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Villages caught in wake of rail upgrade

Posted on January 31 2016 at 11:45:41

Frustration is mounting as villagers try to keep track of the problems being left across the area by Network Rail.

Top of the list of grievances is the state of Alvechurch railway station and its surroundings since the work to upgrade the line and facilities was “completed” more than a year ago.

Parish councillors fear Network Rail may now never drain, resurface and mark out the car park, which was promised as part of the planning approval for the project.

The “great lake” currently filling the car park means many people are forced to park on surrounding streets, causing problems for residents.

At the same time, the concrete blocks and temporary fencing lining the sides of the road by railway are creating a hazard as well as being unsightly.

There are also fears over the safety of the footbridge during frosty weather, with the parish council being told of at least one person having to stay off work after a fall.

Parish chairman Andy Humphries has complained that Network Rail had “paid Alvechurch the ultimate disrespect by not even writing to us directly to say they will now not improve the station car park”.

This was after the parish council discovered the car park work was now deemed “unaffordable” when it was copied into an email to Bromsgrove planning department.

In this a Network Rail manager revealed: “The estimate for this work exceeds £500k and is unaffordable and there is also the possibility, if the car park is brought to a really good standard, that London Midland or successor will introduce a daily charge for parking.

“Hence a lower-budget solution to the flooding is now being sought.”

Meanwhile, the temporary closure of the level crossing behind Cofton Hall, which is used by walkers on a popular footpath route, is to remain in place for the rest of 2016 and Network Rail has also now prompted the closure of the “yellow brick road” crossing in Blackwell for “safety reasons”.

Villagers fear the cost of replacement footbridges at an estimated £1 million each mean the crossings will never reopen, especially as it has been revealed that Network Rail is aiming to close 200 level crossings over the next five years.

In Barnt Green, district councillor Charlie Hotham has been given a reassurance that the lifts between platforms at the station will be installed “within a year” – but he is concerned that, again, concrete blocks have been left at the side of the road near the upgraded bridge on Hewell Lane.

Richard Dugdale of Network Rail told The Village: “The Redditch Branch Enhancement project brought about, from December 2014, a considerable improvement in the frequency of trains to Alvechurch and Barnt Green, and in the reliability of the service.

“This is expected to be replicated in 2017 when the Bromsgrove electrification comes on-stream.

“We know that there are some remaining features of the works such as the concrete blocks to prevent vehicle incursion onto the railway, and these will remain in place until a safe permanent solution is installed.”

“I and colleagues have presented and discussed project issues with the relevant parish councils, and will continue to,” added Mr Dugdale.

“Anyone at any time can make observations or enquiries, 24 hours a day, on 03457 11 41 41, or ‘contact us’ at networkrail.co.uk.”

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