Open main menu

The Cross-City Line is a suburban railway line in the West Midlands region of England. It runs for 32 miles (51 km) from Redditch, and Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, its two southern termini, to Lichfield, Staffordshire, its northern terminus, via Birmingham New Street, connecting the suburbs of Birmingham in between. Services are operated by West Midlands Trains.

Cross-City Line
323202 arriving at Birminghams New Street station.jpg
323202 arriving at Birmingham New Street in 2009
Type Heavy rail, Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale West Midlands
Termini Lichfield Trent Valley
Redditch, Bromsgrove
Stations 25
Opened 1978
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) West Midlands Trains
Rolling stock Class 323
Line length 32 miles (51 km)
Number of tracks One – Two
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification 25 kV AC OHLE
Route map
freight line to Burton-on-Trent
Lichfield Trent Valley
for West Coast Main Line
Lichfield CityParking
UK-Motorway-icon.svg M6 Toll 
Anglesey Sidings freight terminal
South Staffordshire line
to Walsall
Limit of TfWM area
Blake StreetFree car parking
Butlers Lane
Four OaksFree car parking
Sutton Park line
Sutton Coldfield tunnel
Sutton ColdfieldParking
Wylde GreenFree car parking
Chester RoadFree car parking
Gravelly Hill
UK-Motorway-icon.svg M6 Spaghetti Junction
Chase Line to Walsall
to Birmingham International
Windsor Street Goods
Cross Country Route and
Birmingham–Peterborough line
Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford line
to Birmingham International
Camp Hill Line
Curzon Street
Birmingham New Street Midland MetroParking
Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford line
to Wolverhampton
Central Goods
Granville Street
Five Ways
Church Road
Church Road Tunnel
Somerset Road
Selly OakFree car parking
Camp Hill Line
Kings NortonFree car parking
NorthfieldFree car parking
LongbridgeFree car parking
former line to Halesowen
Limit of TfWM area
Barnt GreenParking
UK-Motorway-icon.svg M42 
Gloucester loop line
Lickey Incline
Bromsgrove(from 2018)
Birmingham to Worcester
via Bromsgrove Line/
Cross Country Route
Free car parking  Centro free car parking
Parking  Other car parking

Cross-City Line services began in 1978, as a project of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) to improve local rail services. It made use of pre-existing railways lines, which previously did not have any through services. Services were extended to Redditch in 1980, and to Lichfield Trent Valley in 1988. The route was electrified in 1993. In 2018 services were extended to Bromsgrove, which was added as a second southern terminus.



Constituent railwaysEdit

What is now the Cross-City Line was not built as a single route; it is a combination of lines opened by different companies at different times, between 1837 and 1885.[1]

On the northern half of the route (Birmingham-Lichfield):

On the southern half of the route (Birmingham-Redditch):

These lines from Birmingham to Barnt Green and Redditch were operated by the Midland Railway and the line to Lichfield was operated by the London and North Western Railway, so there were no through services. This continued despite the Grouping of the LNW and Midland Railways to form the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1921, and subsequent nationalisation to form British Railways.

Prior to the creation of the Cross-City Line, the northern half of the route from New Street to Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield had a well used regular suburban service, which had been switched from steam to diesel multiple unit (DMU) operation in 1956, leading to a large increase in usage.[1] However, the southern half of the route from New Street to Redditch was a different matter: In 1964, the closure of all the stations between New Street and Redditch (along with the branch to Redditch) was proposed by the Beeching Axe. They were reprieved from closure in 1967, however the service was cut back to a handful of trains at peak times for commuters.[8]

Diagrammatic map of Cross-City Line, including Bromsgrove which was added as a second southern terminus in 2018.

