|Type||Heavy rail, Suburban rail|
|Operator(s)||West Midlands Trains|
|Rolling stock||Class 323|
|Line length||32 mi (51 km)|
|Number of tracks||2 (Lichfield – Bromsgrove)|
1 (Barnt Green – Redditch)
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV AC OHLE|
The Cross-City Line is a commuter rail line in the West Midlands region of England. It runs for 32 mi (51 km) from Redditch and Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, its two southern termini, to Lichfield, Staffordshire, its northern terminus, via Birmingham New Street, connecting the suburbs of Birmingham in between. Services are operated by West Midlands Trains.
Cross-City Line services began in 1978, as a project of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) to improve local rail services. It made use of pre-existing railways lines, which previously did not have any through services. Services were extended to Redditch in 1980, and to Lichfield Trent Valley in 1988. The route was electrified in 1993. In 2018 services were extended to Bromsgrove, which was added as a second southern terminus.
What is now the Cross-City Line was not built as a single route; it is a combination of lines opened by different companies at different times, between 1837 and 1885.
On the northern half of the route (Birmingham–Lichfield):
- The oldest section is between Duddeston (originally named Vauxhall) and Aston, which was part of the Grand Junction Railway from Birmingham to Earlestown, opened in 1837.[page needed] This was extended towards the centre of Birmingham, at Curzon Street, the following year, and into Birmingham New Street in 1854.
- The line from Aston to Sutton Coldfield was opened by the London and North Western Railway in 1862, and extended to Lichfield City in 1884, where it connected with the South Staffordshire Line between Walsall and Lichfield Trent Valley, which had opened in 1849.
On the southern half of the route (Birmingham–Redditch):
- The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway had opened in 1840, following what is now the Cross-City Line between Bromsgrove and Kings Norton, although this line ran to Curzon Street (later New Street) via what is now the Camp Hill Line.
- The single-track branch line from Barnt Green to Redditch followed in 1859, as part of the Midland Railway's Gloucester Loop Line, which was closed south of Redditch in 1964.
- The Birmingham West Suburban Railway, taking the route of the Cross-City Line between Kings Norton and central Birmingham via Bournville, opened to its original terminus at Granville Street in 1876, it was extended into Birmingham New Street in 1885, and the Granville Street terminus closed.
These lines from Birmingham to Barnt Green and Redditch were operated by the Midland Railway and the line to Lichfield was operated by the London and North Western Railway, so there were no through services. This continued despite the Grouping of the LNW and Midland Railways to form the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1921, and subsequent nationalisation to form British Railways.
Prior to the creation of the Cross-City Line, the northern half of the route from New Street to Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield had a well used regular suburban service, which had been switched from steam to diesel multiple unit (DMU) operation in 1956, leading to a large increase in usage. However, the southern half of the route from New Street to Redditch was a different matter: In 1964, the closure of all the stations between New Street and Redditch (along with the branch to Redditch) was proposed by the Beeching Axe. They were reprieved from closure in 1967, however the service was cut back to a handful of trains at peak times for commuters.
1978: consolidated route
In the early-1970s the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) gained responsibility for managing and planning the local railway network in the West Midlands, and they set about looking for ways it could be improved: The WMPTE Passenger Transport Plan of 1972 recognised the need for a cross-city rail service, and especially an improved service to the south of Birmingham with new stations to serve the growth areas in the south of the city.
The Cross City Line project was sanctioned by the WMPTE in May 1975 and launched on 8 May 1978. Costing £7.4 million (equivalent to £66,040,000 in 2021), it involved joining the services into Birmingham from north and south into a single through service, along with the re-opening of Five Ways station (the original had closed in 1944 as a wartime economy measure) and new stations to serve the University of Birmingham and Longbridge (the former station at Longbridge was on the branch line to Halesowen and Old Hill). Most of the other stations on the southern half of the route were rebuilt at the same time, and improvements were made to signalling and junctions. Of the new stations, the only one to be officially opened was University, which the then Secretary of State for Transport Bill Rodgers MP formally opened on 8 May 1978. There is a plaque on platform 2 marking this occasion.
