(L-R) West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street, Stourbridge MP & Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Margot James MP, Parry People Movers Chairman John Parry MBE.
Senior political figures have been visiting Stourbridge to discuss the success of the Stourbridge Shuttle operation and where such operations may be replicated elsewhere in the area.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street joined Stourbridge MP and Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Margot James MP, together with Parry People Movers Chairman John Parry MBE on a visit to Light Rail Partners’ new facility, and also took a trip on the Stourbridge Shuttle operation in the town.
Light Rail Partners Chair Professor Beverley Nielsen has been championing the theme that the pathfinding, engineering and operational achievements of the light rail service using unmodified traditional railway infrastructure, should be rolled out and applied far more widely both regionally and nationally. To illustrate the future potential, a mock up of a 90-passenger capacity railcar has been developed.
The well-established Stourbridge Shuttle operation, which commenced in 2009 and has been the subject of several industry awards, was also noted as being suitable for adoption for export markets. More locally, several points were identified for further discussion and investigation by local authorities, Department for Transport and other stakeholders:
1. Relatively low cost of replication compared with other rail-based technologies.
2. Concentration of the resources required in the Black Country and adjacent West Midlands areas covered by the West Midlands Combined Authority.
3. Cross Party political support for the alternative light rail strategy increasing the areas of high quality connectivity by shifting car-dependant journeys to public transport.
4. Assisting the implementation of environmental initiatives such as Clean Air Zones.
5. Assisting the roll-out of new house-building programmes such as Garden Cities by providing non car-dependant connectivity to main transport hubs (Metro, frequently-served heavy rail stations and potentially ‘Sprint’ routes). Motorways and major inter-urban highways serving locations without good rail links could be medium range connectors delivering passengers to rail-based interchanges close to the Motorway.
Also under discussion was the potential of a new VLR (Very Light Rail) link between Stourbridge and Russells Hall Hospital – then potentially onto Dudley town centre to integrate with West Midlands Metro. The route would use the existing freight line to Brierley Hill, plus a currently-mothballed rail corridor to the Pensnett Estate, then onward to serve Russells Hall Hospital. The link could then potentially be completed to Dudley town centre, linking with the West Midlands Metro extension. Work on this “intermediate mode” system could be potentially commenced fairly rapidly, and at a competitive cost.