WELCOME TO S.L.U.G. NEWS PAGE
We hope that you will find this page informative.
It will be updated on a regular basis and will include articles supplied
by the train companies and transport authorities with the appropriate
links for detail. This is where you will find reports from S.L.U.G. officers
and information on the Group’s activities including notice of meetings.
The scope of news coverage will be any
matter relating to Stourbridge Line stations, trains and performance and
also bus links to the line. We will comment on events and developments
and offer constructive criticism where appropriate.
If you have any news material to share or
if you want to comment on any of the news stories published here e-mail:
or visit our Facebook
News Page Updated 12
12 May 2013
A Most Unusual Rail Tour
SLUG is pleased to publicise a most unusual rail tour that is running,
entirely for charity, on Sunday 26th May. It is hoped to raise £10,000
- £12,500 for Railway Children with ticket sales, on board raffle
and sales etc.
It may be of interest to members as there are some places left and it
would be good if it could be filled up. The train is being provided by
Chiltern completely free of charge, the train’s crews are donating
their pay to The Railway Children and Network Rail is not charging for
its work in planning and running the train etc.
The Branch Line Society is facilitating this unique, interesting and
unusual trip (at no charge of course) and any publicity amongst members
and support (in terms of bookings to fill the train and publicity) would
be appreciated by the BLS for this well deserving cause.
It will connect with the first train of the day from Birmingham Moor
Street (depart 08.55) and intermediate stations to Marylebone, as well
as return trains at Bicester North and Marylebone.
For more information click
06 January 2013
The heat is on
An article on rail fare increases does not constitute “news”
in the true sense of the word. The annual inflation-busting hike in travel
costs is hardly unexpected.
However, the well worn phrase “it pays for developing the service”
simply will not wash with passengers this year. Those same customers can
claim that their train service has actually deteriorated in 2012 and fare
rises are unjustified on that basis alone.
London Midland has delivered comfort and speed with the new Class 172
trains. Likewise, Chiltern Railways has introduced superior Mk3 Silver
Locomotive-hauled trains on our line. What can the operators offer for
2013 which will placate commuters who are regularly late for work in the
morning? The official answer is re-jigged, more efficient timetables.
The real answer lies in the terms of the franchise extension from the
Department for Transport: To compensate for delays and cancellations,
every London Midland season ticket holder will receive 5 free tickets
to travel anywhere on the London Midland network. Furthermore, 500,000
more Advance fare tickets will be made available on the London to Crewe,
London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Liverpool routes. Finally, London
Midland promise over £2m on improvements, including “a programme
of information, safety and performance enhancements which will help to
improve customers’ travel experience, particularly in the West Midlands”.
This is all very well if you believe that the £2m is new money
and not derived from the New Year fare increases. The fact is that London
Midland has suffered a serious blow to its stature and credibility and
PR alone will not repair the damage to its reputation. Although the Snow
Hill Lines suffered less than other routes during the driver shortage
experience, there is much to be done on the Stourbridge Line. A coat of
paint at stations will not be enough. As far as the Stourbridge Line User
Group is concerned, basic issues will have to be tackled: Overcrowding
during rush hour needs to be addressed. Worcestershire stations deserve
a better frequency of trains and some need an upgrade to enable passengers
to travel during the evening and Sundays. This is the starting point in
2013. The heat is on for London Midland to prove itself.
Christmas Quiz Answers
How well do you know the Stourbridge line? Here
are the photographs and the answers are below.
1 Birmingham Moor Street
2 Worcester Shrub Hill
3 Smethwick Galton Bridge
4 Jewellery Quarter (entrance in Vyse Street)
6 Cradley Heath
7 Worcester Shrub Hill (Ladies Waiting Room)
8 Stourbridge Junction
9 Worcester Tunnel Junction
10 Blakedown Signal Box
11 Droitwich Spa
12 Birmingham Snow Hill (Livery Street entrance)
14 Langley Green
15 Old Hill (crossing the canal just north of the station)
16 Old Hill Tunnel (view from above the southern portal)
17 Worcester Foregate Street
18 Smethwick Junction
19 Jewellery Quarter (view through the Hockley tunnels)
21 Hoobrook Viaduct, Kidderminster
22 The Hawthorns
23 Rowley Regis
25 Livery Street bridge (between Snow Hill and Jewellery Quarter)
26 Birmingham Snow Hill
27 Railway bridge over the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Worcester
28 Stourbridge Junction signal box
29 Stourbridge Town
30 Digbeth viaduct, south of Birmingham Moor Street
16 December 2012
A small victory
Despite the current bad news for commuters who are experiencing disruptions
to their journeys, there is some good news in the new London Midland timetable.
As a result of changing timetable slots with Chiltern Railways, an extra
journey opportunity from Hartlebury station has been created from a new
Worcester to Kidderminster extension. Outward morning services to Birmingham
now total four instead of three, comprising of 0627, 0650, 0705 and 0730
departures. The Stourbridge Line User Group has campaigned for years for
an improved service for this North Worcestershire station and this development
could be considered a small victory.
Hartlebury is a neglected station with lots of potential as a hub for
the village itself and the nearby town of Stourport on Severn. Until now,
London Midland has provided only the basic service for Hartlebury as stipulated
by the franchise agreement. This means that the village and district are
deprived of a credible daytime service to the city of Worcester which
is the natural shopping location.
Evening entertainment in Worcester or Birmingham is prohibited because
last trains do not call at Hartlebury, despite no perceived disadvantage
caused to passengers if they did stop.
Footfall figures for Hartlebury measured against the meagre service are
impressive. Passenger numbers using Hartlebury station compare favourably
with request stop stations on the Birmingham to Stratford upon Avon line.
