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‘Rail revolution’ in Shropshire & Black Country could power up region

Posted: 1 June 2021 | | No comments yet

Midlands Connect is proposing that rail electrification, faster local trains and a new hourly train to London from Shrewsbury, would bring nearly £500 million of benefits to the UK economy.

Regional transport body, Midlands Connect, has released a feasibility study that outlines nearly £500 million of benefits to the economy if the route through Telford and the Black Country is upgraded.

Midlands Connect is proposing rail electrification, faster local trains and a new hourly train to London from Shrewsbury.

Analysis by Midlands Connect, released as part of the study, shows that time savings to passengers are valued up to £377 million and the benefits of fewer cars on roads and other environmental benefits are worth up to £145 million. The report released today (1 June 2021) is entitled ‘Rails to Recovery: Building Back Stronger’.

The ‘Rails to Recovery’ study examined a combination of faster and more frequent train services, including the potential opportunity associated with extending a future (post Phase 1 of HS2) London Euston to Wolverhampton service. As well as providing higher frequencies between Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford and Wolverhampton, the service could provide additional links to Birmingham International (for Birmingham Interchange HS2 Station and Birmingham Airport) and destinations towards London including Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes for people in Shropshire and the Black Country.​ The scheme will also mean that we have improved local connectivity for commuters into Birmingham.

The study shows that trains could be running as fast as 90mph if the route were upgraded; an increase from a mix of 70mph and 50mph today. Residents using stations such as Smethwick Galton Bridge, Sandwell & Dudley, Dudley Port, Tipton, Coseley, Codsall, Shifnal, Bilbrook and Albrighton will also see benefits from this scheme – increased capacity on their services meaning less overcrowding at peak times and quicker journey times on improved rail infrastructure.

The ‘Rails to Recovery’ study examined a combination of faster and more frequent train services, including the potential opportunity associated with extending a future (post Phase 1 of HS2) London Euston to Wolverhampton service.

All this work provides the opportunity to realise the potential of the extra capacity released on the current network by HS2 for regions like the Black Country and Shropshire. Improving connectivity is critical to the post-COVID-19 recovery and regeneration of the towns and cities on the corridor, unlocking access to labour markets and new job opportunities.​

The scheme would also help safeguard and create jobs in the engineering and construction sectors. Analysis done by NSA Research for Midlands Connect shows that 337 jobs would be safeguarded and a further 81 jobs would be created if the project was implemented.

A future scheme can be delivered in phases, with journey time improvements as a potential ‘quick win’ and eventually extending the London Euston to Wolverhampton service to Shrewsbury when HS2 Phase 1 opens.

By extending the service we also help tackle the acute over-crowding seen pre-pandemic, which is anticipated to return over time, and electrification would provide for cleaner and greener trains. Contributing to the region’s ‘Net Zero’ challenge, Midlands Connect believes 45 million diesel train miles could be converted to carbon neutral electric, saving 130,000 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

There is widespread support for the idea in the community; 800 people in and around Wolverhampton were asked about the project in February 2021 and the scheme was supported by 91 per cent of respondents.

Midlands Connect plans to fund the next stage of the project development. The report is just the first stage in the process and Midlands Connect will continue to build the case to a point where we can be confident in its strength and then seek capital investment from government.

There is widespread support for the idea in the community; 800 people in and around Wolverhampton were asked about the project in February 2021 and the scheme was supported by 91 per cent of respondents.

Midlands Connect Chief Executive, Maria Machancoses, said: “This work could create a rail revolution in the Black Country and Shropshire. I know from experience, using this train every day, how overcrowded it can be. The report lays out how businesses, commuters and residents will all benefit from an upgraded route as will our economy. This is the definition of a win-win project and can help take us from rails to recovery. We’ve started this process but we are picking up pace, and today is a first, critical stop, on our long journey.”

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