Direct Shropshire to London rail link rejected

Network Rail today dramatically turned down Virgin's plans to introduce a long-awaited direct rail link between Shropshire and London.

Virgin train

Richard Branson's company had been planning to bring in the service from December. It would have seen two trains running each way between Shrewsbury and London every day, stopping at Wellington and Telford and passing through Stafford.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Today there are twice as many trains using the West Coast Main Line as a decade ago and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong, the knock-on effects can be significant.

“We have acknowledged that performance on the West Coast line is not good enough and we are taking steps to improve performance on the route. However, adding more services onto what is already the busiest mixed use railway line in the UK mean would mean a trade off with punctuality. It would have a significant negative impact on performance for the thousands of other passenger and freight services that rely on this route every day.”

Virgin said it would appeal the decision to the Office of Rail Regulation.

The current plans were the latest proposals for a direct rail link between the county and the capital following the fiasco over the West Coast franchise.

Virgin Trains had lost out for the franchise to FirstGroup, who announced their own plans for the direct rail link between Shropshire and London.

But the deal was abandoned, resulting in Virgin and the DfT reaching a deal to run the franchise on an interim basis until November 2014.

The new West Coast franchise will not start until April 2017.

What does this mean for Shropshire? Have your say in the comments below.

For more details and reaction, see tonight's Last edition

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Comments for: "Direct Shropshire to London rail link rejected"

Amanda Love

Very disappointed as London workforce have such a long commute from Shropshire. Travel time to and from the city causes family separation, many fathers due to workload choose to stay over Monday to Thursday, only to return home at weekends.

Rob

SHOCKING from network rail.

Virgin want to do it, the public certainly want the service & think of everything that is LOST which could have been for businesses and for the public which such a route would provide.

Perhaps a fresh petition is required with double the signatures on it to show what a stupid choice they made

Doubter

What does it mean ? well i will alight at a local station, Shrewsbury, Wellington or Telford and head to Wolverhampton wait for around 10/15 minutes before boarding a train that will take me to Euston direct via Birmingham all booked online.

All past direct links failed for the people where not using it.

Davey

I agree. Plus 2 trains a day just isn't enough. I just wish we could have a better service between Shrewsbury/Telford and Wolverhampton/ Birmingham.

Rog

Does anybody know if the previous direct service into Marylebone affected punctuality? This stinks of excuses rather than real reasoning!

And - how is a route from Telford to London via Stafford 'direct' - as far as I can see Stafford is north and to get there required a change at Wolverhampton - this is surely wrong? Somebody correct me!

Simon

W&S didn't use the WCML. It went round the houses in Birmingham and then onto the Chiltern (?) lines into Marylebone. That's part of the reason why the journey time was so long.

Bill

The previous service did not use the West Coast Main Line or the equally congested Birmingham-Wolverhampton section.

It ran via Tame Bridge to Coventry then to Leamington, Banbury and Marylebone

The proposed service is intended to avoid Wolverhampton and Birmingham stations by using a freight loop from Oxley to Bushbury to get from Telford up to Stafford where it would have reversed in order to run via Lichfield to Rugby and then to Euston

Bit of a long way round, but New Street is at capacity.

Roger

The previous London direct from Wrexham service failed because it did not attract enough passengers or run at the right times and the journey times were too long. The key failing was that it did not call at Birmingham New Street so could not be used by the Shropshire Birmingham commuters and could not pick up passengers in Birmingham because that was a franchise conflict with Virgin.

Since then other factors have combined which could present a solution which is viable. The Welsh assembly have ambitions to run an Aberystwyth to London service which would be operated by Arriva. Arriva have a franchise as far as Birmingham International. Arriva are owned by the same company as Chilton Railways who have a Birmingham to London Franchise and operate fast services on a now improved line to London Marylebone. With a small addition of imagination we could run an Aberystwyth to London Service taking a little longer than the West Coast Main Line but without travelling on it. That would overcome the Network Rail objections; which I understand since Shrewsbury Telford and Stafford could not support the service proposed on their own. Stafford is already, well served, without the facility to exchange passengers on route.

I think we can forget the West Coast Main line unless there is electrification to Shrewsbury or HS2 takes the density of traffic off. We need to do the best we can with what we have. Changing at Wolve's or Birmingham or a direct train on a different line.

