THE MOST frequent train service in Redditch’s history is set to begin this week.
From Sunday (December 14) London Midland will be running three trains an hour in both directions on its Cross City line between Redditch and Birmingham New Street.
The rail firm has described the change as the biggest in the ‘history of the town’s rail services’ and it represents the most significant development on the line since electrification in 1992.
The new service is a result of a £24.5million project by Network Rail to create an extra loop of track between Redditch and Alvechurch as well as upgrade Alvechurch station which saw the line closed for eight weeks over the summer.
But concerns remain about reliability and the ability of London Midland to deliver the new frequency, given since the line re-opened in September there have been a series of cancellations.
Figures published by London Midland for local services through New Street, which includes the Cross City Line, also reveal punctuality is dropping with 74.4 per cent of trains arriving within five minutes of their scheduled time in November compared to 88.1 per cent in September.
But Mark Goodall, head of London Midland’s Cross City services, insisted residents would definitely feel the benefit of the improvements.
“There has been significant investment in the rail infrastructure, and I thank local residents for their patience during the summer months while the new passing loop and station were built at Alvechurch,” he added.
In an interview with the Standard in May 2013 Patrick Verwer, London Midland’s managing director, said the poor quality of the infrastructure on the Cross City Line and congestion at Birmingham New Street meant it was unrealistic to expect 100 per cent reliability but added getting performance up to 95 per cent was achievable.
He also suggested the new passing loop would help prevent trains suddenly being terminated at Barnt Green, leaving passengers stranded, as drivers would now have a place to overtake if the schedule was running behind time.
The new timetable will see trains travelling to Birmingham leave Redditch at 12, 34 and 55 minutes past the hour, with return journeys from New Street departing at 02, 22 and 42 minutes past the hour.
There has also been £62million of government investment into new trains.
Following the latest announcement Mr Verwer added: “With more people travelling with us each year our passengers are telling us they want more services, quicker journeys and more seats.
“We have listened and taken the opportunity with our new trains to make as many improvements for as many passengers as we can.”
Visit www.londonmidland.com/goodnews for more information about the new timetable.