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Rail Minister tells commuters that capacity on the cross city line will increase by 30%

The Rail Minister has vowed that cross city line capacity will increase by 30% by 2022.

Lichfield Trent Valley station. Pic: Matt Buck

Lichfield Trent Valley station. Pic: Matt Buck

Paul Maynard’s comments come after complaints of over-crowding on services along the route from Lichfield Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street.

He confirmed that there had been a 250% increase in passenger demand since the mid-1990s, but said plans were in place to improve the situation as part of the bidding process for the cross city line franchise, which is currently held by London Midland.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard

Rail Minister Paul Maynard

“To meet this challenge, we have specified to the bidders for the next West Midlands franchise the need for a considerable uplift in capacity for commuters using the network, including the equivalent to over 130 new vehicles by 2022,” he said.

“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.”

A regional study has predicted demand for peak time services will continue to increase by almost 50% over the next decade.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said that while he recognised the challenges facing potential operators on the cross city line he called for action to improve the situation for commuters.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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