At the May timetable change, West Midlands Railway brings in a new service pattern, including joining up services that now terminate at Birmingham New Street.  The Chase Line from Rugeley sees the start of electric services using mainly Class 350s, which being four car trains considerably increases the number of seats over the Class 170 and Class 153s.  It has also needed platforms to be extended.  The service is already twice an hour, but from May, trains at xx.19 from Rugeley Trent Valley run to London via Walsall in 3 hours 9 minutes.  Trains at xx.46 are through trains to Birmingham International.

Northbound is a little different.  Trains arrive at Rugeley TV at xx.10 and xx.38, and both are through trains from Euston.  They leave London just 13 minutes apart though [xx.13 and xx.24].  The first of these divides in Platform 3 at New Street, with the rear set reversing and heading for Rugeley via Aston.  At the same time [xx.20], the front set leaves as a new service to Crewe via Stoke on Trent.  As a four car train, it provides the service to Stone and the North Staffordshire stations that cannot take longer trains. They are presently served by the xx.46 trains from Euston to Crewe via the Trent Valley.  These Trent Valley trains are currently restricted to four cars and often severely overcrowded.  Some can now be eight cars as they will go non stop from Stafford to Crewe.

A benefit of Trent Valley trains going direct from Stafford is connections at Crewe.  Northbound, they connect into Virgin’s Edinburgh/Glasgow trains an hour earlier.  Southbound at present, Virgin trains get to Crewe just three minutes before the Trent Valley trains leave, so effectively the ‘connection’ is 63 minutes!

The other joining up of services is the Liverpool - Birmingham trains continuing to London via Northampton.  The xx.33 from New Street is made up of a 350 from Liverpool coupled to a set that comes in from Crewe via Stoke on Trent.  Journey times are longer than by Virgin, but not much longer.  The xx.33 takes 1 hour 57 minutes to London compared with 1 hour 25 by the xx.30 Pendolino.  In the other direction, one of the twice an hour Liverpools is through from Euston, the other starts from Birmingham International. 

In all of the above, note that times may vary a little in some hours.

People prefer through trains.  The new timetable offers lots of new journey possibilities.  It deserves to do well!

Keith Flinders

Joined Up Thinking at New Street

1 February 2019