In May 1978 the Cross City Line opened with various new stations to form a through route between Lichfield in the North and Redditch and Longbridge in the South. I was one of the first to travel to both ends of the line.
In the Mid 1980’s I purchased a weeks rover ticket called the Midland Railtourer which is similar to the London Midland “Heart of England” Rover of today and visited many places including Matlock where you see I’ve taken this picture of sprinter 150 001. (This is significant).
When Snow Hill re-opened Southwards in 1987 I was one of the first passengers to leave Snow Hill as well as to arrive back by train. I did that by the grace of the timetable in getting out at the newly re-opened Moor Street, sprinting over the footbridge and getting on the first one into Snow Hill. BBC Radio WM’s own Ed Doolan was broadcasting his breakfast show from Snow Hill and we were given Bucks Fizz to celebrate.
I with many hundreds of others as part of a charity walk, walked from Birmingham Moor Street station through the Snow Hill Tunnels to Handsworth Station prior to the tracks being laid which would see the through route again to Smethwick West station and on towards Stourbridge.
When the work was completed the services commenced again In September 1995 and formed a new cross city route between Leamington and Dorridge to Stourbridge and Worcester. Most Worcester services were then scheduled to depart from Snow Hill to ease the congestion at New Street and a new interchange was made at Smethwick Galton Bridge. Later of course the Midland Metro route was created from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton only deviating at Priestfield from the former GWR route. Again I managed to be both on the first train out of Snow Hill northwards but also on the first Metro Tram out.
A quarter of a century later, after having been a passenger on sprinter 150 001 which replaced the aged DMU slam door units, have had the honour of being an invited guest of London Midland to ride their brand new 172 unit which will replace the class 150 trains on the Snow Hills lines between Worcester and Leamington Spa.
Tuesday 2nd August saw the inaugural launch of the Class 172 and this was a circular journey starting at Stourbridge Junction (the farthest point of the original South Staff Railway line (www.southstaffsrail.co.uk ) via Birmingham Snow Hill to Leamington Spa and Stratford. The train called at Birmingham Snow Hill, Tyseley, Solihull and Leamington and returning via the same stations.
The first thing that hits you when you get on the train is the air-conditioning which was most welcome on what was the warmest day of the year. Then as you look around the interior, wide spacious doors which I’m sure will allow quick entrance and exit from the train. The toilet area is also much larger so wheel chair users will not have to struggle.
London Midland have obviously been listening to the passengers as the seating has changed and the three by three seating arrangement has gone and been replaced by the two plus two arrangement. Litter bins are more in your face as you walk through the train and having observed how many people just drop litter on the floor maybe this will give them encouragement to use them.
And for those who know me and technology you wont be surprised to learn they have the latest technical equipment not only for our safety but for information as well. With a forward facing camera on the outside of the train which to me is a long time coming so that any incidents can be picked up for future viewing by British Transport Police and other parties.
The ride was smooth and comfortable and when an announcement was made between Dorridge and Leamington that we had reached and were cruising at 100mph I was amazed. It didn’t feel like we were going that fast and for a commuter train at that speed the external noise was not at all intrusive.
Overall I’m impressed by this new vehicle and as it was so shiny and new I didn’t feel that I should put my empty bottle of water kindly given out by London Midland in the litter bin but retained it till I got off the train.
I believe the London Midland £93 million investment is worthwhile and that passengers will love and hopefully respect these new trains. I for one can’t wait for them to be in service, and who knows maybe I will be on the first revenue earning passenger service when they are launched next month.
Thank you London Midland, now lets hope Network Rail don’t have problems which delay them on the tracks