Updated: Feb 10
The construction of five new railway stations across the region has been agreed in principle, although concerns remain as to how they will be funded.
An artist's impression of what the new Willenhall Railway Station
will look like. (West Midlands Rail Executive.)
The board of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has agreed to press ahead with plans for new railway stations at Darlaston and Willenhall in Walsall, plus Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell in Birmingham. Those in Birmingham will be served by the reopened Camp Hill Line, with two trains an hour passing through the stations, while those in Walsall will be served by one new train per hour.
The final cost of the two schemes is projected to be somewhere in the region of £115 million, with the Birmingham project estimated at £61.4 million and the Walsall project at £55.84 million. However very little of the funding for these projects is currently in place, with the WMCA relying on a huge amount of cash from the Department for Transport (DfT) to get it over the line. Sums of £9 million from the WMCA’s Investment Programme for the Birmingham stations and £6 million for the Walsall stations were agreed at the meeting, subject to receiving the full tranche of funding from the Department for Transport.
However, Birmingham Councillor Lisa Trickett believes that announcements around ‘successful’ projects, such as these, should be put on hold until more concrete funding has been secured. “I assume that, given one of the stations is in my ward, I probably have a vested interest in this, beyond being chair of Overview and Scrutiny. I think what I was going to reflect – and again it’s an ongoing concern about how the Combined Authority does its business – that there is still a massive hole in the budget for this proposal. What we are also still seeking to see is the full robust business plan from the West Midlands Rail Executive, and we’re also seeking to see the timetable. Where I have a real concern, here is that we have announcements, we have films produced about how great these stations could be, in my community residents get excited that something is going to happen, and time and time again what we’re actually finding is the reality is very, very, different from the announcement. All I’m asking for is clear transparency, clear accountability, that where there is the need still for a significant amount of work to be done, we are clear that our announcements reflect that fact.”
Responding to Councillor Trickett, Councillor Ward said that he shared her concerns around the lack of secured funds from the DfT. However, he also believes that the WMCA has been ‘transparent’ in its dealings around these stations so far, asking local residents to bear in mind that the new stations wouldn’t be ready until late 2023 at the earliest. I can well understand why people might be getting excited in Moseley in King’s Heath and indeed Hazelwell about the proposals here to reopen this railway line,” he said. “I do know that it’s been a demand of the communities in these areas for a number of years. I don’t think we’ve been anything other than transparent about the ask that is required of the DfT, and indeed the WMCA put forward an outline business case though this board, and we now have the full business case, so we are being transparent in all of this – as transparent as we can be. Indeed, the report does point out that the services will not be online until the fourth quarter of 2023. So, if people out in Moseley, King’s Heath and Hazelwell are getting excited, they do need to bear in mind that we are transparently telling them that there will not be a service operating before 2023.”