04/06/19 Turn Up And Go! Ten Years of The Shuttle
Ten Years of the Shuttle has really flown by! Has it really been a decade since our two little rascals started dodging up Europe’s shortest operational branch line? 650,000 journeys and over 5 million passengers later, we’re still at it – and we’re better than ever!
The beauty of the Shuttle – and successful public transport everywhere – is the ability to turn up and go. No need for a timetable – there’ll be another service along within 10 minutes. Prior to the Shuttle on the Stourbridge branch line, the older units ran a less-frequent operation – and on Sundays, you had to walk! At the Junction too, the service today is the best ever. 6 West Midlands Railway services an hour head to the bright lights of Birmingham during the day, and Chiltern provide picturesque services through the lovely Buckinghamshire countryside to our capital city.
In those 10 years of the Shuttle, we’ve seen our little service become one of the most reliable operations in UK public transport. This year, between March and May 2019, we provided 100% reliability. Every journey on time and no cancelled journeys through breakdown – over 16,000 consecutive trips without incident. It’s all down to the Shuttle’s small team of dedicated Engineering staff and Drivers. They know these little railcars inside and out!
Through torrential rain, snow, hurricanes and heatwaves, our service has delivered – and our rolling reliability average stands at 99.8% overall – one of the best anywhere.
We’ve been recognised by our industry peers – coming runners up / highly commended twice in recent years in the “Operator of the Year” section of the Global Light Rail Awards – up against light rail systems from all over the World!
We showed our green credentials too – together with our light rail sisters, we are the cleanest option of any public transport provider – we think clean air in Stourbridge is important!
We’ve carried over 5 million passengers in our decade on the line, and we’ll never forget Jo Aldred’s face when we identified her as the Shuttle’s five-millionth rider!
“Gerron Board” was strummed on guitars on the platform as the “Shuttle Song”, Geoff and Vicki from “All The Stations” came to see us, as part of their epic trip around every one of the 2563 GB railway stations and George The Stourbridge Station Cat delights his fans everywhere by posing asleep on his Facebook page most days…
This year, as we celebrate 10 years of the Shuttle, we also look back on a magnificent 140 years of the Stourbridge branch line – an unassuming three-quarters of a mile bit of the UK railway network that slopes down a 1 in 67 gradient from Junction to Town. It’s a little part of people’s lives that ferries them to work, to play, to shop, for fun nights out and a hard day’s work. It’s the start of an epic adventure or a trip back from the pub. And we’re proud to play a little part in your everyday life – if only for 3 minutes at a time.
Thanks for sharing our journey over the last 10 years. We’ve come a long way over three-quarters of a mile!
26/10/17 Up & Down!
Where has the year gone?
Judging by the date of the last #ShuttleBlog, very quickly seems to be the answer!
Whenever anyone asks about how we’re doing, the answer is always “up and down” – because that’s what we do! 214 times each weekday! (204 on Saturdays, 82 on Sundays, if you’re interested…)
The good news is that passenger numbers continue to rise. And with our industry-leading environmental footprint (or lack of) we’re helping Stourbridge to be green! This doesn’t go unnoticed. For the second year in succession, we were awarded “Highly Commended” at the prestigious 2017 Global Light Rail Awards – which means that we’re the 2nd best light rail operation on the globe! It’s great to be recognised in this way, but we remain completely focused on giving our users the best possible service – our reliability remains on 99.7%, which means that we’ll be there when you need us between Junction and Town. To read about our award, click here.
Here’s our Operations Director Steve Jasper with the award.
It’s all change on the local network too, soon. West Midlands Railway will be the new, local face of rail travel from 10th December 2017. It’s going to be an exciting time for local rail over the next few years. To find out more, you can read here.
We also have a few new faces on The Shuttle too! Our trainees have become fully-fledged “Shuttle Pilots”, so do give them a smile on their “ups and downs”! We don’t currently have any vacancies, but if you’re job hunting, always check our Career Opportunities page here to see if we’re looking for the next Shuttle Pilot!
Talking of new faces, we also have a new Head of Operations. Welcome to Andy Merrell, who joins us from London Midland. Andy is focusing on maintaining and developing our Shuttle operation, leaving the Board to concentrate on wider strategic opportunities. You can read about Andy’s appointment here.
Now, everyone thinks the Shuttle is “cute”! And we’ve got many young (and not-so-young!) fans who tell us that we’re their favourite train! But we were extremely excited to welcome Geoff and Vicki to our little bit of the National Rail Network as part of their mammoth “All The Stations” project! As the title suggested, the plan was to visit all 2563 railway stations in the country – and they managed it, including little old Stourbridge Town! You can read about it here and watch the video of their epic 3 minute trip to the Town on our video page here. Vicki proclaimed The Shuttle as “the cutest train I’ve ever seen” – now there’s an accolade! Well done Vicki & Geoff – and they are two of the nicest people you could wish to meet too!
