Not an official opening, but the first train to stop at Bromsgrove’s new station at 6:21 on a dull but rainless Tuesday morning.
T.V. crews and reporters were present, plus the usual throng of rail enthusiasts with cameras, plus a few dignitaries, plus about 40 genuine passengers.
A fitting tribute to Gordon Selway, who as a Liberal Democrat Councillor, fought against all the odds to get the Bromsgrove station moved. Gordon, those who knew him, will know that he was a very difficult person to argue against!
Sadly, he died while asleep on a train at Stourbridge Junction in 2007. The Bromsgrove station was closed that day for line repairs, so he had cycled to Droitwich to catch a train to Birmingham.
We thought that the new road to the station was to be named after him, but apparently that cannot be done until 50 years have passed. At present, it appears to be nameless. We believe that a memorial plaque will be placed in the cycle bay as a fitting tribute, as he cycled everywhere and was secretary of a national cycling organisation.
The old station was at the foot of the Lickey Incline (steepest main line hill in the country) and consequently not many trains were scheduled to stop as they had difficulty in starting up the hill. I can remember in the days of the steam trains, brakes on passenger trains smoking as the trains stopped after coming down the hill. Car parking spaces and a short second platform were also major problems with the old station.
The new station has been built on land that used to have the banking steam engines. These engines used to chase after the long expresses and goods trains and catch them up to give a helping push up the hill as far as Blackwell and then return to base. The track layout at the new station has crossing lines to still allow for banker assistance. This is rare these days with the 3000+ HP diesels, but still will be used for steam train excursions, heaviest goods trains, and long night sleeper trains .
First impression of the new station was the spacious car park surrounding it with spaces for 350 cars and small lavender border in front of the entrance. I could not see a ticket machine in the car park. You were expected to buy car park tickets at the ticket office (£3.00 minimum) and walk back to the car to place it (a bit of a bind if short of time!). The ticket office was open and the lifts were working. There are very wide stairs up to the footbridge (obviously expecting large number of passengers).
The station now boasts 4 very long platforms instead of 2 short platforms. Electrification and the extension of the Cross City Trains to Bromsgrove are due in 2017. The line will be closed for 12 days at some stage to allow the most disruptive work to take place, with trains going via Kidderminster to get to Bristol.
Perhaps one day we may see the Cross City Trains and electrification extended to Worcester with stations re-opened at Stoke Prior, Fernhill Heath, and Henwick to avoid having to go into a congested centre of Worcester. Perhaps one day some of the Bristol & SW to North of England trains will stop at Bromsgrove to save people in a large area around Bromsgrove/Droitwich/Stourbridge having to go into Birmingham to catch their train. These are things that we can campaign on in the future and share the vision that Gordon had in 2007.