These request stops have a theoretical hourly service and in practice,
trains slow down anyway.
Our new Class 172 trains have the capability to accommodate stations
with short length platforms by virtue of selective door opening. Much
improved acceleration/deceleration compared with the old Class 150 trains,
strengthens the argument to stop more trains at Hartlebury to test the
market and grow it.
We urge London Midland to further improve the Hartlebury service in the
next timetable. As well as providing new revenue for the company, there
are other benefits: An enhanced timetable would mean car parking problems
at Kidderminster could be alleviated because Stourport-based commuters
might choose to drive to Hartlebury to obtain a seat in the carriage of
25 September 2012
Rail Users’ Group condemns station staff cuts
(Extract from a Press Release by the Stourbridge Line User Group)
A local rail passenger representative group has reacted angrily to news
of forthcoming booking office closures and reduced staffing. The Stourbridge
Line User Group (SLUG) has been presented with a list of stations which
are affected and has great concerns for the implications. Amongst the
measures is the complete closure of Lye booking office. SLUG Chairman,
Rob Hebron was quoted as saying:-
“London Midland pre-warned us that they wanted the Government to
allow them to reduce staffing at their stations. We presented a strong
case for maintaining staffing but the Department for Transport has ignored
the passengers’ organisations. We expected a compromise not a rubber
“We have always maintained that booking office staff do more than
just sell tickets. They do valuable research for customers by planning
their journeys for them and finding the best offers. SLUG does not dispute
the increase in tickets obtained on-line and remote from stations but
there is no substitute for face to face contact. Station staff provides
reassurance for passengers.
The Group is particularly annoyed about the de-staffing of Lye station.
Lye is a community that relies on night time trade from customers who
arrive from outside the area. The lack of visible security at the station
will deter passengers who need to make a return journey late at night”.
Even busy Stourbridge Junction will have its ticket office close at 8
pm on Mondays to Thursdays, 10 pm on Fridays, 9 pm on Saturdays and 7
pm on Sundays. At present, it is open until the last train of the day,
just before midnight. Stourbridge Town will only be staffed until 6 pm.
SLUG is not alone in objecting to the cuts. Both Passenger Focus and
Centro have made representations to London Midland. Centro chairman Cllr
John McNicholas has gone on record, pointing out that London Midland have
ignored 18,000 passengers and disabled groups who objected. At one point,
it was suggested London Midland would save £1.25 million to boost
their profits. Now they say there will be no saving. So the Stourbridge
Line User Group is asking what possible benefits are there to the train
operator, the Department for Transport, or, most importantly, the passengers
in driving through these changes.
The Group has invited a London Midland manager to its next meeting. SLUG
officers will use this opportunity to drive home the concerns of the passengers
that they represent.
22 August 2012
Rail User Group attacks inflation busting fare increases.
(Extract from a press release by SLUG published 16th August 2012)
A local train passenger support group has reacted angrily to news that
train fares are likely to rise by 3% above inflation in the New Year.
The Stourbridge Line User Group (SLUG) has seized on the recent publication
of the Retail Price Index (R.P.I.), which indicates that the annual percentage
increment will be on top of an unexpectedly high base figure. Due to a
complicated inter-regional fare structure, the likely average hike in
ticket prices could be 6.2%. The Group which represents passengers using
the Worcester-Stourbridge-Birmingham railway line feels that commuters
are having a bad deal, at a time when most fare payers can least afford
an increase. SLUG is particularly apprehensive about Stourbridge Line
fares because they are predominantly day returns and peak hour factors
could potentially result in an 11.2% rise.
SLUG Chairman, Rob Hebron was quoted as saying:-
“The increase is unjustified and the formula is completely wrong.
The notion that the extra income will be reinvested in the West Midlands
railway network is laughable. Yes, there has been investment in the new
Class 172 trains, but any additional passengers who have been attracted
to the service by the trains, will now be driven away.
SLUG is a non political organisation and I wish we could separate public
transport and politics. I can understand the government targeting the
work-shy element of society, but why attack the genuine worker and job-seeker
by limiting the area in which they can afford to commute to employment?
There has to be a safety net or a ring fencing device. A fare rise which
keeps up with inflation is acceptable, but one which fuels inflation is
counter productive. How would the government feel about commuters asking
for a wage rise which was 3% above inflation?
He concluded by saying:-
This is potentially a “shoot yourselves in the foot” situation.
Rail patronage is increasing and so is the new revenue stream. Higher
fares on top of poorer service and de-staffed stations, is a step too
far. The only people to gain will be the owners of petrol stations. If
we are not careful, the local railways will become the elitist way to
The Group will make representations to the train operators to moderate
fare increase and is urging passengers to write to their members of Parliament.
22 April 2012
The Great Debate
The 2012 Annual General Meeting of the Stourbridge Line User Group will
take place on Wednesday May 16th at the Severn Valley Railway Station
at Kidderminster. The event will be held in the Refreshment Room (at the
rear of the King and Castle Public Bar) and will commence at 7:30pm.
As per custom, the AGM will be preceded by a Public Meeting, which is
open to members and non-members alike. You, the travelling public will
be able to listen to guest speakers from the rail industry and county
travel planning departments. Whether you have praise or criticism of the
rail service on our line or you have a suggestion to make, you are most
welcome to take part.
Many of you will have read articles in the press about schemes to re-open
the Stourbridge to Brierley Hill railway line. SLUG has consistently promoted
the re-opening of the whole Stourbridge to Walsall link. What is realistic?
What is futuristic? What is imaginative? What is speculative? If you want
to find out, please consider attending on the night. Make it affirmative!