Geoff and Vicki from “All The Stations”
Watch out for a bit of a “racket” going on! A tennis racket that is… We’re sponsoring Quarry Bank Tennis Club as part of our community involvement. As our Chief Executive Phil Evans says, “There is synergy between a healthy lifestyle and the environmental and health benefits provided by efficient public transport and its use. Our Stourbridge Shuttle operation has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the country, and we’re proud to play our part in keeping the town clean and green”. Maybe none of our Shuttle Pilots are quite up to Andy Murray’s level yet, but we’ll try….Read the story here.
That’s all for now, but as ever, we’d love to hear from you! Leave us a message on our Facebook page (search Stourbridge Shuttle) or tweet us @SbridgeShuttle – both of these outlets also carry live running information for The Shuttle, local Snow Hill lines services and local Stourbridge bus services too.
Until next time….
25/02/17 Storm Doris Drops By!
Like many of our transport-related cousins, we were badly affected when “Storm Doris” swept across the UK on 23 February!
Although there has been ongoing work by Network Rail to trim the foliage on the branch line, there remains a large number of trees in close proximity to our operation, and unfortunately a rather large one came to rest right across the track at around midday. Despite our crew trying to move it, it was far too heavy and thus we returned to Stourbridge Junction.
Unfortunately, there were a large number of similar instances across the area, and we had to await our turn for the specialist team to arrive (in our case, they had to come across from Coventry to remove it). We finally returned to service at 19:45, over 7 hours later.
In the meantime, taxis provided a replacement service, as well as buses on the main line routes to Birmingham and Kidderminster / Worcester, but it was a horrendous day for everyone trying to use the rail network. Don’t forget to claim Delay Repay if you were caught up in the problems. You can find details here
Apart from the “Doris” delays, The Shuttle continues to achieve a very high level of reliability. In the most recent 4-week reporting period, we achieved a service level of 99.67%, and in the year to date, 99.71%. We were scheduled to operate 5424 journeys in the most recent 4-week operating period, and we missed 18 of those, which were down to faults on the vehicles.
In other news, London Midland Revenue Inspectors have been visiting us to check tickets & passes. We’d like to remind our passengers that if using a pass, photo ID must be presented with the pass at all times. We are also working with London Midland & British Transport Police to address ways of improving the passenger experience at busy times when there are a lot of passengers on the platform, particularly at Stourbridge Town.
As ever, we’d love to hear from you! You can send us a message on our Facebook page or Tweet us! Click on the pages at the top right of our website. We also provide real-time updates on how the Shuttle is running, as well as any incidents on Snow Hill line services and local Stourbridge bus services.
11/01/17 Gerron Board!
Happy New Year!
Hope you had a great festive period.
There’s plenty to look forward to in 2017, and we start the New Year with a bang! Our very own Shuttle song is now available to listen to, and we hope you’ll find it very catchy – especially with it’s Black Country vocals!
“Gerron Board” is performed by The Black Country Uke band and celebrates our little bit of Stourbridge Railway. With vocals by Graham, the song has been penned by local songwriter Pete Williams. We hope you’ll be singing it on The Shuttle soon! Hopefully, we’ll be filming a video for it too, and getting it some airplay on local radio, but you can have a listen to it here as a preview.
Our reliability continues to be industry-leading, as noted by the judges of the recent Light Rail Awards where we were highly commended. But we were also delighted to score a superb 100% when we received a “mystery traveller” visit sometime between Christmas and the New Year. Because it’s a “mystery”, we never know who they are, or when they’re riding! They judged us for such criteria as external and internal cleanliness, interaction and appearance of the staff, quality of information on board, and of course punctuality of the journey. We really take a pride in our service, so this latest result is great news! If you’re interested in our reliability data, take a look here.
Elsewhere, we’ll be attending more trade exhibitions this year to spread the word of what our unique operation does – and how we might apply it elsewhere around the country. You can find out about where else we might be operating in the future here.
Don’t forget, you can also keep up to date with all things Shuttle on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Click on the Home page for details.
06/10/16 Show Time!
Although we run on conventional rail, we’re often referred to as “Light Rail”. “Small is beautiful”, as one of our Directors often says.
And so, a few of us went down to London to attend the Global Light Rail Awards (read our press release here). All good fun, and plenty of industry folk around from all over the World.
We entered “Operator of the Year” and we were over the moon to receive a “highly commended” award – indeed we were second only to Manchester’s Metrolink tram network!
