Midlands Rail Hub moves forward

SUPPORT FOR the Midlands Rail Hub proposal in Birmingham has been reiterated in Network Rail’s West Midlands and Chilterns Route study.

The plan involves building new chords in the Bordesley area to allow more services to operate through Birmingham’s Moor Street and Snow Hill stations (p51, December 2016 issue). This would relieve capacity at New Street and enable up to 10 additional services each hour to run into Birmingham, with the aim that this could be in place ready for the arrival of HS2 in 2026.

Services proposed to make use of this new arrangement are those to Nottingham and Leicester and on the Bromsgrove corridor, while a new local service from King’s Norton could also be provided. However, the East Midlands services would also require increased capacity at Water Orton, initially through provision of a fourth track, and additional hourly services to Burton-on-Trent and Leicester could then run. In the longer-term grade separation at Water Orton is likely to be required.

Within Birmingham, two new bay platforms at Moor Street and reinstatement of the platform formerly used by the Midland Metro at Snow Hill would facilitate these extra services. In the longer-term, interventions to provide grade separation between Cross City services and longer-distance trains at Barnt Green and King’s Norton are also suggested.

East of Birmingham towards Coventry, changes to service patterns are planned once HS2 opens, releasing some capacity, although a need for four-tracking between Birmingham International and Stechford is still identified in the longer-term. Between Leamington Spa and Coventry, redoubling would be required to allow a second CrossCountry service to use the line alongside the new local service for Kenilworth, due to be introduced in December.

The study also suggests providing additional capacity through Birmingham by tunnelling beneath the city and building subterranean platforms at New Street. This would allow the separation of local and long-distance services, but comes at a hefty £5 to £10 billion price tag, and may be required after the Midlands Rail Hub interventions.

Water Orton: the Route study suggests a fourth track here. No 170115 passes with a Birmingham New Street to Leicester service on 7 June 2016.
John Whitehouse


For the Chiltern route, the terminus at Marylebone is identified as the key capacity constraint. While lengthening platforms within the existing station footprint could allow some train lengthening, this is discounted due to the limited additional capacity it offers. To meet demand, a scheme providing greater capacity would require acquisition of additional land, so the favoured option is to continue to explore running Chiltern services to the new HS2 station at Old Oak Common. The work to double-track the connecting line from Northolt Junction, remodel the junction and build new platforms at Old Oak is estimated to cost between £210 and £360 million.

Further into the future, the ambition is for electrification and new trains to be introduced simultaneously as part of a total route modernisation, with the opportunity to introduce European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling at the same time. Increased capacity southwards from Princes Risborough and on the branch to Aylesbury are among possible schemes to be progressed.

On all routes within the study area, the shorter-term solution to meet demand to 2024 is to provide longer trains, requiring some platforms to be lengthened and station facilities upgraded.