29 April 2012
Councillor Angus Adams
At our meeting on 24 April, our Committee collected their thoughts on
an outstanding Chairman of the ITA and a thoroughly nice individual. Those
of us who had discussions and dealings with Councillor Angus Adams were
impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication. Angus was a top notch ambassador
to the Centro organisation and a precious asset to any political party.
He will be sorely missed.
It is a sad twist of fate that Angus did not see the opening of Stourbridge
Interchange, a project which he pioneered and on which he devoted much
The Group proposes that an engraved plaque, bearing Angus’s name
and his achievement would be a suitable tribute to the “Passengers’
Friend”. Stourbridge Interchange would be a suitable and ideally
Although Angus has departed from the world of transport, we hope that
his vision will live on. The Officers of the Stourbridge Line User Group
convey their sympathy to his partner, relatives, friends and colleagues.
12 February 2012
“Campaign for Rail: the West Midlands Region”
The Stourbridge Line User Group is pleased to announce the arrival of
a new partner. The Group is now an associate member of “Campaign
for Rail”. This is a new organisation formed by former members of
RailFuture West Midlands. SLUG did not desire to be placed in a position
of choosing between the new campaign group and the still existent national
body. However, as two SLUG officers have prominent roles in Campaign for
Rail, it would be illogical to lose the invaluable liaison and research
work which we enjoy and employ. In fact, Don Barton and Keith Flinders
will be able to contribute more to SLUG through meetings with stakeholders
at regional level.
Campaign for Rail aims to represent rail passengers within the five counties
of the region plus the conurbation and to act as an umbrella for all user
groups therein. Not only that, Campaign for Rail wants to encourage the
formation of new Rail User Groups (RUGs) on railway lines where there
is no representation. Members of SLUG who receive a postal copy of SLUG
Newsletter will find enclosed a free copy of ‘West Midlands Rail
User’, CfR’s magazine, later this month. Online members of
SLUG can request a copy of “West Midlands Rail User” by sending
an e-mail giving their name and postal address, to Tony Woodward email@example.com
Membership of CfR is £8 per annum which is astounding value for
money, considering the pool of experience and talent which it has inherited
and the magazine, full of news and features. The Stourbridge Line User
Group highly recommends membership of CfR to strengthen the link it has
04 January 2012
There are few surprises for train passengers as we enter the New Year.
Fare rises in January have become as traditional as turkey at Christmas.
The Chancellor has capped some percentage rises but on the whole, commuters
will pay more for season cards provided by all train operators. The market
dictates the hike in fares, just as the world economy has driven fuel
prices up and caused car owners to switch to rail travel.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) defends the increase
in fares which averages 5.9%. Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of ATOC,
is quoted as saying: “Money raised through fares helps pay for new
trains, faster services and better stations”. This is true in the
case of new Class 172 trains provided by London Midland for the Snow Hill
Lines. Our principal train operator has gone one step further by strengthening
early morning services to cope with demand. However, demand is being exploited
by other train companies because alternatives are not always available.
The casual traveler can still pick up bargains by booking up well ahead
of their journey. For instance, Chiltern Railways' Super Off-Peak ticket
is available from any station between Kidderminster and Banbury inclusive
for return travel to London Marylebone.
It costs £25 and is valid every day on trains scheduled to arrive
into London Marylebone after 1130, leaving Marylebone anytime before 1600,
and after 1900.
For group travel, the best buy in the West Midlands is a “Family
and Friends” railcard. Available in the DY postcode area, the card
which costs £28 per year, allows up to four adults and four children/minors
to make a journey together with a discount of 1/3 on adult fare and 60%
on child fare.
Bus fares are also rising in the West Midlands County and Worcestershire.
Passengers who arrive at their railway station by bus are faced with a
double whammy. However, the Plus Bus ticket still offers good value for
money, allowing the passenger to buy tickets from the station for the
entire journey. For example, Bewdley to Birmingham by bus and train would
cost an adult (on top of train fare) £8 for seven days, £27
for a month, £74 for 3 months, and £290 for a year. The numbers
of journeys permitted by bus per day are unlimited and unrestricted by
peak time barriers.
If fare rises are inevitable, then it is only fair that passengers get
good value for money. The Stourbridge Line User Group will monitor service
provision and will lobby train and bus operators to provide the best timetables
for optimum journey opportunity.
The Stourbridge Line Users’ Group Christmas Quiz 2011
The Stourbridge Line Users’ Group Christmas Quiz 2011
Keep your brain from seizing up with this challenge. Answers will be
published in January!
1. Fifty years ago, the 7.56 p.m. from Hartlebury to Kidderminster had
a name. What was it?
The Cathedrals Express
2. Where was Rifle Range Halt?
Between Kidderminster and Bewdley
3. In the days of steam, ‘Fast to Stourbridge’ usually meant
just one station served between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction.
4. The 869 yards tunnel between Old Hill and Rowley Regis has the same
name as a 1681 yards tunnel. Where?
Blackheath [South London]
5. What halt was between Hartlebury and Droitwich Spa?
6. Hagley, Lye and Victoria Bridge on the Severn Valley Railway are all
within half a mile of Milepost 140. How is this possible?
The Great Western measured from Paddington via Oxford, Worcester and Kidderminster
to Hagley, via Stourport to the Severn Valley Railway, and via Oxford
and Birmingham to Lye.
7. What Stourbridge Line name links a station which closed in 1885, 12th
Century monks and brewing?
Rood End, the rusty sidings north of Langley Green. Rood means ‘holy
cross’. The pure spring here was considered holy water, the destination
of pilgrimages. It ceased to flow when it was all being used for brewing.
[Health warning: don’t drink it now!]