Consolidated routeEdit

The Cross City Line in its modern form came into existence in 1978, as a project of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE). The need for a cross-city rail service, and especially an improved service to the south of Birmingham with new stations, had been recognised in the WMPTE Passenger Transport Plan of 1972.[9]

The Cross City Line project was sanctioned in May 1975 and launched on 8 May 1978. Costing £7.4 million (equivalent to £56,970,000 in 2016),[10] it involved joining the services into Birmingham from north and south into a single through service, along with the re-opening of Five Ways station (the original had closed in the 1940s) and new stations to serve the University of Birmingham and Longbridge (the former station at Longbridge was on the branch line to Halesowen and Old Hill). Most of the other stations on the southern half of the route were rebuilt at the same time, and improvements were made to signalling and junctions. Of the new stations, the only one to be officially opened was University, which the then Secretary of State for Transport William Rodgers MP formally opened on 8 May 1978. There is a plaque on platform 2 marking this occasion.[11][9]

Services initially ran on a 15-minute frequency between Longbridge and Four Oaks via Birmingham New Street, with an hourly extension to Lichfield City, using refurbished Class 116 Diesel Multiple Units. The new service was an instant success, and by the end of the first year was carrying 30,000 passengers daily.[12][11]

1980s developmentsEdit

Services were extended to Redditch in 1980, initially on an hourly frequency, increased to half-hourly in 1989. The service to Lichfield City was increased to half hourly in 1986, and on 28 November 1988, some services were extended to terminate at the re-opened high level platforms of Lichfield Trent Valley.[12][11][13]

1990s: ElectrificationEdit

By the late-1980s, the elderly diesels operating the service were becoming increasingly unreliable, and the WMPTE (now re-branded as Centro) pressed for electrification. The decision to electrify the line was made on 7 February 1990 by the then Transport Minister Cecil Parkinson during the campaign for a by-election in the Mid Staffordshire constituency.[14][11]

Work started on electrifying the route with the 25 kV AC overhead line system in May 1990, and it was completed on 6 June 1993. Redditch, Alvechurch, and Blake Street stations were rebuilt at this time, and several other stations including Barnt Green were extensively modified to accommodate the new longer electric trains. The signalling was also modernised at the same time as the electrification, as part of a parallel scheme. A new fleet of Class 323 Electric Multiple Units were introduced to work the electrified line, and replace the elderly diesels. Full service with the Class 323s did not begin until 1994, due to initial reliability problems with the new units. Some elderly Class 304, Class 308 and Class 310 EMUs were drafted in to operate services in the interim, along with some of the original diesel units. [14][11]

The cost of the electrification scheme was estimated at £64.5 million (equivalent to £120,570,000 in 2016),[10] of which around 70% was funded by Centro, and the remainder by the Regional Railways sector of British Rail.[14]

21st century developmentsEdit

Aerial view of the new railway bridge (nearest to camera) and Aerial Aqueduct, over the diverted A38, taken in January 2013

At Selly Oak, a new bridge was constructed in 2011 to carry the canal over a new section of the A38.

The single track between Barnt Green and Redditch restricted the number of trains that could run to Redditch to two per hour. In November 2013 a scheme was approved to construct a new passing loop at Alvechurch to allow the service to be increased to three trains per hour.[15][16] The line between Barnt Green and Redditch was closed for eight weeks for the works to be carried out, and was reopened on 1 September 2014. The improved service began in December 2014.[17][18]

Electrification was also extended from Barnt Green to Bromsgrove station, which was rebuilt in 2016 and was added as a second southern terminus once electrification was completed in August 2018.[19] These changes allow three trains per hour to run to both Redditch and Bromsgrove.[20][16][21]

Three of the ten new Class 350 trains that London Midland introduced in 2014 have displaced Class 323s on other routes in the West Midlands to enable an increase in service frequency and capacity between Longbridge and Redditch, and the extension of all remaining Longbridge trains to Bromsgrove once electrification is complete. Class 350s are not currently authorised to be used on the Cross City Line.[22]

Current servicesEdit

During Monday to Saturday daytimes, on the core section of the line between Four Oaks and Longbridge, six trains per-hour operate each way, giving a ten-minute frequency of service. Of these, four northbound trains per hour continue from Four Oaks to Lichfield City, and two of these continue to Lichfield Trent Valley. Southbound three trains per hour continue from Longbridge to Redditch.[23]

In detail the service consists of:

  • 2tph from Lichfield Trent Valley to either Bromsgrove (1tph) or Redditch (1tph) – This service also calls at Shenstone which other services pass through
  • 2tph from Lichfield City to Bromsgrove (1tph) or Redditch (1tph)
  • 2tph from Four Oaks to Bromsgrove (1tph) or Redditch (1tph) – This service also calls at Duddeston which other services pass through

The southern half of the Cross-City line also forms part of the Cross Country Route, and some longer distance services stop at University station, including CrossCountry trains to Cardiff and West Midland Railway services to Hereford.


