South Staffordshire line

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The South Staffordshire line is a partially mothballed and active former mainline that connects Burton-upon-Trent to Lichfield in Staffordshire and formerly then to the West Midlands towns of Walsall, Wednesbury, Dudley and Stourbridge. However, Dudley and Stourbridge were already joined to the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway's (OW&WR) line just north of Dudley Station. It in essence, continued to Stourbridge (Dudley and Stourbridge were later to become part of the West Midlands conurbation) along with Wednesbury and Walsall.

South Staffordshire line
Midland Railway
to Burton-on-Trent │ to Tamworth
Barton and Walton
Alrewas
Lichfield Trent Valley
Junction
Lichfield Trent Valley
West Coast Main Line
Lichfield City
Hammerwich
Anglesea Sidings
Brownhills
Pelsall
Rushall
Walsall
Wednesbury Town
Darlaston
Great Bridge North
Dudley Port Low Level
Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford line
Dudley
Blowers Green
Harts Hill
Round Oak
Brierley Hill
Brettell Lane
Stourbridge Town
Stourbridge Junction
  • Between Walsall and Round Oak
    the track is still in situ, but out of use.
  • Wombourne Branch track is in situ
    but out of use.

History[edit]

The line was opened on 1 May 1850. This was soon to become part of the London and North Western Railway as far as Dudley station, which, in 1860, was opened as a joint venture with the OW&WR itself later to become amalgamated into the Great Western Railway. This station was built ten years after the original connection, however, and trains on the South Staffordshire line ran from Walsall to Stourbridge fairly early on. Dudley provided a useful change point for passengers from Walsall and Stourbridge to Wolverhampton, though this wasn't utilised to quite the effect the OW&WR had hoped, due to the similar connection at Dudley Port by the SSR with the Stour Valley Line – which today forms part of the West Midlands section of the West Coast Main Line.

To the north of Dudley Port, a link to the Birmingham Snow Hill- Wolverhampton Low Level route was added sometime between the inauguration of the line and the opening of Great Bridge South railway station in 1866. All three of the above – Dudley Port, Great Bridge and Wednesbury – were completed in 1850, and the line was then opened accordingly. All other stations on the route – from Lichfield to Walsall – were in operation from 1849.

Route[edit]

The line began in Burton, it then continued to Lichfield Trent Valley running on a small section of the present-day Cross City Line. It then branched off south of Lichfield City towards Walsall via Hammerwich, Brownhills, Pelsall and Rushall. It then continued towards Dudley via Wednesbury, Great Bridge and Dudley Port. Dudley served as the terminus although some services continued onto Stourbridge on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. This allowed passengers to change for the other lines on the route at Lichfield, Walsall, Dudley and Stourbridge. The line also had sidings on certain parts of the route. Including at Angelsea Sidings, a branch to Wednesbury via Darlaston and sidings at Great Bridge and Dudley Freightliner Terminal.

Landmarks[edit]

Just before Stourbridge, the OW&WR crossed (and continues to cross) the massive Stambermill Viaduct which is one of the local area's most significant landmarks.[1] It also crossed Parkhead Viaduct just south of Dudley and for several hundred yards passed through Dudley Railway Tunnel. Another landmark on the route is a restored bridge over the M6 Toll at Brownhills which was built during the opening of the M6 Toll [2]

Places served by the line[edit]

The line officially began at Wychnor Junction, north of Lichfield, and ran through what is now Lichfield Trent Valley. Trains then continued through to Lichfield City itself. From there, a plethora of stations along the route were served. The line continued through to Walsall and a low-level station at Dudley Port. This was technically the terminus of the line but it was connected to the OW&WR's line which ran through Dudley itself from 1860. It went on to serve other stations at the south-western extremity of the Black Country at Stourbridge Junction.

The towns and villages the line formerly served before joining the OW&W railway were:

Burton Branston Barton-under-Needwood and Walton-under-Needwood Alrewas Lichfield Hammerwich (also served Burntwood) Angelsea Sidings Brownhills Pelsall Rushall Walsall Darlaston Wednesbury Great Bridge Dudley Port Dudley

Services[edit]

Services began at Burton and terminated at either Walsall, Dudley or Stourbridge. There was also a Derby to Wolverhampton service that also ran on the line via the northern end at Walsall to Lichfield. When the section to Dudley closed to passengers in 1964, the section Burton continued to see a rapid decline in use from passengers. Resulting in the section to Burton closing to passengers in 1965.

Closure[edit]

Burton-Lichfield-Walsall (Northern Section)[edit]

Former level crossing, looking towards Walsall from Rushall
Section where the line continued to Ryders Hayes Crossing and the section to the right is the former Leighswood Branch Line
Track still in situ looking towards Brownhills at Hammerwich.

Freight used the northern section of the line after closure to passengers and continued to do so until the section from Angelsea Sidings to Ryecroft Junction was closed to all traffic when the last train ran along the line 1984 and the track being lifted two years later. A stub from Angelsea Sidings to Lichfield City continued to see usage to serve an oil terminal at Newtown, Brownhills until 2001, when the stub was closed and mothballed by Network Rail.