8. A Class 67 visits Kidderminster each evening with the 18.07 from Marylebone,
our new trains are Class 172s and the Parry People Mover is Class 139.
Class 99 never came to our line. What was it?
When the TOPS classifaction began, Class 99 was British Rail’s ships.
27 November 2011
The North-South Divide
On 16th November 2011, Centro, which is the Integrated Public Transport
Authority for the West Midlands, issued a press release to the effect
that its senior managers were meeting with Transport Secretary Justine
Greening. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed Initial
Industry Plan devised by the Government to kick-start the economy and
boost jobs. Centro used the press release as a pre-emptive strike, attacking
the list of railway infrastructure projects which had been identified
as having priority. Centro highlighted schemes in the West Midlands which
were omitted in favour of those for London and the South East. The effects
on the Stourbridge Line caused by delaying key schemes prompted the Group
to issue its own press release, supporting Centro. It is shown here in
Rail User Group backs call for more investment in the West Midlands
A local rail passenger representative group has come out strongly in
support of transport authority, Centro. The Integrated Transport Authority
(ITA) which is lobbying the Government for more investment in the West
Midlands has identified projects which have been left out of the Initial
Industry Plan. Key schemes highlighted by Centro are also long standing
aspirations of the Stourbridge Line User Group (SLUG). Among the ambitions
are a re-opened Stourbridge to Walsall Railway line, reinstatement of
platform four at Birmingham Snow Hill and providing a turn back facility
at Rowley Regis station. In addition, SLUG supports Centro on the construction
of the Camp Hill Chords which would provide links to Kings Norton, Water
Orton and beyond. SLUG Chairman, Rob Hebron was quoted as saying:-
“This Group unhesitatingly supports Centro’s stance. The
Government wants to kick start economic recovery and create employment
by investing in public transport infrastructure. This is a commendable
idea but the West Midlands has been allocated a disproportionately small
quota of improvements compared to London and the South East. £57
million for this region is paltry compared with £349.5 million (lowest
“We are seeing sustained passenger growth on the Snow Hill Lines.
New Class 172 trains have raised standards but are struggling to cope
with demand. Addressing capacity issues will safeguard revenue and provide
for future demand. Resignalling and remodelling track in the Worcester
area would have a significant effect on line speeds and timetable patterns.
This sort of work maximises the use of existing resources – it’s
cost effective and “win-win” for train operators and customers”.
Centro bosses have arranged to meet new Transport Secretary, Justine
Greening to discuss the level of investment in the West Midlands between
2014 and 2019. The Initial Industry Plan has not been finalised but having
been drafted by the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail, The Association
of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Operators Association and
the Rail Industry Association, it carries a lot of weight. The priorities
set out by this league of stakeholders are by no means unworthy.
SLUG’s Chairman concluded:-
“We don’t want to scupper any schemes elsewhere on the network.
The size of the original list is a measure of how the national railway
has been underfunded and constrained. The Chancellor should increase the
budget rather than spread it thinly. Investment in rail would ultimately
reduce the need for more roads and airports.
5 September 2011
Fewer trains to London
It is a relatively rare event when the Stourbridge Line
User Group has cause to criticise Chiltern Railways. The company’s
track record is almost exemplary and it is thanks to Chiltern’s
investment in new tracks and infrastructure that the train service from
Kidderminster to London Marylebone is improving in terms of reduced journey
times and reliability. However, the number of through trains in the day
is limited and will be more so with the introduction of the company’s
September timetable. The popular 0630 ex Kidderminster has been withdrawn
leaving no replacement train to take up the capacity. The following train,
operated by London Midland is formed of less stock, owing to the fact
that it calls at Hartlebury where platforms cannot accommodate any additional
Although SLUG is involved in decisions taken by Chiltern
planners, through consultation at passenger board meetings, this withdrawal
is now a fait accompli.
All available rolling is probably allocated to boosting
the Chiltern network elsewhere and SLUG has no alternative than to resort
to action which will persuade the company to restore the 0630 train in
the December timetable.
This action involves rallying passengers, Worcestershire
County Council rail planners and Centro. In addition, SLUG has joined
forces with The Campaign for Better Transport (West Midlands) www.bettertransport.org.uk
to issue a press release condemning the cutback.
SLUG Chairman, Rob Hebron has provided quotes for the
press release. His full statement is as follows:-
“The 0630 service is well patronised and nearly
oversubscribed, leaving the Group to believe that the early morning train
is being sacrificed for no clear commercial reason. There have been reliability
issues but this was always the case due to the intensive Kidderminster
to Birmingham timetable. Chiltern have not taken into account the much
improved interface with London Midland services when the brand new Class
172 trains enter service, enabling greater headways for acceleration en
The Group wants to foster development of the London service.
Kidderminster has every right to be on the destination blind of a Chiltern
train and not just on evening return journeys. It is the gateway to Worcestershire,
a vibrant town and within easy access of premier tourist spots. The impressive
footfall figures for the station cannot be ignored and no operator should
risk losing its slot in the timetable. I hope that Chiltern will talk
to us about this. This end of the line needs more marketing. Rail enquiry
websites do the company no favours when passengers are looking for the
cheapest tickets to London. Let’s do the job properly and restore
the 0630 through train. In fact, Chiltern could direct a little investment
towards the much needed new Kidderminster station as a sign of commitment”.
24 July 2011
Reviewing and Re-grouping
An article in August’s edition of Today's Railways
UK which concerns revamping rail franchises has aroused considerable interest
amongst the SLUG committee and caused much speculation. The report by
Jacobs Consultancy was commissioned jointly by the DfT and the ORR specifically
to review the franchise map. The report recommended six significant changes
to the franchise map, one of which would affect us if implemented.
