, despite Lord Adonis’ comments, remained hopeful.
A Centro spokesman said: “We still want to reinstate that service and it is not totally dependent on DfT funding as this is something we are looking at and we are exploring various options.”
Lord Adonis reiterated the importance of a High Speed rail link from the Midlands to London and said: “The work on High Speed rail will address the issue of track capacity and access to Birmingham will be a crucial issue. It is essential that the route serves Birmingham – but where it starts and stops is a matter for the High Speed 2 company to address.”
Lord Adonis also gave his support for ‘cutting red tape’ that holds up funding for transport projects. Centro and the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM) have approached the DfT requesting a ‘lighter touch’ approval process for transport projects less than £20 million.