Midland - Lichfield review 1
14/3/09 Birmingham New Street to Lichfield Trent Valley
Traction used: Class 332 EMU 3 car unit
Dept Birmingham NS: 09.35
Arrive Lichfield TV: 10.15
The train has come from Redditch as part of the Cross-City service and waits just a couple of minutes before leaving dead on time. We go straight into the eastern tunnel and then emerge onto a viaduct with views all over eastern Birmingham. On the left you can see mainly office blocks, whilst on the right are thousands of terraced houses and Birmingham City's St Andrews football ground on the hill. Surprisingly there are very few office blocks to be seen. The mainline to Coventry goes off on the right, whilst we veer to the left in a northerly direction and pass the Aston signalling centre and then come into Duddeston station, which was originally a two island four platform station, though only two platforms are used now. There are some sidings on the left and what looks like the old steam shed still standing. We don't stop here but speed up as soon as we are clear of the platforms. There are four tracks here, but two of them are screened off, as workmen are busy repairing the wall by the track. A freight line joins us from the right. We then stop at Aston station, the station for Aston Villa FC as the station signs say. It's been modernised in recent years and has a brick shelter and main entrance on the down platform and a perspex shelter on the right. As soon as we leave, the line to Walsall goes off to the left. We then go under the A38M Aston Expressway, seeing Aston Villa's ground on the left. We then veer to the right and go under the M6 and the whole Spaghetti Junction complex. It's all flyovers above us, and a canal under us, before we go through a cutting and onto an embankment, with semi-detached and terraced houses on both sides. We pass through another cutting before we stop at Gravelly Hill, which is also in the cutting. It has half a shelter on the left platform, looking like a traditional bus stop and the original red brick booking hall on the right, which is all shut up. We then continue in a cutting and come out onto an embankment with terraced houses below us on both sides. We then come into Erdington station, which has also been rebuilt, with a perspex shelter on the left platform and a red brick ticket office on the right. We move out into a cutting and pass a train coming in the other direction. We pass some tower blocks on the right and don't go very far before we come into Chester Road station. It's also been rebuilt, but has two canopies over each platform as well as the usual red brick ticket office building on the up platform. There's still terraced houses on both sides of the track, here and then a playing field breaks the monotony, followed by allotments on both sides. Next we come into Wylde Green station, which again has canopies over both platforms and no shelters. The housing now changes to detached houses on both sides of the track and then we enter another cutting and speed up to about 50 mph.
I notice that I am now the only person in the carriage, as various people have got off at the previous stations. We are on an embankment again as we come into Sutton Coldfield station. It's the grandest on the whole line, with wider platforms and the original red brick station buildings on both platforms, plus a covered walkway. Straight away we go into a tunnel as the Birmingham avoiding line goes over us. We emerge into a cutting and then go onto an embankment, passing recently built houses on the left and a park on the right, all the while curving sharply to the left. We now pass more detached houses on both sides and then come to a stop at Four Oaks. It has three platforms, two of them on an island, with a white panelled station building in the middle. I notice a large church on the left just across the station forecourt. Another train passes us as we go into a cutting. We speed up to about 50 mph again, before slowing for Butler's Lane station. It has been rebuilt with the usual perspex shelter on the left and a red brick ticket hall building on the right. No one gets on or off. As we leave we pass a school on the left and a mixture of detached and semi-detached houses on the right. After passing through another cutting we stop at Blake Street. This time there is a red brick shelter on the left and a perspex shelter on the right. Again no one gets on or off. The station is on an embankment with houses on either side. Soon we are actually out in the countryside for the first time on our journey.
On the right we pass a golf course, whilst on the left are open fields with a view of some hills in the distance. We then go into a low cutting, before emerging into fairly flat country with ploughed fields at first, followed by scrubland. We then come into Shenstone with houses on the right and factories on the left. We don't stop at the station, which has its original red brick building on the up platform. We then come out into countryside again, passing over the M6 Toll motorway, which looks quiet as usual, followed by the A5, which looks busier. There are some isolated modern office buildings on the right, presumably built because hey were near the motorway. We go along an embankment, through a cutting and onto another embankment. We get a glimpse of the towers of Lichfield cathedral ahead of us and then we are joined by a single track on the left from the Brownhills BP depot. Houses start appearing on both sides once more as we come into Lichfield. We soon stop at Lichfield City station, which is a two-platform island station, and the terminus for most of the trains on this line. It has the white cladded station building in the centre and on the left is the old goods shed, now an HSS Hire Shop. There are remains of some sidings on the right, though new buildings are starting to cover these. On the left you get a good view of the cathedral. We pass a mixture of office blocks and modern housing before entering a cutting and emerging on an embankment. We pass lots of industrial units on both sides, going uphill and then seeing the West Coast mainline the right. We then stop at Platform 3 of Lichfield Trent Valley station. Lichfield Trent Valley is an unusual station in that primarily it is a mainline station on the West Coast Mainline with four tracks running through it. But it also has a third platform on the bridge over the mainline track. There was once a fourth platform on the other side, but it looks pretty derelict now. Although this line from Birmingham terminates here, the line does continue onto Burton-on-Trent. There's also a curve, which comes off the WCML from the north and joins the line just north of platform 3. Unlike Rugeley Trent Valley where I was stuck at for well over an hour back in January, it does have a station building containing a ticket office and small waiting area, plus toilets, though you have to get the key from the ticket office.
Summary: Although the service I got didn't have many passengers, I suspect that during the week it is busier, and running through the heart of Britain's second city is well used. Perhaps the powers that be could look at the possibility of running trains beyond Lichfield and onto Burton. MC