Worcestershire’s newest station and semaphore

A first day out since the ending of Lockdown Two and a return on Saturday, 5 December to the charming city of Worcester, for an overdue visit to the county’s newest station, and a walk over the River Severn to see one of the country’s newest semaphore signals in action.

My challenge was to get a shot of a train passing Norton Junction’s down home signal (NJ25), which can be seen from the western end of Cotswold Line platform at Worcestershire Parkway, and then to photograph a lunchtime service passing Henwick’s new semaphore, on the west side of the city.

Having opened on 23 February, exactly one month before the start of Lockdown One, the £23m Worcestershire Parkway station has yet to really establish itself and live up to the many years of anticipation that it would become a major rail interchange.

It stands less than a mile east of the former Norton Junction station at the point where the Oxford-Worcester Cotswold Line crosses over the main Birmingham-Bristol route, and comprises a single platform on the Cotswold Line above two platforms on the Birmingham-Bristol line below.

XC 170110 pauses at Worcestershire Parkway to pick up a solitary passenger with the 08.45 Cardiff Central-Nottingham (1M01)

For a station which was 14 years in the planning and development, and on which no expense has been spared, current services are pretty sparse, comprising an almost hourly call by Cotswold Line services and hourly calls by Cross-Country services between Nottingham and Cardiff Central. 

Spot the car! Plenty of spaces available at 10.30am on Saturday, 5 December

Like Warwick Parkway, the new Worcester station boasts a huge car park and with its proximity to Junction 7 on the M5 the hope is that when rail services are improved it will develop into a major park-and-ride for passengers travelling into the city, as well as to Birmingham, London and elsewhere.

Arriving at the high level platform 3 used by Cotswold Line services, the first impression I got on Saturday morning is of a vast and almost totally deserted station site, with a virtually empty car park in which I could see just five vehicles parked during the hour I spent at the station.    

 GWR 800017 passes signal NJ25 as it approaches Worcestershire Parkway on 5 December  with the 09.54 Great Malvern-London Paddington (1P19)  

There does seem to be a marked lack of seating and there is no apparent space for any retail outlet when normality returns, but it is certainly an impressive construction, with what look like good road links and hourly calls by the X50 bus service from Worcester to Evesham. 

My overriding initial impression was that it reminded me strongly of Edinburgh Gateway station – a triumph of hope, and many millions of pounds’ investment, in the belief of planners that here is the solution to a transport problem – I sincerely hope that the dreams of its promoters are fulfilled in the coming years.

A pair of WMR Class 170 units cross the River Severn on 5 December with the 12.39 Hereford-Birmingham New Street (1M66)

Travelling on from Worcestershire Parkway to the city’s Foregate Street station, a walk of about a mile westward, over the River Severn and passing the famous New Road cricket ground, took me to a couple of overbridges west of Henwick Signal Box and a chance to see that box’s new HK9 signal in action.

GWR 800014 passes signal HK2 on 5 December with delayed 11.55 Great Malvern-London Paddington (1P23)

As I wrote in an earlier blog, this signal was installed in 2018, along with the re-commissioning of a turn-back siding on the north side of the line, to allow any services from London terminating at Foregate Street to clear the station before making their return journey.

A pair of WMR Class 170s is signalled into platform 2 at Foregate Street with the delayed 11.39 Hereford-Birmingham New Street (1M63), passing 170016 as it heads the four-car 11.50 Birmingham New Street-Hereford (1V26)

Under the current COVID-19 Cotswold Line timetable a limited number of weekday services use the new siding, while on Saturdays one of the few options for a daytime shot of a service exiting the siding is when the stock to form the 13.05 Worcester Foregate Street-London Paddington (1P25) emerges at 13.00.  

 GWR 166208 passes 800025 at Henwick with the 12.43 Great Malvern-Weymouth (2O78). Photo below shows 800025 emerging minutes later with stock for the 13.05 Worcester Foregate Street-London Paddington (1P25)

Besides a good vantage point from the Comer Road overbridge to photograph trains passing the signal box and HK9, Bucks overbridge slightly further west offers a great view of the up junction signals HK2 (both with fixed distant arms).

Here the left-hand arm controls access to the direct line towards Birmingham (Foregate Street platform 2) and the right hand arm the line into Shrub Hill (Foregate Street platform 1), with the route worked as two single lines from Henwick to Foregate Street.