Cross City transition timetable (Spring 2024). Goodbye to the class 323 fleet!

Wednesday, 10 January 2024
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The fleet

Our class 323 trains were first introduced to the West Midlands in 1994 and have served passengers as the mainstay fleet on the Cross City line (Lichfield – Birmingham New St – Redditch / Bromsgrove) ever since.

Our fleet of 26 x three carriage units can also be found working on other routes in the region, including services to Wolverhampton and Walsall as well as on a more limited basis along the Coventry corridor. Nowadays, they are routinely coupled together to operate as six carriage trains in day-to-day service. The fleet is cleaned, serviced, and maintained at what was for a long time its very own purpose-built depot at Soho, on the main New St – Wolverhampton line.

The future

With their age in mind, as well as the need to bring extra capacity to the Cross City line, we ordered a brand-new fleet of class 730 trains to replace our entire class 323 fleet as a key part of our £1bn investment plan for West Midlands Railway.

Pandemic related delays to manufacturing, testing and crew training has meant that the introduction of our new trains has taken longer than we’d have liked, but we are now keenly looking forward to introducing our first new class 730 units to services through New St in the coming weeks.

The challenge

As the class 323s are at last replaced by brand new trains across the complex web of local services through Birmingham New St, we need to start making some final behind the scenes preparations ahead of the transition period. One element of this will see us remove the first 3 x class 323s from our fleet and send them on to their new home in Manchester in early January. In turn, we will have the capacity at Soho depot and on the wider network to launch the class 730 on local routes.

Unfortunately, it means that to modernise and increase the size of our fleet in the long term, we will temporarily have fewer trains available to use daily. Our timetable planning and engineering teams have been working hard in recent months to mitigate for this short-term deficit of 3 x three carriage units on a daily basis and ease the impact for customers’ journeys.

We have also closely worked with Northern Trains, who will inherit our class 323s, to provide long awaited additional capacity on their own routes, to manage the handover period in such a way that maintains as much capacity as possible on both networks.

The timetable

During spring 2024, the below peak time services between Four Oaks <> Redditch, on the Cross City line will operate with three carriages, in place of their current six.

Table to show the affected train services and anticipated capacity

We understand that reducing capacity on any service has the potential to make journeys less comfortable. We have therefore selected the above services based on passenger count data from ticket sales, gatelines and onboard surveys, which suggest that they are the most able to accommodate existing demand with three carriages.

Some off peak services will also be affected by reduced number of carriages, but with no anticipated impact on capacity of or crowding on those services.

For a more comfortable journey, you may wish to travel at an alternative time where possible, we have included an estimate above on which of the affected services we expect to be the busiest. You can check your train times using our online journey planner here .

We apologise for any inconvenience caused to your journey based on this short-term alteration to our fleet allocation and are committed to restoring all services to 6 carriage formations as soon as possible with the introduction of our new trains.