SPECIAL guests, a brass band and commuters braved the rain in Bromsgrove this morning when they attended the official opening of the town’s brand new £24million railway station.
Bromsgrove Town Crier Kevin Ward bellowed the introductions and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid, who is also the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, unveiled a special plaque to mark the occasion.
Before the big moment, which was preceded by a countdown, Blackwell Concert Band belted out classic songs, including Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys and Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. And there was also tea, coffee, cake and specially designed rail sign cupcakes for those gathered.
Mr Javid said even before he was elected in 2010, the railway station was the main issue that most Bromsgrove people asked him about.
And, during his speech, he praised everyone involved in getting the new railway station built from Bromsgrove Rail User Group (BRUG), other campaigners, contractors, London Midland, Network Rail, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Group, the West Midlands Combined Authority and Bromsgrove and Worcestershire Councils.
“The £24million investment in the station has made it more accessible with better facilities, opening further windows of opportunity.
“Not only will residents benefit from this improved service, it’s also great news for our local economy which can continue to fuel the Midlands Engine,” he said.
There were also speeches by Mike Ponsonby, the chairman of BRUG, Coun Ken Pollock, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Skills and Infrastructure, Coun Richard Worrall, Chair of the WMCA’s Transport Delivery Committee and Richard Dugdale, Network Rail’s Senior Sponsor.
Mr Ponsonby gave a brief history of Bromsgrove Railway Station and praised several people for making the project happen.
Among them were Ron Swift who successfully campaigned to keep the original station open in 1971 when there were controversial plans to close it. Mr Swift single-handedly lobbied the then Minister of Transport Barbara Castle, proving ‘hardship’ for Bromsgrove residents if the station closed.
“Without his efforts back in 1971, we would have no station at all,” said Mr Ponsonby.
He also paid tribute to the late Coun Gordon Selway. Mr Selway organised a public meeting in the nearby Ladybird Inn in 2006 about the potential of Bromsgrove getting a new railway station and it was from there that he conceived the Bromsgrove Rail User Group to campaign for it and on other rail issues.
And Mr Ponsonby thanked Tony Woodward from BRUG who, he said, had been enormously supportive and helpful throughout the ten years of campaigning.
“Bromsgrove residents have enormous opportunity, thanks to this station,” he added.
Mr Dugdale said after a low ebb in passengers in the 1970s, the old Bromsgrove station was reduced to one platform and then, when the tide turned in the mid 1990s, a second platform was added, along with a footbridge to access it.
Now, he added, Bromsgrove has more passengers than ever before and the new station can accommodate up to 800,000 passengers-a-year. There is also better links between people’s homes and the station with better bus links, thanks to Igo and Diamond, better facilities for cyclists and more than 350 parking spaces.
Mr Dugdale added those was just the start and once the line was electrified, from the end of next year there would be more services per hour between Bromsgrove and Birmingham. That would culminate in the full service in May 2018 of four services an hour between the town and the Second City.
Mr Ponsonby complemented these sentiments with his speech when he mentioned Birmingham New Street was the central hub for the UK rail network and from there you could get to every single point on the railway compass.
But Mr Dugdale said there was more work to be done which would unfortunately cause some temporary disruption.
There will be a complete 12-day closure from October 26 to November 6 where there will be no trains going through Bromsgrove at all. That is so tracks can be realigned and digital signals can be installed – both of which require a total railway shutdown.
In his speech, Coun Pollock spoke about the economic benefits, adding the old station was ‘inadequate’ and not fit for ‘purpose’.
He said there were several reasons for building the new one – for longer platforms, so longer trains could stop there, to improve accessibility
Coun Worrell said: “The new Bromsgrove railway station is already proving to be a superb facility which brings real benefits for people in the town. As well as providing so much more for passengers, such as a staffed ticket office and vastly improved cycling and car parking facilities, it will enable increased frequency of trains and better access to rail services across the region and beyond.”
The station opened to commuters on July 12. It was a joint project, undertaken by Worcestershire County Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority (previously known as Centro), and delivered by Network Rail.
Unlike the old station, it has a manned ticket office, automated ticket machines, passenger waiting room, travel and ticket information, a toilet and new car parking areas, featuring 350 standard bays, disabled parking, electric vehicle charging stations and car share bays.
There is also a taxi rank, bike lockers and bus stops where the 42 and 43 services link the station with the town centre and Redditch and the 145 (Rubery-Barnt Green-Bromsgrove-Droitwich) and 318 (Bromsgrove-Belbroughton-Stourbridge) also stop there.
The station concourse is fully accessible, with stairs and lifts to platforms.
A BRIEF history of Bromsgrove Railway Station:
1838 – Gloucester to Birmingham Railway Act is passed meaning a station will be built in Bromsgrove. Traders reject it for the town centre, forcing those to build it to look further afield. Aston Fields is chosen, despite it being on the steepest incline in the UK.
1840 – Station is completed, prompting Captain William Moresome to begin a search for locomotives to tackle the Lickey Incline. This takes him to Philadelphia to get the trains which are transported over to the UK to work the Incline. No mean feat in the 1800s.
1971 – Station is in danger of closing. Campaigner Ron Swift takes the fight to Parliament and after lobbying the then Transport Minister, the decision is made to keep it.
1970s -Passenger numbers drop to a low ebb, prompting a reduction to one platform.
Mid 1990s – Passenger numbers begin to rise dramatically, a second platform was added, along with a footbridge to access it.
2006 – New station is mooted following a public meeting at the Ladybird Inn. Coun Gordon Selway conceives the idea of the Bromsgrove Rail User Group Ten years of lobbying and campaigning begins.
2007 – Network Rail announces a new station will be built – on a brownfield site, down from the then current station. One of the many reasons is the platform sizes which do not allow longer trains to stop, leading to a lot of overcrowding.
2014 – Work begins on building Bromsgrove Station. Initial cost estimated at £17.4million but land contamination and other building issues lead to the cost spiralling to £24million.
July 11, 2016 – The last trains call at the old Bromsgrove Station on the eve of the opening of the new one.
July 12, 2016 – The new station, the first to be built in 176 years, opens to the public with the first trains arriving early morning.
September 2 – The official opening of Bromsgrove’s new station.