Following complaints from passengers and regular commuters, Michael Fabricant has raised the problem of overcrowding on the Cross City Line (Lichfield Trent Valley to Redditch) with Transport Ministers. “The problem is particularly acute between Lichfield and Birmingham New Street where many of my constituents work” says Michael.
“The Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, tells me that there has been a 250% increase in passenger demand since the mid-1990s when the current rail service was planned. But this growth is set to continue, with a regional market study predicting a 49% growth in peak time travel, over a ten year period from 2013 to 2023. So what’s to be done?”
In his response to Michael, Paul Maynard says: “To meet this challenge, we have specified to the bidders for the next West Midlands franchise, a considerable uplift in capacity for commuters using the network, including the equivalent to over 130 new vehicles by 2022. In addition to the increase in capacity, bidders will have the flexibility to configure interior train layouts which can best balance different passenger needs, as well as maximising the capacity available for people making short-distance commuter journeys. They will have the option to propose either new or cascaded rolling stock to supplement or replace existing fleets, noting that the current franchise already has one of the youngest average fleet ages in the country.
“The new West Midlands franchise will provide significant, additional capacity through additional vehicles – providing over 30% of additional peak time capacity into Birmingham. This will be introduced incrementally between December 2018 and December 2022. In addition to the extra vehicles, bidders for the new franchise can propose changes to seating layouts on the Cross City line provided they meet the following criteria: Bidders must provide enough capacity for a minimum number of passengers, both seated and standing; and all off peak passengers must be able to get a seat at all times.”
Michael Fabricant adds: “The Department of Transport tell me that due to platform lengths, the maximum number of carriages that can operate on Cross City trains is six and, due to track and station capacity, it is not feasible to run services more than every 10 minutes into Birmingham with the current signalling arrangements. If the changes the Government has promised is still insufficient for commuters, I will have to press for improved signalling along the line to allow for more frequent trains at peak times.”