Services initially ran on a 15-minute frequency between Longbridge and Four Oaks via Birmingham New Street, with an hourly extension to Lichfield City, using refurbished Class 116 Diesel Multiple Units. The new service was an instant success, and by the end of the first year was carrying 30,000 passengers daily.
Services were extended to Redditch in 1980, initially on an hourly frequency, increased to half-hourly in 1989. The service to Lichfield City was increased to half hourly in 1986, and on 28 November 1988, some services were extended to terminate at the re-opened high level platforms of Lichfield Trent Valley.
By the late-1980s, the elderly diesels operating the service were becoming increasingly unreliable, and the WMPTE (now re-branded as Centro) pressed for electrification. The decision to electrify the line was made on 7 February 1990 by the then Transport Minister Cecil Parkinson during the campaign for a by-election in the Mid Staffordshire constituency.
Work started on electrifying the route with the 25 kV AC overhead line system in May 1990, and it was completed on 6 June 1993. Redditch, Alvechurch, and Blake Street stations were rebuilt at this time, and several other stations including Barnt Green were extensively modified to accommodate the new longer electric trains. The signalling was also modernised at the same time as the electrification, as part of a parallel scheme. A new fleet of Class 323 Electric Multiple Units were introduced to work the electrified line, and replace the elderly diesels. Full service with the Class 323s did not begin until 1994, due to initial reliability problems with the new units. Some elderly Class 304, Class 308 and Class 310 EMUs were drafted in to operate services in the interim, along with some of the original diesel units.
The cost of the electrification scheme was estimated at £64.5 million (equivalent to £139,780,000 in 2021), of which around 70% was funded by Centro, and the remainder by the Regional Railways sector of British Rail.
21st century developments
At Selly Oak, a new bridge was constructed in 2011 to carry the canal over a new section of the A38.
The single track between Barnt Green and Redditch restricted the number of trains that could run to Redditch to two per hour. In November 2013 a scheme was approved to construct a new passing loop at Alvechurch to allow the service to be increased to three trains per hour. The line between Barnt Green and Redditch was closed for eight weeks for the works to be carried out, and was reopened on 1 September 2014. The improved service began in December 2014.
Electrification was also extended from Barnt Green to Bromsgrove station, which was rebuilt in 2016 and was added as a second southern terminus once electrification was completed in August 2018. These changes allow three trains per hour to run to both Redditch and Bromsgrove.
Three of the ten new Class 350 trains that London Midland introduced in 2014 have displaced Class 323s on other routes in the West Midlands to enable an increase in service frequency and capacity between Longbridge and Redditch, and the extension of all remaining Longbridge trains to Bromsgrove once electrification is complete. Class 350s are not currently authorised to be used on the Cross City Line.
The current (until December 2022) off-peak weekday and Saturday daytime service on the core section of the line between Four Oaks and Barnt Green comprises four West Midlands Railway trains per hour each way, giving a fifteen-minute frequency of service. Two northbound trains per hour continue from Four Oaks to Lichfield Trent Valley. Two southbound trains per hour continue from Barnt Green to Redditch, and the other two southbound trains per hour continue to Bromsgrove.
The service consists of:
- 1tph from Lichfield Trent Valley to Bromsgrove
- 1tph from Lichfield Trent Valley to Redditch
- 1tph from Four Oaks to Bromsgrove
- 1tph from Four Oaks to Redditch
Between Birmingham New Street and Barnt Green, the Cross-City Line is contiguous with the Cross Country Route. Some longer distance services stop at University, including CrossCountry trains to Cardiff and West Midland Railway trains to Hereford.
In October 2018, as part of a 30-year strategy of Transport in the West Midlands several proposals were put forward. By 2034, there would be longer trains, electrification of the line from Lichfield Trent Valley to Burton-on-Trent allowing 2 services per hour to be extended to Burton-on-Trent via a newly reopened Alrewas. Beyond 2034, it was proposed that new semi-fast service could serve more larger stations.
There is also a single tracked mothballed line to the former Angelsea Sidings which was in use until 2001. The line remains in situ but rusty beyond repair. There is a possibility that the line which connected to Walsall from Lichfield via Brownhills and Pelsall could reopen as Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street promised to look and make the reopening of the line feasible. West Midlands Combined Authority also released a plan for the line as part of a 10-year transport plan called the 2026 Delivery for Transport.
