ATTENDEES T Thompson (Chair) J Adams, A Hutchinson, D Dundas, D Bathurst, R Hartley, M Frayn, P Martin, G Lusher, J Arnstein, R Henshaw, D James, G Stringer, I Jackson, O O’Neill, J Woodcock, D Jones, total 17. Apologies from P King, R Patching
MINUTES Nov 2021 meeting had been circulated together with comments from members re Connectivity.
CHAIRMAN – i) welcomed recent reports in Lichfield Live and BBC Midlands Today of MP’s meeting at NMA with Chief Execs of NMA and WMRE and recently appointed Minister for Rail (MP for Aldridge and Brownhills), to promote Lichfield to Burton re-opening. He has thanked MP for his continuing support and invited him to attend our meetings; MP has suggested this could happen later this year.
- ii) had addressed a Rail Group in Derby on 4th January and had attended by Zoom a Railfuture Committee meeting in November
iii) reported that Peter Cousins had asked that our group should respond to a consultation – Whole Rail Industry Strategic Plan initiated by Great British Railways Transition Team. West Midlands Railfuture had already replied and we should reply specifically for Lichfield (JA.TT)
LICHFIELD TO WALSALL – Richard Henshaw’s report attached below
LICHFIELD TO BURTON – the meeting welcomed the ongoing support of the MP. Noted that WMRE are concerned that the cost of a new platform at LTV might delay the project. Group wish to see the service started asap and that a new platform, a new station at Alrewas and electrification need not happen at the outset; these aspirations can evolve once a simple shuttle has been introduced to demonstrate the potential of the project.
TREASURER – Bank balance at year end £1342.92. Recommended that subscriptions for 2022, due now should be retained at £5, ideally paid by Bank transfer. Bank Details advised to members in e-mail accompanying these minutes. Subscriptions for 2023 to be approved at AGM.
FUTURE SPEAKERS – Chairman is still trying to get a representative of Staffs County Council, either or both of Alan White Leader of the Council and Lichfield resident, and David Williams Cabinet Officer for Transport
STATIONS – Shenstone Adoption Group – Jane Arnstein reported the success of the Xmas concert and the commissioning of a mural. Over 100 kilos of daffodil bulbs have been planted. Station garden has been offered as a location for Shenstone Festival in July
TIMETABLE CONSULTATIONS we understand that the timetable plans for Dec 2022 have been cancelled/put on hold.
NEXT MEETINGS 21st February. AGM 21st March. Secretary will not be available for these meetings nor the April meeting and wishes to stand down. Successor needed. Please volunteer soonest!!!
MEETING WITH Richard Henshaw (LRPG member) Doug Pullen (Leader Lichfield District Council (LDC) and Iain Eadie (Deputy Leader LDC, January 2022)
LDC has requested Feasibility Report from Sustrans on their proposals for Brownhills -Lichfield Greenway (path and cycleway) now due in April 2022. They accept that Network Rail own the line, but there is doubt on status of M6 Toll bridge at Hammerwich !
RWH stated that he is an elector in Leomansley Ward and a member of LRPG, and stressed that one of our main aims is re-instatement of Walsall to Lichfield heavy rail services in medium to long term and do not want proposed path and cycleway to prejudice this. He stressed that the line is a strategic asset for the District and beyond, with two major bridges built in last 20 years at considerable expense. LRPG would be delighted if the track-bed were used to public benefit as a path and cycleway in the meantime and thought it practical to have a fenced -off foot path and cycleway parallel to a restored railway line in the future.
Cllrs. Pullen & Eadie appeared to accept this and the objective of less-polluting rail transport to achieve carbon – neutrality in the district. Cllr. Pullen gave me a copy of the District Council’s memorandum to Sustrans (but with costings sheet removed) and said that I was free to circulate it amongst our group (currently with our Chairman)
LDC proposes Network Rail leasing the line to a voluntary group for a limited period (?20 years) at peppercorn rent for them to upgrade the track bed to a sealed footpath and cycleway. LDC are not prepared to fund the work but will support bids for grant-funding.
I wasn’t quick enough to ask if they had Network Rail agreement to this plan!
We then discussed our more immediate objective of re-opening the Lichfield- Burton line, especially with congestion on the A38 becoming much worse with HS2 tunnelling under the road at Streethay. Cllrs. Pullen & Eadie said that LDC was in full support of thIs with a new station at Alrewas to serve NMA, and it was an integral part of the new District Plan.
They had not known that the DfT had turned down WMR’s submission for funding a feasibility study.
Cllr. Pullen’s office will notify LRPG when Sustrans’ Feasibility Report is received (? April) and consult with us on policy and developments, I offered to be point of contact and will pursue
Overall Impression – Cllrs. Eadie & Pullen appeared eager to support us with our aims but unaware of the nuts and bolts of 21st Century railway operation, and unwilling to fund the Brownhills to Lichfield Greenway, despite the increasing tax base from all the new housebuilding in the district! We should extend our campaigning and emphasise the social and economic benefits of restored railways.
Recommendation – We need to contact Network Rail who own the line and may be unaware of LDC’s and Sustrans’ plans. We should also arrange a meeting with Cllrs.David Williams (Transport Lead) and Alan White (Leader) of Staffs.CC to push our plans for re-opening both Lichfield to Burton and Lichfield to Walsall lines, especially now that the climate crisis is such an overwhelming issue for us all. I would be happy to be involved in this.