One of the key priorities for the new West Midlands Combined Authority is the improvement of transport infrastructure.
Good transport links are vital for helping folk to get to work and other places they need to be. They are also essential for attracting the business that will bring jobs to the area in the first place.
Some of the key local issues are on the railways, with the saturation of capacity on some key rail routes and in some stations.
The publication of a new strategic document has launched a consultation about the potential future development of the rail corridor through Solihull and its potential interaction with other routes, particularly through the network hubs in London and Birmingham and, inevitably, the likely HS2 development.
It projects a need to plan for a 49% increase in commuting to work in Birmingham by 2023 and an increase of 22% in passengers riding the Chiltern line into London in the same time frame.
It talks of needs:
- to bring a fourth platform into use in Snow Hill;
- to restructure the rail junction at Bordesley (that currently allows Virgin trains passing through Solihull into New Street) so that trains passing through Kings Norton and Water Orton can terminate at Moor Street instead of New Street;
- to add extra platform capacity in Marylebone
- to create a new London terminus at Old Oak Common accessible by Chiltern line trains.
Integration and infrastructure are key and these are both primary topics in this new strategic document. The summary document is worth five minutes of anyone’s time, enthusiasts will find the full blown study a thick, but fascinating, tome.
The migration of travellers from cars to other forms of transport is essential for the environment, and this document paves the way for increased rail use, which should, in turn, relieve some pressure on roads as well as improve carbon efficiency.
Nevertheless, as some of us know only too well, it is not as easy as that. It seems that each time I return to my local station after 7pm, I have just missed the hourly bus service that would take me home. If I take the car to the station, its car park is full by 7am.
Any improvements in integration and infrastructure on the rail side of the network will need to be matched by similar integration and infrastructure upgrades at the station entrances so that the projected passenger numbers can get to the platforms in the first place. And this particular paper dodges any detail on that one.