In 2016-17, the Cross-City Line's 24 stations (excluding New Street) had combined passenger numbers of 22.59 million, a substantial increase on the 2015 figure of 19.95 million and the 2006 figure of 8.5 million. The busiest station on the route besides Birmingham New Street is University, with nearly three million passenger entries and exits, and the least busy station is Alvechurch with around 145,000 passenger entries and exits.
|Lichfield Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street|
|Lichfield Trent Valley||0.187||0.222||0.231||0.248||0.704||0.743||0.821||0.899||0.912||0.969||0.982||1.064||1.101||1.093||1.094||1.104||0.179 million|
|Lichfield City||0.579||0.590||0.608||0.636||0.561||0.624||0.607||0.621||0.638||0.643||0.685||0.680||0.712||0.798||0.862||0.828||0.197 million|
|Blake Street||0.168||0.172||0.176||0.184||0.339||0.332||0.326||0.313||0.307||0.338||0.344||0.378||0.380||0.382||0.435||0.427||0.066 million|
|Butlers Lane||0.092||0.093||0.096||0.103||0.197||0.193||0.186||0.189||0.186||0.202||0.206||0.222||0.230||0.232||0.254||0.246||0.042 million|
|Four Oaks||0.225||0.235||0.251||0.277||0.538||0.541||0.548||0.581||0.585||0.623||0.640||0.701||0.750||0.750||0.823||0.805||0.121 million|
|Sutton Coldfield||0.512||0.542||0.578||0.634||1.183||1.185||1.185||1.377||1.368||1.429||1.475||1.573||1.609||1.624||1.776||1.720||0.313 million|
|Wylde Green||0.199||0.212||0.224||0.435||0.435||0.441||0.439||0.488||0.493||0.522||0.537||0.586||0.606||0.619||0.678||0.668||0.113 million|
|Chester Road||0.245||0.251||0.267||0.296||0.537||0.564||0.598||0.748||0.763||0.799||0.816||0.882||0.909||0.925||1.048||1.050||0.152 million|
|Gravelly Hill||0.166||0.183||0.200||0.231||0.404||0.403||0.402||0.636||0.631||0.684||0.684||0.736||0.769||0.772||0.908||0.912||0.138 million|
|Birmingham New Street||16.244||17.303||14.525||17.007||25.192||25.268||24.687||31.213||32.090||34.748||35.313||39.077||42.367||44.380||47.928||46.511||7.351 million|
|Birmingham New Street to Redditch and Bromsgrove|
|Five Ways||0.450||0.480||0.514||0.564||0.990||1.043||1.050||1.345||1.350||1.447||1.453||1.586||1.661||1.776||2.301||2.497||0.564 million|
|University (Birmingham)||0.968||1.061||1.191||1.251||1.978||2.063||2.158||2.595||2.636||2.845||2.977||3.206||3.384||3.475||3.970||3.975||0.731 million|
|Selly Oak||0.800||0.897||1.024||1.113||1.578||1.598||1.569||2.270||2.278||2.407||2.433||2.671||2.805||2.848||3.296||3.274||0.631 million|
|Kings Norton||0.366||0.407||0.447||0.481||0.812||0.785||0.793||1.102||1.092||1.142||1.146||1.237||1.290||1.317||1.509||1.512||0.231 million|
|Barnt Green||0.128||0.154||0.160||0.171||0.217||0.221||0.231||0.256||0.249||0.260||0.251||0.270||0.285||0.303||0.305||0.315||0.072 million|
|The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail and Road estimates of station usage. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve-month periods that start in April. Methodology may vary year on year. Usage from the periods 2019-20 and especially 2020-21 onwards have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic|
- Lichfield, Trent Valley – on the outskirts of Lichfield, with connections to London Northwestern services along the Trent Valley line between London Euston and Crewe
- Lichfield City railway station – in central Lichfield
- Shenstone railway station in Shenstone, Staffordshire
- Blake Street railway station in Hill Hook, Sutton Coldfield
- Butlers Lane railway station in northern Four Oaks
- Four Oaks railway station in Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield
- Sutton Coldfield railway station in Sutton Coldfield
- Wylde Green railway station serving Wylde Green and Boldmere
- Chester Road railway station serving Pype Hayes and northern Erdington
- Erdington railway station in Erdington
- Gravelly Hill railway station in Gravelly Hill
- Aston railway station in Aston – the Walsall Line diverges here
- Duddeston railway station in Duddeston
- Birmingham New Street railway station in Birmingham City Centre
- Five Ways railway station in Five Ways, Birmingham
- University railway station serving the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital
- Selly Oak railway station in Selly Oak
- Bournville railway station in Bournville
- Kings Norton railway station in Kings Norton and Cotteridge
- Northfield railway station in Northfield, Birmingham
- Longbridge railway station in Longbridge
- Barnt Green railway station in Barnt Green – branches off the main line to Cheltenham here.
