Birmingham's economic growth is at risk if "retrograde" and "Stalinist" plans to price passengers off the rail network are adopted, business lobby groups have warned.
The Strategic Rail Authority yesterday published the West Midlands Route Utilisation Strategy which proposes increasing fares on the busiest rush-hour trains into Birmingham in order to ease overcrowding and spread rush-hour demand.
However, bodies including Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and West Midlands Friends of the Earth have become unlikely bedfellows in opposing the plan.
Simon Murphy, chief executive of city professional lobbyists Birmingham Forward, said: "Moves to manage overcrowding by increasing fares, reducing services, and reallocating existing resources across the region's rail network are a retrograde step that could hinder Birmingham's economic growth.
"While the co-ordination of the region's rail network is understandably complex, these moves are likely to force even more workers onto the city's already congested road network, increasing journey times and costing business both time and money."
Critics of the proposals believe 'pricing off' rush-hour demand will force more passengers back on to the roads and the SRA report acknowledges this possibility.
WMFOE campaigner Chris Crean said: "There are a whole host of things going on in Birmingham at the moment which are adding up to a disincentive to use public transport and a perverse incentive to get back into the car.
"Fiscally, this is just another way in which public transport is being made made unpalatable."
Major cuts, or even the complete axing, of services on the lines between Walsall and Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford, Birmingham, Rugeley and Stafford, and Stafford and Nuneaton have also been proposed.
The trade-offs include longer trains on the heavily used and overcrowded Cross City Line and a general better use of existing capacity to improve reliability for the majority of West Midlands passengers, the SRA said.
However, Jerry Blackett, BCC policy director, said a longer term SRA study looking at possible investment in new capacity over the next 25 years should have been published first.
"The real question is how do we build a railway that can support and encourage economic growth?" he said. " Railtraffic volumes have increased exceptionally strongly in recent years and we need a 30-year rail strategy that recognises this.
"It is a sad state of affairs that we can have such a dynamic economy yet we have to put up with a rail network that cannot cope. The SRA ideas all seem a little bit Stalinist."
He added: "Bottom line is that the politicians need to pick up the tab for 30 years of neglect not just on rail but on our roads as well and need to understand that this country needs a massive amount of serious investment in its transport systems."
Peter Gallimore, chairman of young city professional group Birmingham Future's city centre team, said: "Our members believe they should be encouraged onto the trains, not off them."