Centro: Work to solve Birmingham and Coventry rail bottleneck needed in addition to high speed rail


Two extra railway tracks need to be laid along the West Coast Main Line between Birmingham and Coventry well ahead of any opening of the proposed high speed rail link if the West Midlands is to meet ever rising demand for local rail travel, Centro, the region’s transport authority, said today.

Backed by a number of West Midlands MPs, Centro has called on train operating companies to make four tracking of the line between the two cities a key part of any bids to win the forthcoming 14-year franchise for the WCML which is due to start next year.

Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip, said: “Apart from the £1.5 billion a year boost to the West Midlands economy and the 22,000 new jobs that a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham (HS2) will bring, we have to build it because the WCML will reach full capacity by the mid 2020s.

“However, the existing stretch between Birmingham and Coventry is already a bottle neck that impacts on the reliability of the services running on it and it is extremely difficult to get any more trains through this pinch point.

“This capacity problem will only get more acute in the next few years and will reach saturation point by 2021, five years before HS2  is due to open.

Once we hit that point ten years from now some tough choices will have to be made between the inter-city and local services operating on the line.

“There is a very real risk that local services could be pushed out in favour of more profitable inter-city trains, thereby damaging local economies and stifling economic growth and job creation.

“We therefore cannot afford to wait for HS2 and are calling on train companies looking to bid for the WCML franchise to make a commitment to four tracking the line between Birmingham and Coventry. Indeed even after the proposed high speed line opens, four tracks on this stretch of railway will remain crucial to meet demand.”

Mr Inskip said that the longer, 14-year period of the next WCML franchise should give train companies the security to commit to the investment needed to lay the two extra tracks between Birmingham and Coventry. He also called for Network Rail to consider the four tracking proposal as part of its forthcoming Rail Utilisation Strategy.

A report released this week by pro-HS2 company Greengauge 21 released showed how the proposed high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands would release badly needed capacity on the classic rail network.

It said that in the West Midlands this would allow increased service frequencies to local destinations such as Lichfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Rugby and more regional services linking towns currently without direct services. Places like Kenilworth could also have new services such as a direct London service.

But Mr Inskip said: “Despite the benefits HS2 brings to the wider regional rail network, the issue of capacity for both passenger and freight services between Birmingham and Coventry needs to be dealt with far sooner.

“That is why we want to see the four tracking proposal included in the franchise bids that are now or about to be submitted.”

Centro this week met with seven West Midland Labour MPs at Parliament to brief them on how the region would benefit both economically and transport-wise from the proposed high speed rail link. Four tracking between Birmingham and Coventry was one of the issues that the MPs said they were keen to see addressed.

Centro, Birmingham City Council, the NEC Group, Birmingham Airport, Solihull Council, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Marketing Birmingham are all supporting the Government’s high speed rail plan which is due to go out to public consultation shortly.

Mr Inskip added: “The case for HS2 cannot be overstated, it is quite simply the biggest opportunity for wealth and job creation in a generation.”


  1. HS2 will be ‘quiet simply’ the worst investment of the Millennium. There is no business case to support HS2 and the environmental impact and legacy of an 8 lane runway of a train track splitting the countryside in two will scar this country forever. Haven’t you heard….stop building on the land, they are not making it anymore!nnNow we read that as well as the prospect of HS2 there are moves afoot to 4 track the WCML – whatever next! Surely we need to travel less not more and with the advent of high speed broadband for all the need to travel to a meeting or appointment will be removed. Embrace change and technology. The future is meetings without movement.nnLet’s just visit that Kyoto agreement again shall we?……can the UK ever be trusted on the national environmental stage if it promises less emissions on the one hand and then tries to build its way out of transport capacity problems with the other?nnLessons learned on roads. You cannot simply concrete over the entire country by building more roads. Instead the Highways authorities in the UK have decided to use existing asset more wisely and efficiently (HSR = Hard Shoulder Running) to free up capacity, ease congestion and improve journey time reliability. All for a fraction of the cost of building more motorways…..come of DfT….if it works for roads it can so work for rail….Villers meet Penning….Penning meet Villiers…..go on…go on…go on!n

    • As a person who is totally opposed to HS2 on the basis of planned route and a poor business case I thought I would have agreed with some of this having seen the first couple of lines, however I finds myself disagreeing with just about everything else!nnAs there is going to be substantial population growth there will need to be the capability of moveing more and more people all the time. The freezing of road building is also resulting in a modal change to rail which is considered more environmentally friendly. There is a greater need to import goods to this country to cater for the ever increasing demand driven by population as well as technological change. This doesn’t have to be less green than reverting back to the dark ages however, as there will be better ways of establishing logistics chains etc.nnThere are ways to minimise our carbon footprint and rail can be in the forefront of this, in fact it is already committed to doing just that. Even HS2 could have environmental benefits if it takes people out of the skies, however London Birmingham isn’t going to do that. London to Scotland yes, London to Manchester and Liverpool maybe.

    • What are you going on about???? If I have superfast broadband I will still want to travel, for pleasure (too see family, friends and see the rest of the UK). People want to travel not just for work but leisure and too see the beautiful country we live in. HS2 is a good idea as long its extended up to Scotland but from what I understand the London Birmingham section is only the first stage. The chilterns will survive and surely a train line is better than another motorway (M40 goes through the Chilterns)

  2. Oh Great!!! 4track Brum to Coventry and build a new bottleneck. Where are the extra trains going to go? Dual track the 6 miles from Coventry to Leamington Spa and upgrade the existing track along with a station (and local service) at Kenilworth and the 4tracking would make more sense. Extra 4track from Coventry to Rugby is another one that would help the WCML to be usable.

  3. For my money, I’d only four-track as far as BHI. There is room for probably three extra platforms, and the station building is due a refurb anyway. Then I’d extend all Scotland-BHM, Hereford-BHM and Liverpool-BHM trains to BHI, in the way that ATW are already extending Wales-BHM trains. I’d remove the BHI stoppers, serving the local stations by skip-stopping…

  4. [continuation of post below]… much as local stops to WVH are already served. THis would cost less than four-tracking to COV, and relieve passenger pressure on BHM by turning BHI into a bigger interchange.

  5. No doubt if we had had the internet in the mid 50s we would have been deluged with negative comments claiming there was no business case for the M1 and where the hell would we be today without the motorway network. HS2 will be a strategic piece of infrastructure that will still be in use in 200 years time, to cancel the project today because some Nimby in nnnnBuckinghamshire reckons there is no business case will condemn the economic prosperity for generations to come. To those that say it will only serve a small elite, what utter nonsense! HS2 will connect with and become part of the current West Coast, East Coast and Midland Mainlines carrying millions of passengers that travel on these routes.nnnnnnn


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