Without any consideration for the implications of HS2,
the Jacobs Consultancy boldly tackles the operational problems of the
West Coast Main Line by suggesting a consolidation of electrically powered
London-bound trains under one train operator. Effectively this would be
a merger of services presently run by Virgin Trains and London Midland.
The result would be a simplification of timetables and fares for journeys
between London Euston, Birmingham New Street and beyond.
This proposal would leave Snow Hill Line services as
a separate, diesel-run, package which would be ideally suited to be merged
with the Chiltern Railways network. This does not diminish the importance
of Snow Hill services or downgrade the resulting infrastructure. The Chiltern
franchise was extended as a result of investment undertaken by the company
(the Evergreen Projects) and general good practice. The Group has a good
working relationship with Chiltern and would welcome the type of station
makeovers which it has carried out. Alterations to Leamington Spa and
Solihull have been highly commended.
Consultancy reports are not necessarily binding or executed
but can cause concern for station staff and train crews who naturally
fear for their jobs if streamlining takes place. They know that this report
will not be viewed in isolation as it supports many of the arguments of
the McNulty Report which looks for efficiencies in the rail network.
The London Midland franchise is large but is also largely
efficient and enjoys the financial support of Centro in the West Midlands
County. This partnership has delivered many substantial improvements for
passengers over the years and sometimes it is better to say “if
it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.
(Source of material – Paul Abell and Team, Today’s
02 May 2011
IMPORTANT NOTICE – change of venue for AGM/ Public Forum.
Owing to unforeseen circumstances, the venue for the SLUG AGM and public
forum has changed from the Severn Valley Railway Station, Kidderminster
to THE KIDDERMINSTER RAILWAY MUSEUM. The date and time
of the events is unchanged (Tuesday May 17th at 7:30 pm). Persons wishing
to attend should still arrive at the SVR station, as the route to the
museum is via the station concourse and access will be either through
the booking hall or the King and Castle bar.
14 April 2011
The SLUG AGM & Public Forum
The SLUG AGM & Public Forum will be held on Tuesday
May 17th at Kidderminster S.V.R. Station, commencing at 7:30. The Public
Forum is open to all stakeholders, SLUG members and non-members alike.
What is a “stakeholder”? As distinct from
“shareholders”, whose interest lies in the financial benefit
to be gained from their investment, “stakeholders” may have
other interests at heart, including those of the customer or user, e.g.
we are all stakeholders in the NHS. The Stourbridge Line User Group is
a stakeholder in the line it represents.
Local railway operation is different to how it was in
the days of the GWR or British Railways: It enjoys the expertise of and
financial input from the counties in which it operates. The private train
companies alone could not provide the level of service which the passenger
enjoys now, without the grants which are levied in taxes from us –
the general public. Members of SLUG are stakeholders in the railway, not
only as taxpayers but as users of the railway line.
Stakeholders have a voice. Each voice needs to be heard
and what better opportunity than at the SLUG A.G.M. and Public Forum?
Representatives from London Midland, Chiltern Railways, Centro and Worcestershire
County Council will be on hand to answer questions and to take on board
suggestions as to how the railway could be improved. Don’t be afraid
to ask awkward questions such as:-
“Will London Midland’s new Class 172 trains
be any less overcrowded than the ones that are running now?”
“Can we count on Chiltern’s commitment to
Stourbridge and Kidderminster, considering that their sister company abandoned
Shrewsbury’s direct link to London?”
“Is Midland Metro Line Two dead in the water, as
illustrated by plans for a rapid transit bus network?”
“Is Worcestershire’s Local Transport Plan
invalidated by wholesale cuts to bus services instead of improved links
to railway stations?”
You may have your own concerns – please voice them.
Our guests are very knowledgeable and approachable. They want your feedback.
The Chairman and Committee also want your feedback on their performance
this year. Do you want to stand for office in SLUG? Do you want to re-elect
the existing officers? Do you want to play a less active role but still
make a contribution? Please come along, there’s no obligation to
do any more than just attend. It’s your right as a stakeholder.
12 March 2011
Friday March 11th proved to be a black day for commuters on the Stourbridge
Line and other lines operated by London Midland. An escalating industrial
dispute caused widespread cancellations of train services and considerable
inconvenience for passengers. As a result of an overtime ban by train
drivers union ASLEF, units were unable to leave Tyseley depot in time
to commence scheduled journeys in the morning rush hour. The cost to employees
and employers cannot be underestimated nor can the damage to London Midland’s
At the heart of the dispute is the union’s desire to harmonise
pay and working conditions of former Central Trains and Silverlink train
drivers who were taken on by London Midland. London Midland management
accuse the union of “cherry picking” the best elements of
both company’s terms. As if this situation was not bad enough, another
grievance has raised its head – Sunday working: London Midland has
cut the rate of pay for Sunday working but maintains that double time
payment was only a temporary arrangement. A deliberate discouragement
of volunteers for Sunday overtime will effectively wipe out Sunday services
on the Stourbridge Line for the foreseeable future. This is an intolerable
state of affairs which is exasperated by intransigence on both sides.
The Stourbridge Line User Group does not take sides with union or management
in this dispute. The Group is on the side of the long suffering passenger.
Sunday working is part and parcel of being a train driver, running a service
is the responsibility of management.
Clearly, both sides need to look again at their franchise agreement because
if they don’t fulfil their obligations, it may be the last time
that they procure the franchise.
SLUG implores both sides to negotiate and while negotiations are taking
place, they should run the advertised service or pay compensation. The
Group would like to draw attention to the fact that passengers can claim
refund for delays to their journey of over half an hour.
