Government to consider new rail station for Birmingham
A Government inquiry is to consider building a major new railway station in Birmingham to serve new high speed services, the minister responsible for the rail network has revealed.
But Lord Adonis said another option was to expand Birmingham International station, in Solihull – raising the prospect of high speed rail services bypassing central Birmingham entirely.
He was speaking at the official launch of the upgraded West Coast Main Line, which runs from London to Scotland via Birmingham.
The £9 billion improvement has finally been completed more than ten years after work began. The upgrade, which reduced journey times between London Euston and Birmingham New Street by 20 minutes, were originally expected to cost less than £2 billion and to be completed by 2005.
However, the Government is already planning a new rail service between London and Birmingham, running high speed trains which could cut journey times to under an hour.
Ministers have appointed a company called High Speed Two, chaired by former civil servant Sir David Rowlands, to develop the proposals.
Issues the inquiry will examine include how to get high speed trains into Birmingham when existing stations lack capacity for new services.
New Street is undergoing a £550 million refurbishment which will reduce overcrowding for passengers using the station, but will do little to increase the number of trains which the station can cope with each day.
Lord Adonis said: “One of the things High Speed Two is looking at is how we physically get the trains in to the city.
“Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.”
New Street currently lacked capacity to cope with a new rail line but an option might be to expand one of the other stations, he said.
“But there are of course three Birmingham stations, including Snow Hill and Moor Street, and there is also the potential for further capacity at Birmingham International,” said Lord Adonis. “One of the options would be, for the long term, whether an entirely new Birmingham station would be appropriate, and that is one of the things High Speed Two will look at.
“But that would be for the long term, and it doesn’t affect the current modernisation of New Street, which is absolutely essential.”
Although the Minister has previously warned that New Street lacked capacity to cope with high speed rail, it is the first time he has confirmed that the Government is looking at building a new station. Engineering consultants Arup has called for the creation of a new Grand Central station in Birmingham’s Eastside, which could serve a high speed line. However, Birmingham City Council, which had been highly sceptical about calls for a new station, has already agreed to sell the proposed site in Curzon Street for development.
West Midlands peer Lord Snape, a former railwayman who then became MP for West Bromwich East and is now a member of the House of Lords, said: “I welcome this somewhat belated recognition by the Government that a new high speed line to Birmingham will need somewhere to go.
“The obvious answer would be to look again at proposals for the Grand Central station in Curzon Street.”