Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Light At The End Of The (Old Hill) Tunnel! New Trains for the Stourbridge Line!
Although it may sometimes not feel like it, we're living in a really positive age for public transport locally. Despite the concerns about some bus routes in Wolverhampton, we have a gleaming new bus station, very fit for purpose. We'll soon have one in Stourbridge too. New buses are promised by National Express West Midlands and other operators are placing their own new models into service.
And today, I've been riding on the inaugural journey of the first of a new fleet of trains to operate on the Snow Hill Lines, serving Stourbridge - Birmingham.
Admittedly, it's not in public service yet. I was riding with journalists and other stakeholders on the round trip from Stourbridge Junction to Leamington Spa, but it really won't be long before this fleet of trains enters service. London Midland told me that they'll be phased in over the coming months and should be all in service by Christmas.
What an improvement for Stourbridge Line travellers! These "Class 172" trains - built by Bombardier - will replace the 25 year old "Class 150" units. Workhorses they may be, but it's time to move on and up the level of quality.
Being 6'7", I find legroom to be one of my biggest considerations using public transport. I accept I'm probably the exception to most of society (!) but there are an awful lot of people who are 6' and over, and journeys on the class 150s were, put simply, physically difficult if you couldn't get a seat near the doors.
The new trains are a huge improvement. I tried several seats, and, whilst the legroom does differ depending on where you sit, even the "worst" seat accommodated me.
There's plenty of standing room too, important for a commuter line like the Snow Hill Lines. The seats themselves are a more standard "2x2" formation, not the 3 seats together that the 150s offer. I've never considered "3x" seating successful and it's good to see this phased out with the arrival of the new stock.
There are no opening windows on the new trains. The Air conditioning was working perfectly today, and I hope this won't be an issue for the types of days like we're having at the moment. That said, when the windows on the 150s were open, the noise from the engines was deafening.
These are promising times for public transport in the West Midlands. At last we are seeing real investment and the more the public is presented with a quality service, the more they will be likely to try it.
Today has been another important milestone on the road to better public transport locally.