THE LONG-AWAITED opening of the new Bromsgrove Station took place this morning and The Standard was there to capture the moment the first train, the 6.21am to Birmingham New Street, pulled in – on time.
The platform was bustling with commuters, representatives from different organisations involved in the project, interested onlookers and rail enthusiasts.
The first train to arrive at the new station was the 06.21am (1M03) to New Street from Great Malvern.
The first to arrive from New Street was the 07.21am (1V20) to Hereford. London Midland services worked by a three-car unit numbers 170501 and 153375.
The last ever service to stop at the old station was the 23.20 (1V30) to Worcester Shrub Hill from New Street.
A blast on the horn was sounded as it departed from platform two.
A London Midland service worked by a three-car unit (two plus one formation) numbers 170511 and 153365. A handful of rail enthusiasts were present.
The ticket machine had been removed before this service arrived and work to seal-off access to the (now) former station began in earnest following its departure.
A worker said that the footbridge was being removed next weekend in conjunction with track alignment works, and that the (now) old car park is currently closed for two months as it is being used as a compound whilst finishing touches are put to the New Road entrance.
Neil Gordon and other fellow rail enthusiasts have spent a fair amount of time travelling from the old station and at the new one.
He said: “On Monday night I travelled on the final service to New Street and returned on the last ever service back to Bromsgrove.
“Tuesday, I caught the first service from the new station before returning on the first from New Street. Several others made Tuesday’s instant return journey, some enjoying a glass of champagne. I appear to be the only person that did both Monday’s and Tuesday’s trips.”
He said there was a final pre-recorded message made which was played on the PA system at the old station on Monday night.
It stated: “Following the departure of the final service from this station, on Monday July 11 this station will close!”
Mike Ponsonby, the chairman of Bromsgrove Rail User Group (BRUG), said: “It truly is an historic day – Bromsgrove finally has a proper station that is fit for the 21st century.”
He added poor rail services to and from the town were the root cause of a lot of the traffic problems and he felt the rail improvements would improve the situation.
“I’m certain it will encourage more people to use the trains – particularly after the electrification.
“What we also think will happen is that people from the west of Redditch will also start to use Bromsgrove Station as it makes sense geographically.”
Bromsgrove has seen a 60 per cent increase in rail passengers in the last ten years and the new station has a capacity of accommodating 800,000 passengers a year.
Kate Elliott lives near the new station and has been using trains from Bromsgrove to Birmingham most days for the last eight years to commute to work.
She said: “The first impressions are good – we have experienced the work and a lot of noise over the last two years, hopefully it has been worth it.
“It will be interesting to see if London Midland start to put on more carriages now we have a longer platform.”
Stuart Nicol uses the train to get to Birmingham everyday but had cycled to the station for the first time in months.
He said hopefully the new station and longer trains would improve the daily commute.
“A lot of people get trains earlier than they need to to make sure they get on – it’s like the Tube sometimes because of the overcrowding.
“At the old station the machines weren’t quick enough and a lot of the time people would queue, not get a ticket in time and then have to queue up again at Birmingham New Street to get one.”
Sue Hughes, who mostly uses the railway at the weekends, had come down to see the new station.
She said: “I think it’s lovely – it’s such an improvement on the old one.
“Hopefully it will take a lot of traffic off the road and the longer platforms will definitely be better – the other day we could not get on the platform because it was so packed and ended up driving to Northfield to get a train from there.”
She said her only criticism would be that there was not free parking as was available in Birmingham stations, such as Northfield and Selly Oak.
Janet King, from the Bromsgrove Liberal Democrats, said she would be asking if a small memorial could be put in the station to pay tribute to the late district councillor Gordon Selway who was one of the people who campaigned so tirelessly for a new station but never got to see it.
The new £17.4million joint project is being undertaken by Worcestershire County Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority (previously known as Centro), and delivered by Network Rail.
It has a manned ticket office, automated ticket machines, passenger waiting room, travel and ticket information, toilets and new car parking areas, featuring 350 standard bays, disabled parking, electric vehicle charging stations and car share bays.
There will also be a taxi rank, bike lockers and two bus stops where, from July 25, the 42 and 43 services will link the station with the town centre and Redditch and the 145 (Rubery-Barnt Green-Bromsgrove-Droitwich) and 318 (Bromsgrove-Belbroughton-Stourbridge) will also stop there.
The station concourse is fully accessible, with stairs and lifts to platforms.
Coun Anthony Blagg said: “We have waited more than 100 years for a decent station and it has been worth the wait.
“The facilities are 200 times better than the old one.”
Richard Dugdale from Network Rail said: “It’s a culmination of a huge amount of hard work by a number of organisations.
“There’s a lot more hard work to come as well – on the signalling and on the track in October and on the electrification over the course of the next year.
“But the reward will be that Bromsgrove gets four trains an hour to Birmingham.”
There will be a complete 12-day closure from October 26 to November 6 where there will be no trains going through Bromsgrove. That is so tracks can be realigned and digital signals can be installed – both of which require a total railway shutdown.
Francis Thomas from London Midland said he was delighted with the new station.
“It’s what the people of Bromsgrove have wanted and needed for a long time.
“It’s the first stepping stone to growth – not only on the railway but for the town.”
He said the priority now was to get people used to using the new station and he added when all the work had been completed, it would also make travelling easier for people in Bromsgrove and those to the south as there would be better links to more services.
The Standard asked Mr Thomas about putting on trains with more carriages now there was a longer platform but, he told us, that was not immediately possible as there were no extra carriages or longer trains available.
He added the operator had spoken to the Department of Transport but there was a national shortage of diesel train stock.
“The big benefit will come after the electrification when Bromsgrove goes from one train an hour to four trains per hour.”
There are no changes to train timetables or train ticket prices at this time.
Car parking will be £3 per day, £11 for weekly tickets, £40 for monthly tickets or £360 for the year.
Parking at the weekend will be £1.50 per day.
* What are your first impressions of the new Bromsgrove Station? E-mail us your views to firstname.lastname@example.org