So, we’re as proud as punch to show off our shiny commendation – our Shuttle “pilots” do us proud! And of course, it’s a big thank you to you – our loyal Shuttlers! We’ve increased use of the branch line service every year since 2009 when we first started The Shuttle. Our 10-minute frequency means you don’t need a timetable, and our reliability is industry-leading. OK, we’re blowing our trumpet (if we had one) a little, but we love what we do and we hope you do too! “Small really is beautiful”!
We had a visit from transport industry professionals CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport) – there’s always plenty of interest in our unique operation! If you’re part of a professional body or study group, do get in touch if you’d like to visit us. And of course if you’re just an interested individual, do feel free to chat with our “highly commended” staff on board, and ask them anything about our railcars.
02/08/16 Film Stars & Conferences & Pokemon…
It’s been a busy old time on the branch line recently! If you’ve been on The Shuttle in recent weeks, you may have seen someone filming us. Our new short film “All Day Everyday” was produced by local Stourbridge author, broadcaster and transport film-maker Dr. Paul Collins. We commissioned it especially for the UK Light Rail Conference, which this year was held in Birmingham. Our Chief Executive Phil Evans gave a presentation to the delegates, and the film was shown throughout the 2-day event. Paul especially wanted to produce the film in the style of the British Transport films of the 1960s, and we deliberately didn’t want to have it with any “running commentary”. The film attempts to capture a typical day in the life of the Shuttle operation from start-up to shut-down in our unique operation on the railway. There may be a new black & white re-edited version coming soon also….You can view the film here
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As mentioned, we’ve also been involved in the UK Light Rail Conference. Our full management team were present across the 2-day event, as well as several of the Shuttle driving crew, who had a great time trying out the Midland Metro tram simulator! We won’t tell you who won (!) but we were very careful looking out for Pokemon characters on the simulator screen. (That’s driver Phil’s excuse for being so slow!)
Talking of Pokemon, we’re seeing loads of players wandering around searching on their phones! Do let us know if there are any at Stourbridge Junction or Town – and of course, don’t forget to stay safe and only play in public areas. 😉
That’s all for now, but keep your ears to the ground – we have a new song by a local musician dedicated to the Shuttle to listen to soon……
05/05/16 – Sorry We Missed You….
Although The Shuttle operates with a reliability of between 99.8% – 100%, we know how frustrating it is when we aren’t there. If you were travelling this morning, your journey may have been in a taxi, and we’re very sorry for the inconvenience this caused.
The reason for the suspension in service was a fault with the railcar which meant that we could no longer safely continue in service at that point. Because we operate on a single track, we can’t substitute our replacement vehicle until Engineers have identified the problem and we have agreed with Network Control to recover the broken down vehicle. All of this inevitably takes time, but safety is paramount for our users and crew. Thanks for your understanding – we know it’s very inconvenient.
We’ll hopefully have our poorly railcar up and running again very soon!
26/04/16 – Leave The Car – Do The Shuttle Combo!
Brook Road car park (the main one, adjacent to platform 3), will be undergoing major resurfacing work from 9 May for around a month. Whilst Centro’s Park & Ride facility at Stourbridge Junction is a huge success, there will be pressure on car park users during this time, and as space is always limited on the car parks, now may be the time to try a different way to work!
If you live within a mile of Stourbridge Junction, why not try walking to the station? You’ll feel fitter and you won’t have the daily parking hassle either! Or how about cycling? The Cycle Hub at Stourbridge Junction provides secure storage with smartcard access. (You can find more details here )
The Black Country’s extensive bus network means that you’re never far from a local service. If you haven’t tried the benefits of bus travel recently, give it a go! All Stourbridge buses use the state-of-the-art bus station, which is extremely handy for a quick hop onto The Shuttle to Stourbridge Junction. We’re only 3 minutes away from Stourbridge Junction and we run every 10 minutes – no need for a timetable! Have a look at Network West Midlands to see how buses, trains, trams, cycling and walking all fit together.
Doing a “Shuttle Combo” with regular bus links and fast trains means that you won’t get caught up in car park hassle! You can catch up on Facebook, tweet us your views, peruse the news or engross yourself in a thriller (in book form, of course!)
See you onboard soon! 😉
12/04/16 – We’ve Got Visitors!
There’s always interest in the Stourbridge Shuttle operation – often because it’s unique! Yesterday we received a delegation from the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) to have a look at what we do.
The WMITA is comprised mainly of the Leaders of the 7 Metropolitan Authorities locally (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall & Wolverhampton). They are responsible for formulating transport strategy & policy for the area.