- Alvechurch railway station in Alvechurch
- Redditch railway station in Redditch
- Bromsgrove railway station in Bromsgrove
A large stretch of the northern part of the line closely follows the A5127 road.
- In 1990, Railscene produced a driver's eye view of the then-diesel line, featuring the elderly rolling stock still in operation. Many features of the line have since been changed, for example, the rebuilding of Alvechurch and Redditch stations, the abolition of Lichfield City's goods sidings and closure of the Brownhills Line and the removal of the fourth platform of Lichfield Trent Valley.
- There was a highly publicised opening ceremony to celebrate the electrification and service enhancement at Redditch in 1993.
- In 1995, Video 125 released a video of a driver's eye view of the recently electrified line, narrated by Kay Alexander. On the video near Lichfield an elderly Class 310 unit is used on the opposite direction service – this was due to not all 323 units being in traffic in time for the new services starting.
- There is a reproduction of the Cross City Line available on Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS)
- There is a highly detailed reproduction of the part between Redditch and Birmingham New Street for the free train simulators BVE and OpenBVE.
- Boynton 1993.
- Webster, Norman W. (1972). Britain's First Trunk Line – the Grand Junction Railway. Bath: Adams & Dart. ISBN 0-239-00105-2.
- Jowett, Alan (1993). Jowett's Atlas of Railway Centres: of Great Britain showing their development from the earliest times up to and including the 1990s - Volume 1 (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 133–148. ISBN 1-8526-0420-4. OCLC 30919645.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 65–67.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 14–17.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 18–20.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 21–25.
- Boynton 1993, p. 59.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 86–88.
- UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
- "Five Ways Station". Warwickshire Railways. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "The Cross City Rail Line". Redditch MRC. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 89–90.
- "The South Staffordshire Line". southstaffsrail.co.uk. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Boynton 1993, pp. 92–104.
- "Major transport infrastructure schemes given green light". Planning Resource. Retrieved 22 November 2013.(subscription required)
- "Investing in the Midlands, December 2011". Rail Professional Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Osborne, Connie (1 September 2014). "Commuters back on track with railway opening". Bromsgrove Standard. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
- "London Midland reveals new timetable and additional seating across network". birminghammail.co.uk. Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- First Cross City line trains arrive at Bromsgrove Collis, Emily Bromsgrove Advertiser news article 30 July 2018; Retrieved 3 August 2018
- "£1.2 billion boost for English rail and metro services". Railnews. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- "Bromsgrove Corridor Resignalling". Rail Engineer. 17 January 2017. Archived from the original on 29 August 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
- "Order for New "Desiro" Trains Signed by Transpennine Express". rail.co.uk. 2 March 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- "May 2022 Train Times" (PDF). Westmidlandsrailway.co.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
- "Reinstatement of Camp Hill Rail Services Moves A Step Closer". Birmingham City Council. 13 July 2007. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- "Class 730 Fleet". West Midlands Railway. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
- "A New Era for West Midlands Rail Travel, A 30-year Rail Investment Strategy 2018-2047" (PDF). West Midlands Rail Executive. p. 30. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2018. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
- "MOVEMENT FOR GROWTH: 2026 Delivery Plan for Transport Annex 1 - Corridors" (PDF). tfwm.org.uk. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
- "Estimates of station usage". Rail statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Please note: Some methodology may vary year on year.
- "Cops on track to celebrate". Birmingham Mail. 8 February 2008. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- "Birmingham Cross-City South for openBVE". Rail Sim Routes. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2009.