The section from Lichfield to Burton is still open for freight traffic and depot returning trains. The line sees no passenger usage.

Walsall-Dudley-Stourbridge (Southern Section)[edit]

The closed railway lines that once ran between Dudley port and Dudley's freight liner depot in 2001.
A picture of Round Oak steel terminal in 2005.

The southern section of the line was still used by freight as a diversion line and to serve Dudley Freightliner Terminal. The terminal closed in the 1986 although the line remained in use until it was officially closed in 1993. However, there were a handful of other movements on the line after its official closure, including a cable-laying train which covered the route on 1 July 1993, on its journey from Birmingham to Stafford.

Present day[edit]

Northern Section[edit]

The section from Burton to Lichfield remains open to freight traffic and voyager trains returning a depot near Barton. The section from Lichfield to Brownhills remains in situ but mothballed. Beyond Angelsea Sidings, the section from Angelsea Sidings to Rushall is now a public greenway. Ryecroft Junction remains open for traffic on the Chase Line and Sutton Park Line. There has been multiple proposals to reopening the northern section including:

  • In a strategy which has been conducted by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The line from Walsall to Lichfield has been identified as a disused rail corridor and this means that it is a long term ambition to reopen the line from Walsall to Lichfield. As either a rail/light rail corridor, which considers the line to be reopened for either rail or tram trains. There is also aspirations to reconnect the disused line at Wednesbury to Walsall as either rail or tram.[3]*
  • In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line which was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[4]*
  • In June 2019, the Derby Telegraph released an article showing support being built for the reopening of the South Staffordshire Line for trams. Recently reported interest in reopening the entire section from Stourbridge Junction to Burton on Trent as reported in the Derby Telegraph [5]. According the article, London-based consultants Cushman and Wakefield had put forward suggestions to both Staffordshire County Council and East Staffordshire Borough Council. Suggestions to look at bringing trams into Burton to promote tourism and businesses. Among the suggestions was the following quote from the article:*
  • "The report is part of the Burton upon Trent Regeneration Strategy which looks at how the town could be improved for its shoppers, employees and visitors up to 2030 and beyond.If given the go-ahead the tram trains could take passengers on the existing Ivanhoe freight line and the Worcester to Derby Main Line Railway between Stourbridge and Burton." This was among the support for reopening the Leicester to Burton Line which closed in 1960s along with the South Staffordshire Line."*

Southern Section[edit]

The line from Bescot to Harts Hills is mothballed and is planned to be converted from Potters Lane, Wednesbury to Brierley Hill via Dudley to become part of the Midland Metro. This would involve using sections of the former track. There is also plans to build a light rail test centre at Dudley and to test rolling stock of trams as far as Castle Hill using the Dudley Railway Tunnel. There would also be passive provisions to allow heavy rail to run the section for freight and potential passenger services. The proposals for the line include:

  • To run a passenger service between Stourbridge Junction and Brierley Hill, with stations being re-opened along the OWWR, including Brierley Hill. The service would be operated by railcars built by Parry People Movers, who built the Class 139 units which run the Stourbridge Town service.[6]*
  • The re-opening of the line between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill had received government backing, and work is set to begin in 2017.[7]*
  • The scheme had been awarded backing by the government and the councils at Sandwell and Dudley. The scheme also has been discussed by TfWM and Network Rail as the line remains from Stourbridge Junction to Walsall in the ownership of Network Rail.*
  • TfWM (Transport for West Midlands) and Midland Metro Alliance began negotiations with Network Rail regarding the sharing of the line from the former level crossing at Potters Lane which is where the disused Wednesbury Town station was to Harts Hill where the goods trains would serve both the Round Oak Steel Terminal and connect to the mainline at Stourbridge Junction.*
  • Currently, the negotiations are ongoing[when?] but there are hopes to open a Light Railway Test Centre on the site of the former Dudley Freightliner Terminal. This would utilise the trackbed from the site of Dudley to Blowers Green which would include Dudley Railway Tunnel. Network Rail have so far agreed but have the right to break a clause to allow freight to re-use the line but there is a chance the line can be shared as the trams will run at street level from the former trackbed.*

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Workman, John (26 September 2013). "Underneath the arches....vital repairs begin on a Victorian viaduct masterpiece". Black Country Bugle. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Bridge over M6 Toll".
  3. ^ "MOVEMENT FOR GROWTH: 2026 Delivery Plan for Transport, Annex 1 - Corridors" (PDF). pp. 26, 28, 34. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  4. ^ https://bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/case-for-expanding-rail-network.pdf, p.42
  5. ^ "Tram trains could be key to bringing new jobs to Burton". 20 June 2019 – via www.derbytelegraph.co.uk.
  6. ^ "First glimpse at £5m light rail network « Express & Star". www.expressandstar.com. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  7. ^ Sharp, Dan (5 October 2016). "Midland Metro's Brierley Hill extension to start next year". Stourbridge News.

Sources[edit]

  • Hayes, David J (December 2013). "Farewell to Dudley". Rail Express. ISSN 1362-234X.

External links[edit]