It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating news of a new high speed rail link between Shropshire and London.
A week ago, FirstGroup trumpeted the return of a connection from Telford and Shrewsbury to the capital from 2016 as part of a £5.5 billion deal. Now the celebrations have come to an abrupt halt and the truth is out.
While we may get a link to London, the speed of that link won’t be increased to normal inter-city standards for many years; certainly not before 2019. We all know trains can be delayed – but an additional three-year wait seems excessive by anyone’s standards.
The loss of Shropshire’s direct link to London last January hit local businesses hard. One hotel in Shrewsbury instantly lost £100,000 per year in trade and many others suffered similar losses.
The latest problem has arisen because rail bosses do not intend to electrify the Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton line. That means that when we eventually get a county service to London in 2016, it will be a slow one.
The Department of Transport has opened the door to improvements in the future; though it does not intend to upgrade its electrification programme before 2019.
The omission of an electrified Shropshire-Wolverhampton connection casts a shadow over the proposed return in 2016 of a direct Shropshire-London link. Railway bosses have effectively told us: ‘You’ll get a train, but don’t expect it to get there quickly. Sit back, enjoy the journey’. That message simply won’t wash with the business community.
Our local companies work hard in a difficult environment to keep our economy afloat. Thankfully, two local MPs have already started the campaign to speed things up.
In an age of increased environmental awareness, at a time when our infrastructure urgently needs improvement and in an era when our economy is crying out for investment; the Government could do much worse than give us fast trains to London – without making us wait too long.