Midlands Connect submit Shrewsbury-Black Country to Birmingham plan

Analysis by Midlands Connect shows that trains could run at 90 miles-per-hour along the new route, cutting journey times.

Railroad track rails in country land space

Credit: Midlands Connect

Midlands Connect has submitted a business case to the Department for Transport (DfT) outlining plans to enhance the Shrewsbury – Black Country – Birmingham rail route. The study found that proposed improvements, which would boost line speed to 90 miles per hour.

The project will deliver around £23 million of economic benefits, these relate both journey time improvements alongside improved air quality, environmental benefits, and reduced congestion on local roads. The business case shows that for every £1 invested, £16 could be created for the local economy.

The findings also showed that project delivery could begin as early as 2025 if the scheme is given the go-ahead by Government. As a result of the improvements, Midlands Connect believe more people will choose to travel by rail, generating £1 million of extra ticket sales revenue per annum. The track would have minor realignments in two places, within the railway corridor to improve the route for the train and passengers, as well as improvements around signalling on the line. The submission comes after the Government’s Union Connectivity Review, which identified the importance of Shrewsbury as a centre for connecting Mid & West Wales to the Midlands.

The business case also outlined the need for investment, as real growth will be seen in the years ahead. Midlands Connect forecasts significant population growth along the rail line, with both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin projected to grow by 11-12 per cent by 2031. This aligns with large numbers of new jobs within Telford, potentially seeing an increase of 22 per cent in new employment equating to an additional 4,000 jobs in the professional services sector in the years ahead.

This business case adds to work released in 2021 for Midlands Connect’s Rails to Recovery report, which also found that electrifying the route through Telford and the Black Country and extending London services to Shrewsbury could create up to £500 million of benefits for businesses and residents by making the trains hourly to the nation’s capital. Midlands Connect analysed plans for a new hourly train from Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford, Wolverhampton, and Birmingham to London.

The project has widespread local support with 86 per cent of those questioned in Shropshire supported the scheme as a whole and two in three (66 per cent) backed line speed improvements. A further 800 people in and around Wolverhampton were asked about the project and the scheme was supported by 91 per cent of respondents.

“This news is another step forward and a major milestone in our journey towards delivering this major project as part of our Midlands Engine Rail programme,” Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said. “In the medium term, we are championing the need for direct, hourly trains to London and electrification, but we are also promoting the short-term win of a line speed improvement. I believe that this project will help support economic development in Shropshire and unlock the fantastic growth of Telford in the years ahead.”

“We have been proactively seeking improvements to the rail line in our Borough for many years, and welcome the potential improvements set out by Midlands Connect which have been developed collaboratively with stakeholders like ourselves,” Richard Overton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Enforcement and Transport at Telford & Wrekin Council, said. “Whilst the ultimate solution must be the electrification of our rail line, the benefits that line speed improvements will bring in the meantime are significant and should be progressed as soon as possible. We know that the way we are travelling is evolving, and that greener modes of transport are key to making sure that our transport network is sustainable going forward and is all part of our wider ambition to support the local economy, create jobs and keep Telford and Wrekin moving.”