The annual invasion of Buddleja Davidii

TRAVELLING into Birmingham New Street last month, I was shocked at the abundance of vegetation alongside the track around Grand Junction.

Particularly prevalent was buddleia (Buddleja Davidii), an invasive plant which spreads easily if left unchecked.

On the approach to New Street – and as far back as Washwood Heath – were hundreds of yards of dense growth, including a ‘mini forest’ in the area where the lines to Aston diverge.

Buddleia in abundance at the end of Solihull station platforms as Class 68 No. 68015 heads towards Birmingham Moor Street with a Chiltern Mainline service from London Marylebone on July 18. FRASER PITHIE

As well as growth from the ground, the buddleia is embedded in brickwork, which causes far greater damage to the infrastructure.

The vegetation appears to expand unmanaged year after year all over the network, turning to seed, and is spread further by the wind, often lodging in cracks in brickwork mortar. This presents a very poor view of Network Rail’s housekeeping of the railway to passengers.
There have even been reports in Network Rail logs of vegetation obscuring signals, which begs the question: Why are the problems of vegetation not being dealt with at an earlier stage?

Diesel fumes still pervade at New Street

AROUND £700million has been spent upgrading and facelifting the street level and shopping areas at Birmingham New Street, and yet as a rail passenger, it is still frustrating to find obnoxious diesel fumes wafting their way onto the concourse.

Catching a train home after a recent meeting, at the top of the stairs for platforms 10/11, I was met with pungent fumes rising up the staircase from the two DMUs ticking over in the platforms.

This is simply not acceptable.

Why are ventilation ducts not dealing with the fumes more efficiently? Surely diesel units should have their engine management systems upgraded to reduce idling in stations?

While the upper levels and exterior are a worthy transformation, the platform level facilities have not really improved at all. It’s still dark and gloomy with no natural daylight filtering down to track level – a real opportunity has been missed to make lighting improvements.

The directional signage at concourse level can be a bit hit and miss, with no clear indication which end is the A or B platform, or where the trams leave from.

At gate lines, people mill around searching bags and pockets for tickets, hampering other passengers with short connection times.

Birmingham is just four years away from hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors who will attend the Commonwealth Games.

There is plenty of time for these outstanding niggles to be ironed out and resolved for the benefit all passengers. It’s not a big ask.

Have your say on the next CrossCountry franchise

THE CrossCountry franchise covers an extensive area and carries around 40 million passengers annually.

Connecting many of the country’s large cities – which also happen to be university towns and cities with a large transient student population – a shortcoming of the franchise is its lack of passenger capacity, leading to overcrowding at peak times.

In 2002 a Class 47 hauling seven or eight coaches gave way to four- and five-car ‘Voyager’ units on a more frequent timetable.

However, the relentless growth in passengers numbers – 28% since 2010/11 – has meant the franchisee has struggled to match capacity to demand.

A consultation is currently taking place (ends on August 30 – see https://tinyurl.com/ycyn9xmg), where key questions arre asked which will shape the Invitation to Tender for franchise bidders.

In this issue, Fraser Pithie reviews the franchise, the good and not so good aspects, together with some suggestions for the future.

You can add your views to the consultation, but let us know your thoughts, too. A selection of your letters will be published in the September or October issue.
CHRIS MILNER, Editor

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