There are long-standing proposals for the re-introduction of local trains on the Camp Hill Line[24] (effectively a loop between Birmingham New Street and King's Norton).

As part of the new West Midlands Trains franchise, the Class 323 units will be replaced by Aventras.[25]

Passenger volumeEdit

In 2016-17 the Cross-City Line's 24 stations (excluding New Street) had combined passenger numbers of 22.59 million,[26] a substantial increase on the 2015 figure of 19.95 million and the 2006 figure of 8.5 million.[27] The busiest station on the route besides Birmingham New Street is University, with nearly three million passenger entries and exits, and the least busy station is Alvechurch with around 145,000 passenger entries and exits.

Route descriptionEdit

The railway stations and cities, towns and villages served by the line are listed below.

A large stretch of the northern part of the line closely follows the A5127 road.


  • In 1990, Railscene produced a driver's eye view of the then-diesel line, featuring the elderly rolling stock still in operation. Many features of the line have since been changed, for example, the rebuilding of Alvechurch and Redditch stations, the abolition of Lichfield City's goods sidings and closure of the Brownhills Line and the removal of the fourth platform of Lichfield Trent Valley.
  • There was a highly publicised opening ceremony to celebrate the electrification and service enhancement at Redditch in 1993.
  • In 1995, Video 125 released a video of a driver's eye view of the recently electrified line, narrated by Kay Alexander. On the video near Lichfield an elderly Class 310 unit is used on the opposite direction service – this was due to not all 323 units being in traffic in time for the new services starting.
  • There is a reproduction of the Cross City Line available on Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS)
  • There is a highly detailed reproduction of the part between Redditch and Birmingham New Street for the free train simulators BVE and OpenBVE.[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Boynton 1993.
  2. ^ Webster, Norman W. (1972). Britain's First Trunk Line – the Grand Junction Railway. Bath: Adams & Dart. ISBN 0-239-00105-2.
  3. ^ a b c d Jowett, Alan (1993). Jowett's Atlas of Railway Centres: of Great Britain showing their development from the earliest times up to and including the 1990s - Volume 1 (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 133–148. ISBN 1-8526-0420-4. OCLC 30919645.
  4. ^ Boynton 1993, pp. 65-67.
  5. ^ Boynton 1993, pp. 14-17.
  6. ^ Boynton 1993, pp. 18-20.
  7. ^ Boynton 1993, pp. 21-25.
  8. ^ Boynton 1993, p. 59.
  9. ^ a b Boynton 1993, pp. 86-88.
  10. ^ a b UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e "The Cross City Rail Line". Redditch MRC. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  12. ^ a b Boynton 1993, pp. 89-90.
  13. ^ "The South Staffordshire Line". Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Boynton 1993, pp. 92-104.
  15. ^ "Major transport infrastructure schemes given green light". Planning Resource. Retrieved 22 November 2013.(subscription required)
  16. ^ a b "Investing in the Midlands, December 2011". Rail Professional Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  17. ^ Osborne, Connie (1 September 2014). "Commuters back on track with railway opening". Bromsgrove Standard. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  18. ^ "London Midland reveals new timetable and additional seating across network". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  19. ^ First Cross City line trains arrive at Bromsgrove Collis, Emily Bromsgrove Advertiser news article 30 July 2018; Retrieved 3 August 2018
  20. ^ "£1.2 billion boost for English rail and metro services". Railnews. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  21. ^ "Bromsgrove Corridor Resignalling". Rail Engineer. 17 January 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Order for New "Desiro" Trains Signed by Transpennine Express". 2 March 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  23. ^ "West Midlands and Chilterns Route Utilisation Strategy 2011" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Reinstatement of Camp Hill Rail Services Moves A Step Closer". Birmingham City Council. 13 July 2007. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  25. ^ "More seats for rail passengers as nearly £1 billion is invested in Midlands services". Gov.UK. 10 August 2017.
  26. ^ "Station usage estimates". Rail statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Please note: Some methodology may vary year on year.
  27. ^ "Cops on track to celebrate". Birmingham Mail. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  28. ^ "Birmingham Cross-City South for openBVE". Rail Sim Routes.


  • Boynton, John (1993). Rails Across The City, The Story of The Birmingham Cross City Line. Kidderminster: Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-0-1.