Plans for an underground rail tunnel under Birmingham city centre considered in rail consultation

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A public consultation on how West Midlands Rail services should run in the future is underway

Plans to develop the West Midlands rail network are being revised - and could include an underground rail tunnel beneath Birmingham city centre.

A 2018 strategy for rail development over the next 30 years, has been adapted due to a fall in passenger numbers since the pandemic and government commitments to improve the rail industry.

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The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) wants your say on the strategy which is now out for public consultation. The previous strategy included the continued development of HS2 and the delivery of a £2billion package of improvements to east-west rail connections.

These include the new Worcestershire Parkway station; five new railway stations on the Camp Hill line in Birmingham and the Wolverhampton to Walsall line; and redevelopment of Coventry, Wolverhampton, Perry Barr and University railway stations.

However, much like the region’s buses, passenger numbers have failed to return to their pre-pandemic level. Another change is the government’s commitment to ‘simplify’ and ‘improve’ the nation’s railways and stations via the Great British Railways public body.

As a result a new draft strategy has been published by the West Midlands Railway Executive (WMRE), a public body overseen by the WMCA. One of the more ‘radical’ proposals is a tunnel beneath Birmingham city centre, “allowing services to bypass capacity hotspots”.

West Midlands Rail Strategy consultation considers an underground tunnel for Birmingham city centreWest Midlands Rail Strategy consultation considers an underground tunnel for Birmingham city centre
West Midlands Rail Strategy consultation considers an underground tunnel for Birmingham city centre | LDRS

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How would the underground tunnel through Birmingham city centre work?

The draft plans state that the WMRE is looking at: ‘New tunnel options under central Birmingham - allowing servies to bypass capacity hotspots such as Proof House junction, linking iwt ith Birmingham New Stret, Moor Street and HS2 Curzon Street stations and enabling higher frequencies across the Metropolitan area.”

What are the key suggestions in the strategy as summarised by the WMCA?

  • A rolling programme of line electrification
  • New stations and services on both regional and local routes, such as on the Sutton Park line through north-east Birmingham and more services linking Birmingham and Coventry to Worcester and the east Midlands
  • Improved local and regional services along the Birmingham, Coventry and Rugby corridor, as London to Birmingham passengers flock to HS2
  • Shuttle services on the line between Burton and Lichfield, calling at Alrewas
  • Longer term the opening of the line between Lichfield and Walsall

What has the West Midlands Railway Executive (WMRE) said about the strategy in its own words?

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMRE said: “We are making great progress on developing our rail network with new stations in the pipeline on the Camp Hill Line and at Darlaston and Willenhall, and working with our partners like West Midlands Trains to improve services and rolling stock.

“But there is no doubt that rail is facing challenges following the Covid 19 pandemic but this strategy shows that passenger numbers will return and it remains a crucial part of our transport network and will play a key role in tackling the climate emergency.

“Therefore we have set out how we plan to grow the network in a coordinated way over the next three decades to better connect communities to the jobs and opportunities our region has to offer.”

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How can I take part in the public consultation?

The draft strategy sets out our 30-year plan for rail in the region and how we plan to bounce back from Covid, maximise the benefits of HS2 and Midlands Rail Hub, and contribute to net zero.

When completing the survey you only need to answer the questions that are relevant to you. The survey will be open until 11.59pm on 28 November 2022.

The draft strategy, feedback survey and full details of the consultation are available at: West Midlands Railway Executive consultation

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