12 March 2011
SLUG attacks station staff cutbacks
(An extract from a press release* on 7th March 2011)
A local passenger representative group has reacted fiercely to proposed
cutbacks to station opening times. The Stourbridge Line User Group (SLUG)
which supports users of the Birmingham to Worcester Railway has criticised
plans by London Midland to reduce availability of booking office facilities
and to withdraw the provision altogether at specific stations. Amongst
the stations affected are Stourbridge Town which will be closed from late
afternoon and Lye which will lose its ticket-issuing staff completely.
Although London Midland has promised to install ticket vending machines
and CCTV cameras at affected stations, SLUG is concerned about the downgrading
of the service. SLUG Chairman, Rob Hebron was quoted as saying:-
“At a time when train usage is increasing and the public should
be encouraged to use public transport, London Midland is actually discouraging
passengers. It’s the wider picture and the implications of cuts
which worry SLUG. Face to face contact with staff not only assists the
enquiring traveller but it reassures he or she that they are personally
secure at a station.
“Lye is not a village station in a remote location – it is
in a highly populated area. It deserves a new station building and not
a basic waiting shelter. Stourbridge Town is to become part of a new bus/train
interchange – this is no way to introduce integrated public transport.
The only people who will gain are fare dodgers and so the whole exercise
will be counter-productive”.
SLUG has contacted London Midland and raised its concerns. In the meantime,
the Group urges rail passengers to protest to the train company or to
write to their Member of Parliament. If they are dissatisfied with their
response, they can also contact rail watchdog Passenger Focus by letter
(PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR) or e-mail (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Two other versions of the press release were issued simultaneously: One
was produced for Sandwell and Birmingham areas referring to curtailing
of Smethwick Galton Bridge/Hawthorns office opening hours and closure
of Jewellery Quarter booking office. The other press release was produced
for the Worcestershire area, criticising reduced opening times at Droitwich
Spa and Worcester Shrub Hill stations.
The Dudley area version reproduced above, generated a hard hitting
article in the Express and Star on Thursday March 10th.
02 February 2011
Amongst its campaigns, the Stourbridge Line User Group lists “Quality
of Connections” as a standard it aims to achieve for passengers.
In pursuit of a seamless journey, there is much common ground between
the Group and train operators. Of course, not all journeys are made by
rail alone and buses play a significant role in bringing passengers to
their rail station. Bus timetables are devised in a different way to train
timetables and the different factors involved, sometimes fail to make
a connection between the two modes.
The websites of Centro, Worcestershire County Council and Traveline provide
comprehensive information and are deserving of praise for their excellent
presentation of it. However, the fact is that Centro and Worcestershire
CC websites only offer localised information. Recognising that fact, SLUG
officer Roger Davis has compiled a document listing all bus connections
for Stourbridge Line stations in both the West Midlands and Worcestershire.
As well as enabling passengers to plan a journey (which they might not
realise was possible), it highlights the weaknesses of a fragmented privatised
industry. The “one bus in service” practice is economical
but does not lend itself to planning clock-face timetables. Therefore,
potential connections are hit and miss.
Roger’s summary of station bus services
gives an insight into what could be a comprehensive, user-friendly transport
network. We are still a long way off achieving that goal. In fact, wholesale
cuts are proposed to the Worcestershire bus network and residents of that
county will need to register their disapproval in the current consultation
A common complaint from local pubic transport users is that their travel
cards are valid during the day but not on the night when other operators
take over. This is not integrated public transport. The Stourbridge Line
User Group is seeking a universal ticket which is valid on all modes of
public transport, not only on and around the Stourbridge Line, but in
the long term throughout the United Kingdom. Although multi-mode tickets
exist and pre-pay plastic cards are being trialled, no one has incorporated
all the elements as well as per the London Oyster Card. A universal travel
card, in its true sense would be a travel VOUCHER which could be purchased
at any retail outfit. The Group has researched the capabilities of the
technology in the manufacture of readable plastic travel cards. A universal
card is perfectly possible. It already exists for Senior Citizens. Does
SLUG have to campaign against REVERSE age discrimination?
12 January 2011
Hard-pressed commuters face more misery
(Extract from a story in the STOURBRIDGE NEWS - January 6th 2011)
Hard-pressed commuters face more misery this New Year as the cost of train
and bus journeys throughout the Black Country rockets and VAT on fuel
pushes the price of petrol closer to the £1.30 per litre mark. After
last month’s arctic weather caused major congestion and disruption
to road and rail services, travellers now have to dig deeper into their
pockets to cover the costs of getting to and from work.
The 2.5 per cent increase in VAT, coupled with a rise in fuel duty of
0.76p a litre, has added around 3.5p per litre to the price of fuel. The
biggest hike has been on the rail network, with London Midland pushing
up peak time travel, including season tickets, by 5.9 per cent - one of
the largest increases in years. A company spokesman defended the decision
as a result of Government policy to reduce the taxpayer’s contribution
to rail services, requiring passengers to pay more.
Stourbridge Line User Group chairman Rob Hebron said the train operator
should have absorbed some of the increase instead of passing it on to
peak time commuters.
“It is an unfair increase given that we still face overcrowding
and unreliability on the peak services and we do not get value for money,”
Mr Hebron criticised National Express’s bus fare rises which also
came into effect this week, warning that the combined public transport
hikes would do nothing to ease congestion on the roads.
“Car parks at stations like Rowley Regis are over-flowing. This
latest bus fare increase does not help. We want to see an integrated public
transport system where buses are designed to meet the trains,” he
National Express has put up adult fares by 10p to £1.60 for short
hops, £1.80 for standard journeys and £3.60 for daysaver tickets.
The evening saver has been scrapped.
