The case for Birmingham Crossrail, revisited

The crowded approach to Birmingham New Street station. Image: Getty.

This is an edited version of a post that appeared on the author’s website, which was, in part, in response to an earlier CityMetric article.

I have written about a proposed Birmingham Crossrail before, but it is time to revisit for two reasons:

1. HS2 is now moving into delivery phase, and local and regional connectivity is vitally important;

2. The northern cities are making the case for major investment, and we need to see the same in the West Midlands.

So here we go, some basic drawing on a map screenshots…

Firstly, the city centre core – new underground tunnels connecting from all four points of the compass:

  • From the north, after Duddeston heading into the city, diving underground and into a new low level station at Curzon Street for the HS2 station and Midland Metro interchange;
  • From the East, after Adderley Park heading into the city, diving underground and connecting with the northern spur into Curzon Street;
  • From the South, after University heading into the city, diving underground into a new low level station at Five Ways for the Midland Metro and providing better access either side of the ring road towards both Edgbaston and Broad Street/Brindleyplace;
  • Ffrom the West, a new low level station at Ladywood serving that inner city quarter and Arena Birmingham.

Click to expand.

The southern and western spurs connect and head into a new low level station at New Street.  A new underground tunnel then connects New Street and Curzon Street, creating the Central Birmingham Rail Hub.

Now, from a wider strategic planning perspective:

  • The Western spur could also stay in tunnel beyond Ladywood to serve new stations at Icknield Port Loop and Cape Hill – areas of significant interest for regeneration and in need of improved connectivity and catalyst to boost economic activity and investment.
  • The other three city fringe stations – Duddeston, Adderley Park and Five Ways – could also act as the catalysts for significant investment into those quarters to boost them given their good locations and potential to provide good quality housing that is well-served by public transport.

 

Click to expand.

From a rail network perspective, this opens up three Crossrail- or RER-type lines:

  • The current Cross City from Lichfield to Bromsgrove/Redditch, running north/south
  • A new Cross City from Wolverhampton to Birmingham Interchange for HS2, running west/east, with a new spur from Birmingham International round to the HS2 Interchange station and serving the UK Central development;
  • A Rugeley (fast) into Birmingham and then back round to Walsall (slow) loop service and vice versa.

This project would have six strategic objectives:

  • Creating significant additional train capacity through central Birmingham;
  • Unlocking major sites for development with much improved connectivity;
  • Simplified route network with standardised service patterns;
  • Much improved connectivity into HS2;
  • Improving the central Birmingham rail hub concept;
  • An opportunity to grow the city centre out to the city fringe stations.

Alex Burrows is a Birmingham-based transport specialist.


Read Jonn Elledge on the case for Birmingham Crossrail here.

 
 
 
 

London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.