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New study proposes faster trains, electrification and hourly London service for Shropshire

Regional transport body Midlands Connect has today released a feasibility study proposing faster local trains, a new hourly train to London from Shrewsbury and rail electrification through Telford.

Analysis by Midlands Connect, released as part of the study, shows that time savings to passengers are valued up to £377m and the benefits of fewer cars on our roads and other environmental benefits are worth up to £145m.

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.

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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 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 70 and 50 miles per hour today.

Residents using stations like 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.

Today’s 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.

Commenting on the release of the ‘Rails to Recovery’ study, 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.”

Daniel Kawczynski, Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury & Atcham said:

“I have long called for the line, starting at Shrewsbury, to be electrified and it is great to see Midlands Connect bringing forward proposals in this regard. At the moment, if you take the direct to train to London, it has to change engines at Birmingham because the line is not electrified. I am convinced that this has to change.

“My constituents frequently raise with me the pressing issue of climate change, and I think that an electrified line would help play a part in tackling this issue.

“Businesses, commuters and residents in Shrewsbury deserve a first-class rail service and I will work to deliver the rail infrastructure that Shropshire deserves.”

Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies said:

“As a council, we’ve been calling for improvements to the line for some time. 

“We’ve supported Midlands Connect with the development of the study and so I am thrilled to see that we’ve reached this critical first milestone in the scheme’s development.

“The pandemic has posed huge challenges for our local economy, as it has across the country. 

“More trains, which are cleaner and faster will support a green recovery for the borough, opening up job opportunities for local residents in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and London, but just as importantly, enabling people from surrounding areas to bring vital skills to employers in Telford and Wrekin.

“The impact that the scheme could have on our local economy makes the case for investment a very strong one.”

Cabinet Member for Economy, Housing, Transport and Infrastructure, Councillor David Wright added:

“Today’s announcement is all part of our wider ambition to support the local economy, create jobs and keep Telford and Wrekin moving.  

“Schemes like this do take time, and there is some way to go, but this is a significant investment for our future.

“We’ll now be working with Midlands Connect and other partners towards an Outline Business Case, a process which will take around 18-24 months. ”

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