We’ve been operating on the branch line on a 7-days per week basis since 2009, with 7 years of successful operation behind us. There’s plenty of interest in how we might be able to replicate that success elsewhere.
We’re always pleased to talk about the Pre Metro story in Stourbridge to interested parties!
30/03/16 – Have YOU got any memories?
We’re setting up a History page on our website to look back over the years, all the way back to 1879 when the Stourbridge branch line commenced operations!
The Shuttle is just the latest chapter in the history of Britain’s smallest branch line, and we’re proud of our heritage.
We’d also like YOU to join in! If you’ve got any memories or pictures you could share with us, we’d love to hear from you! You can see our history page here where you’ll find details of how to contact us with your memories.
09/03/16 – One from the Archives…!
Here at Shuttle Towers (!), we occasionally unearth the odd dusty old photo.
You might think that our railcars arrived on the Branch Line via the railway network, but you’d be wrong! They’re only able to work on our little stretch of line, and despite them often wanting to escape into the big wide World of Snow Hill lines, Stourbridge is where they belong!
So they actually arrived on the back of a low-loader and, with the help of a man with a rather large crane, they were carefully hoisted over the wall at Stourbridge Town to begin their lives on the branch line!
We also use the man-with-the-rather-large-crane to occasionally turn the railcars around in order to balance out the wheel-wear, but this is done in the area near to the Chiltern depot.
It’s not often you see our railcars flying through the air!
04/03/16 – Sorry We Missed You!
We know it’s very frustrating if we don’t turn up, so we’re very sorry about some of the missing services we’ve suffered in the past week.
Yesterday, we lost a few journeys due to a fault with one of the railcars. Without getting too technical, the bit of kit that makes it go in one direction failed, which of course for a railcar that regularly goes in both directions is a bit of a problem! We eventually managed to get it onto the short bit of track next to the old signal box, allowing us to use our other railcar and resume services. But we know that, with the failure happening during the early part of the morning peak, there were plenty of our users delayed in making the important connections at Stourbridge Junction to get to work.
Our Engineers were quickly on hand to investigate the problem, but again we’re sorry your journey was disrupted.
One of our regular passengers, Paul Collins, captured the scene from platform 3 at Stourbridge Junction as we prepared to exchange the railcars.
29/02/16 – Bridging The Gap
The Orange Army inspecting the road bridge near Stourbridge Town!
It’s Monday, and we’re all running normally again following our bus replacement yesterday!
If you weren’t aware, Network Rail were doing some work on the bridge near to Stourbridge Town station. This involved erecting some scaffold on our line and taking a look under the bridge structure to see what is required in the longer-term. Road traffic continued to use the bridge.
We hope you found the replacement bus service OK! Our driver Phil was around throughout the day to see that all was running smoothly, and all seemed to be fine. Do let us know if you encountered any issues though! First Worcester provided the service.
Don’t forget that over the Easter Holidays there is a lot of engineering work going on across the UK rail network. If you’re travelling across this period, do check to see if your journey is affected. More details here.
First Worcester provided our rail replacement bus service!
20/02/16 – Star Spotting!
Who needs a limo when the stars come to ride the Shuttle?!
We all remember the day Michael Portillo came to Stourbridge as part of his “Great British Railway Journeys” TV series (see here) and today, guess who? Only the footballing legend Bobby Gould on his way to a game! He was a real gent too!
We spotted him taking a pic of the Shuttle and he quickly shared it on Twitter: View the Tweet here!
Nice one Bobby! Some of our older crew members remember your exploits for Wolves AND Albion, as well as Coventry City and others!
We’ll keep ’em peeled for more stars riding The Shuttle 😉 (and yes, Bobby, we ARE the smallest train in Great Britain!)
10/02/16 – Upcoming Engineering Work
If you’e planning to use The Shuttle on SUNDAY 28TH FEBRUARY please be aware that road transport will be in operation, instead of us ALL DAY due to engineering work on a road bridge along the line. More details here.
06/02/16 – Listening to Concerns…
If you travel at certain times in the morning and evening peak, you may be aware that we get a lot of students and school children travelling at regular times. We’re aware that, particularly at Stourbridge Town, the platform becomes very crowded. We’ve been working with our colleagues at London Midland and Safer Travel Police to look at ways of addressing this situation.
This week, Officers from Safer Travel Police have been visiting on several days to observe the situation. We’ll be discussing the best ways forward to improve matters, and we thank some of our regular passengers who have made suggestions and contacted us via Twitter.
06/02/16 – Our New Blog!
It’s a pretty miserable windy, wet February day (!) so we thought we’d make a blog!
Here, we’ll add occasional thoughts, happenings and general day-to-day life from the shortest branch line in the country….