Published: 8th September 2014
The branch line from Barnt Green to Redditch, which is just less than five miles in length, reopened on 1st September after a closure of eight weeks in which important upgrade work was undertaken.
Prior to this work the branch had a 30 minute interval service but from the December 2014 timetable change one of 20 minutes will be introduced.
To achieve this aim a new passing loop of just over two miles has been constructed from a point just north of Alvechurch station through to the outskirts of Redditch. Additionally, the station facilities at Alvechurch have been significantly upgraded.
A new platform has been provided in conjunction with the new loop line which will be used by northbound trains. Additionally a footbridge has been provided for cross platform interchange as well as providing a revised route for the public footpath which originally crossed the line at the south end of the station. Lifts have also been provided so that the station is now offers step-free access to passengers.
The Redditch branch was once a through route from Barnt Green to Evesham and Ashchurch, with the section south of Alcester being closed in 1962 due to the poor state of the track. Freight services between Redditch and Alcester continued until 1964 when closure south of Redditch was completed. Later, only a concerted local campaign prevented the remainder of the line succumbing to the Beeching axe.
However, the resulting service level was meagre with just four return workings each day. It was only when the branch was incorporated into Birmingham’s Cross City Line and the expansion of Redditch, which had been designated as a ‘new town’ status, that it began to flourish and achieve a service level probably beyond the wildest dreams of those who fought to save the branch back in the 1960s.
Upgrading the Redditch branch is just one component within a £100m investment plan to improve train services in North Worcestershire. The next significant development will be the opening of a new station at Bromsgrove which is currently under construction just to the south of the existing station.
It will consist of two island platforms serving both the main line and new loop lines; the latter will be used by a new extension to the Birmingham Cross City Line from Barnt Green, which will be facilitated electrifying the line from Barnt Green to Bromsgrove, which also involves wiring the Lickey Incline. The new station is due to open in mid-2015, with electrification scheduled for completion in 2016.