A company spokesman said the new fares reflected rising business costs
and would support massive reinvestment this year. Bus users faced similar
increases only last June, and although National Express had pegged prices
for 18 months up to that point, the January 2009 increase was 10 per cent
- more than twice the rate of inflation.
Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris blamed the previous Government
for the VAT rise and said his Government was committed to ending Labour’s
“war on the motorist.”
“Already this year, the Coalition is repealing guidance which encouraged
higher car parking charges and placed limits on car parking spaces in
new developments,” he said.
Mr Morris added that bus and rail services must be improved in line with
(Article by kind permission of Sarah Cousin, STOURBRIDGE NEWS)
14 November 2010
New Bay Platforms for Birmingham Moor Street
The Stourbridge Line User Group is pleased to report that the long-awaited
Birmingham Moor Street bay platforms are to open in the forthcoming weeks.
Constructed primarily for the fast trains from Birmingham to London Marylebone,
these platforms will give greater flexibility of operation. Although the
service from Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone will be reduced, the Stourbridge
Line will lose none of its through services to the Capital City. The use
of Snow Hill platforms for terminating trains was always a wasteful use
of capacity and a hindrance to other local through trains.
Coupled with the restoration of “Wing Yip” viaduct which
was an impressive engineering accomplishment, the new platforms will enable
a faster train service to run between the two cities. Chiltern Railways
has aspirations to build branch lines such as Bicester to Oxford but their
core business will always be the soon-to-be branded “Chiltern Mainline”.
Chiltern have targeted the route for a 20% reduction in journey time,
in essence, a 100 minute outward trip.
Birmingham Snow Hill station is an exceptionally busy station and probably
outstrips Birmingham New Street when comparing number of trains per platform
per hour. It is perhaps, ironic that the Metro extension which will take
tram lines out of the central concourse, will free up platform four which
would have been a good bay platform for Chiltern trains. However, platform
four is unlikely to remain idle and will enable Chiltern and London Midland
to redesign their timetables to build in greater reliability.
24 March 2010
Bite size chunks?
The Midland Metro light railway which follows the route of the Stourbridge
line from The Hawthorns to Birmingham Snow Hill, is set to be extended.
Transport Minister Chris Mole on a visit to Snow Hill (18th March) announced
the go-ahead for a link to New Street Station. A funding bid for the £81million
project has been approved by the Government and works should be completed
The new extension will add another half mile to the Metro tram system
which was opened in 1999 to link Wolverhampton and Birmingham by the old
Great Western Railway route. From a new bridge over Great Charles Street
Queensway, at the north end of Snow Hill station, the new line will use
a viaduct which is already built, to rise up to Bull Street where there
will be a new tram stop. There it will proceed, still on-street to the
reconstructed, re-modelled New Street station. If a further Metro funding
bid is approved, another £30m extension of the line at Wolverhampton,
would enable trams to make a loop of its city centre, connecting St Georges
with the soon-to-be-constructed Wolverhampton bus/rail interchange facility.
A further £46m bid has been made to the Government for 19 new, longer
trams and platform extensions.
The Stourbridge Line Use group welcomes the Birmingham City extension
which will aid Stourbridge Line passengers who want to catch a New Street-departing
train. The diversion of the line at Snow Hill will free up platform four
and add precious capacity to the station. However, the Group is disappointed
that no announcement has been made of funding approval for the Stourbridge
to Wednesbury tram project.
If the Metro is to be delivered in “bite size chunks”, so
be it. If that is the case, then it is time that Stourbridge had a bite
of the cake.
(Source of story- Express and Star)
1 February 2010
The Stourbridge Line User Group is pleased to report
that the Stourbridge Line (or at least a section of it) has been chosen
to test a new type of electronic ticket. Generically known as a “smart
card” and officially branded as “The Key”, this ticket
is being trialled between four railway stations, Worcester Foregate Street,
Worcester Shrub Hill, Droitwich Spa and Kidderminster
London Midland claim to be the first train operating company to embrace
this technology and are providing a small group of season ticket holders
with “The Key” which can be charged and recharged repeatedly
with credit. “The Key” will be available for purchase online
and can be collected at manned stations. It can also be topped up on the
home computer and replaces the various paper tickets.
To quote Rachel Webster, Head of Communications with
“Other benefits are extra security for passengers,
as tickets can be quickly cancelled if lost or stolen, it will save time
at stations with passengers quickly ‘swiping’ themselves through
“In future, users of The Key will quickly benefit
from new products and the opportunity to use integrated transport...”
The last statement is interesting because it alludes
to a universal travel card which is already in use in London. The “Oyster
Card” which is popular with commuters in the Capital is even more
customer-friendly because all bus and train operators are subscribed to
the scheme. In one swoop, the disadvantages of the private, competitive
element in public transport could be eliminated. As SLUG understands it,
the fares structure within the “Oyster Card” has been fashioned
to allow unlimited extra journeys once a contracted level has been reached.
This makes it excellent value for money and more versatile than what is
SLUG will be following trials in Worcestershire with
interest and will press for the additional benefits built into the London
version of smart card.
For more information on The Key, please e-mail email@example.com,
or write to them –
c/o The Communications Department, London Midland, PO Box 4323, Birmingham,
Alternatively, there is more information on the London
Midland website at www.londonmidland.com/tickets-and-fares/the-key/
27 January 2010
Welsh Bargain Fares from Smethwick Galton Bridge
If you are 55 or older, take a Stourbridge Line train
to Smethwick Galton Bridge. You can then take the Arriva Trains Wales
service from platform 3 at about 30 minutes past the hour to any station
in Wales for just £15 return. If you have a Senior Railcard, it’s
It’s a CLUB 55 ticket, available until 19 March.
