"Unfortunately it's not all positive,"continued William. "It's obvious that the Stourbridge line needs an earlier start to Sunday services, but this is not part of the franchise specification. And in these last few weeks we have seen unacceptable overcrowding on trains taking people to and from Birmingham for shopping and the Christmas market. We have also made it clear that the Stourbridge line needs improved connections to other rail services to realise its potential, including giving better access to Birmingham airport, central Worcester, south Wales and the south west in line with the regional transport strategy."

This year's extension of Midland Metro tram services, which connect with the Stourbridge line at The Hawthorns and Jewellery Quarter, through central Birmingham to the entrance of New Street station, has made some journeys easier and further Metro extensions are planned.

"Metro should reach Brierley Hill from Wednesbury in the early 2020s", added William. "But that will leave a missing link which will prevent rail travel between Stourbridge, Brierley Hill and Dudley. That gap needs to be closed to provide a decent transport network."

The Stourbridge Line User Group will be looking to build on its 2016 achievements into the new year, including a highly successful public meeting in May where members were able to hear from, and put questions to, representatives of train operators and local authorities. A similar event will be held in May 2017 and new members, in addition to our currently solid membership base, would be welcome to strengthen our position in future discussions.

a year of development, a new year of change

The following is a press release issued by Stourbridge Line User Group.

Passengers' group looks back over 2016

The Stourbridge Line User Group, which represents train passengers on the Worcester-Kidderminster-Stourbridge-Birmingham route, is looking both back on a busy year and forward to major changes in 2017 as a new rail franchise takes over.

The London Midland franchise is up for grabs next year, with Abellio and Govia (owners of the current London Midland operation) having submitted bids to run the trains from October. However, the new franchise will be different in an important way: local West Midlands trains - including almost all Stourbridge line services - will be principally overseen by West Midlands Rail, which is made up of the region's local authorities, both metropolitan and in the shire counties.

"Local authorities are now getting much more input to the specification and the management of West Midlands rail services," said William Whiting, the group's deputy chairman. "The Stourbridge Line User Group has long developed positive working relationships with the various local authorities and this puts us in a good position for the future. We have already seen changes in line with some of our campaigns, and hopefully we can make passengers' views heard more clearly with this devolution."

Earlier this year the Group submitted its response to the franchise consultation including calls for better evening and weekend services, and was delighted when these were included in the specification for the new franchise. The group previously campaigned for a better service at Hartlebury station; this has already happened under London Midland, with further improvements being put in the timetable this month, and there has been a dramatic increase in passengers at the station as a result.

However, there are several other improvements that the Group believes are necessary but are not in pipeline... yet.

1 january 2017