You can buy it at the station, or in advance on the web [arrivatrainswales.co.uk]
or ring 0870 9000 773. If you buy in advance, you can reserve your seat
Trains go directly from Galton Bridge in alternate hours
to Aberystwyth/Pwllheli and to Holyhead, but change of train is permitted
to reach other stations. So if you want to go Betws-y -Coed, leave Galton
Bridge at 07.28, change at Llandudno Junction and arrive at 11.00, for
example. [Return at 15.19 and arrive back at Smethwick Galton Bridge at
If you live near the Worcester end of our line, you could
start your CLUB 55 journey from Cheltenham and explore south and west
Wales. It can be used on other train companies’ trains along ATW
routes, such as First Great Western in South Wales and Virgin in North
It does not just allow day trips. Return can be up to
a month, providing you are back by 19 March.
If you use it, let us know at SLUG how you fared!
30 December 2009
A Brave New Year: Work commences on Kidderminster station.
The year 2009 has been notable for improvements to the
Stourbridge Line. At first glance they may seem minor but even so; our
stations have not only improved visually with London Midland-colour paint
but have acquired equipment that is of practical benefit to passengers.
Real time information screens and ticket vending machines have been installed
at many locations as the modernisation programme has rolled out.
Granted, day to day timekeeping and reliability of trains
has not always been optimum but 2010 will be the year of the 172 class
train which should bring considerable improvements to the both timekeeping
and timetable on our line.
As a campaigning Rail User Group, we have learned to
be patient because the very nature of rail planning is lengthy and the
industry is interdependent, despite being private and competitive.
It is heart-warming to see a long-standing campaign in
progress and near fruition. So it is with SLUG’s request for a brand
new station building at Kidderminster. The plan for Kidderminster Railway
Station is a £3,575,000 project to upgrade the facilities to the
standards rail travelers expect in the 21st Century. The County Council
is working in partnership with Network Rail, the Severn Valley Railway,
Kidderminster Railway Museum, bus and rail operating companies and Wyre
Forest District Council. The product of this collaboration will be not
just a railway station but an interchange – a coordinated transport
There are four parts to the project.
1. A new station building and improved passenger facilities
2. A new layout on the station forecourt with improved facilities for
3. An improved walking connection from the new station building to the
Severn Valley Railway station building
4. Changes to the entrance junction to the railway station from the
A448 Comberton Hill
Work has already started on the forecourt and this work
will continue until Christmas 2010. The station building itself will be
constructed in 2011. The finer detail of the station was discussed in
November and SLUG understands that consideration has been given to complementing
the heritage appearance of the Severn Valley Railway site. The meeting
in November also covered practical issues such as number of ticket vending
SLUG will monitor progress of the new station and the
travelling public can see for themselves through the website link
17 October 2009
Green and Black
SLUG has already submitted its official response to the
West Midlands Region Rail Development Plan produced by Centro in conjunction
with Worcestershire County Council. (Our response can be found in the
form of a downloadable document on the right hand side of this web page).
There is a certain amount of overlap of ideas contained in the SLUG response
to the WMRRDP and those of the Birmingham Friends of the Earth response.
A copy of the BFoE document has been forwarded to SLUG and we have examined
its content and presentation.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth is an organisation motivated
by its concerns for the environment. Its approach to public transport
is that this is the responsible way to travel, in order to reduce carbon
emissions. SLUG is not a political group but it broadly agrees with the
principle that the construction of a better public transport network must
precede any campaign to discourage wasteful journeys made by one person
in one car. SLUG will readily support “green” public transport
(e.g. it has promoted the Parry People Mover railcar on the Stourbridge
Town branch line). Thankfully, the Train Operating Companies too are keen
to be environmentally-friendly and it is no coincidence that London Midland
and its predecessor, Central Trains, chose a partly green livery for their
SLUG and the BFoE are aware of the vast amount of freight-only
lines, diversionary lines and mothballed railways in the West Midlands
and surrounding areas. These are the key to enlarging the rail network,
creating better connections and making rail travel more attractive: SLUG
continues to campaign for a re-opened Stourbridge to Dudley line and the
potential of journeys being available to Walsall, Lichfield and beyond.
In some respects, the Group is at odds with Centro and its ambition to
run Metro trams along the Dudley to Brierley Hill route. However, the
recession and the unwillingness of government to fund the Metro scheme
presents new opportunities. Centro are now evaluating tram/train track
sharing, and at the same time Railfreight are lobbying for a restoration
of track to divert trains via Dudley. If all of these elements come together,
a passenger service is perfectly possible.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth share SLUG’s support
for the Bordesley Chords and a re-opened Camp Hill line. These two schemes
are essential to create capacity in the Birmingham area.
Also within the BFoE response is an interesting idea
– the Benson Road Curve, which could form a Birmingham to Walsall
link via Handsworth. This is not a new idea but has resurfaced in light
of other “fashionable” schemes. BFoE have set out a well-reasoned
argument for the curve and researched the route and engineering involved
(all fully illustrated).The creation of such a link would require the
diversion of Midland Metro on-street to make available the track bed for
heavy rail. The cost of diversion would have to be weighed against the
benefit of freeing up platforms in Birmingham New Street. To put this
into context, the Birmingham “Gateway” project, which will
cost millions of pounds, will not free up a single platform or create
room for more train services into New Street. The planners have to look
at Birmingham Snow Hill and Moor Street to resolve the issues of catering
for growing demand.
SLUG has never denied that that it is ambitious. Birmingham
Friends of the Earth may be even more so. The UK may be in a recession
but rail travel is defying the trend. Do we need to wait until the country
is in the “black” before we invest?
“Green” solutions should override short-term
economy measures. Wouldn’t it be nice to see our green and black
trains taking us to new destinations?