My preferred option would be Joint Arriva/Chilton service using some new specially designed high speed diesel multiple units, Like Voyager (but with the new standard European signalling system used between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury) Aberystwyth to Marylebone. At the same frequency and using the same platform and time slots through Birmingham New Street. I think that would work.

Si

Was it going to stop at wolves, I am not sure.

Max

I think one of the reasons for the W&SR service being scrapped was that its parent company, Deutsche Bahn, wanted the capacity it occupied on the Marylebone line for its more profitable Chiltern Line service.

The route via Stafford uses a loop (Oxley I think) that skirts west of Wolverhampton and north to Stafford. I think the plan involved the driver swapping ends at Stafford station.

Gordon

Going via Stafford is actually quicker. Current journey time Wolverhampton to Euston is 1hr 50mins whereas Stafford is 1hr 15mins. Journey time is cut due to using the 125mph Trent Valley line rather than going through Birmingham/Coventry corridor which is a two track 90mph if your lucky nightmare!

Marylebone service punctuality is irrelevant as it didnt use the WCML. it went via the Chiltern route down through Lemmington Spa.

Dom

Network Rail are utterly incompetent. Anyone who lives along the WCML (outside Birmingham) knows it ISN'T busy with only 1 train passing every few minutes despite at least 2 lines in each direction. It's only "at capacity" because Network Rail are utterly incompetent and set capacity figures insanely low as their signalling can't cope.

As with the rest of the industry it's profits & bonuses at top of the list, passengers at the bottom.

Bill

If you look at the actual working timetable (available on NR's website) or one of the on-line reporting sites which show the actual trains and signalling in real time you'll realise it is actually more congested than you claim.

The only point you do have which has some validity is that much of the signalling was laid out for 90mph trains - not 100 & 125 mph services - and for many fewer of them. Much of the installation has far too great a distance between signals.

Essentially this means that the spacing between trains is also significantly wider - to run under steady 'green' aspects at least the next three sections in front must be clear.

But to re-signal will cost many, many millions.....

Tom

This is petty nonsense from Network Rail. Up until last week they were happy for the service to go ahead. But Virgin decided to sue them for poor performance on the West Coast route. This has upset Network Rail who in return have thrown their toys out of the pram and refused permission for the service.

Geof

Shrewsbury was once a main rail hub, so who pinched all the traffic slots. It is very hard to believe that Network Rail can't find two slots each way per day. Or, have they had their day too!

Gray

Whilst disagreeing with the decision and very surprised, I can't help but be amused with some of the comments above. London workforce? Why have a job in London, live in Shropshire and complain about the commute when there hasn't been a real 'commuter' service to London in recent years, if ever. The proposed route would hardly have reduced the current journey time, just the inconvenience of a connection. And I reckon a train passing every few minutes is fairly busy. Plus it's also the capacity of electrical power to the line that's a serious problem, not just the line itself. And as stated, services weren't scrapped for no reason.

ollie simms

people of shropshire voted with their feet in 2009/10 and chose not to use the direct service to london, there is clearly no demand, and in a free market that means a sensible business does not set up a service. Its simple economics really, just change at Wolvehampton, its really no chore, it takes 5 mins and it still works out faster than the direct line did anyway! I wish they would stop banging on about something all the evidence proves the people of shropshire will not use - we do not live in a stalinist state - its a free market - if its such a good business case - why dont the shropshire business people set up a service and thier expense, take a risk and try and make a profit, i personally dont want any more of my taxes sucked into expensive rail, its easier to drive

Port Hill Boy

Extremely well said.

Time for business to put up or shut up.

Roy

Why don't they just have a couple of the Wolverhampton trains run diesel and extend to Shrewsbury ?

Marie

Perhaps someone will finally push for a FAST service from Shrewsbury and Telford to Stafford then we can change at Stafford as its only 1hour 15mins from Stafford to Euston.Possibly more financially viable in the short term and long term.

Port Hill Boy

Awaiting the intervention of our super MP D Kawcynzki. He will demand a meeting no doubt and the result will be - no change.

I've a feeling that Virgin are probably quite please about this decision. It saves them from withdrawing the service in a years time when passenger numbers would have turned out to be poor.

Dom

Dom, trains pass 'every few minutes' because the track is divided into blocks controlled by signals, a train can't pass into the next one until it's cleared by the preceding train.

A railway isn't a road, trains can't swerve around obstacles and they a considerable distance to stop - this means that as a railway is divided into blocks controlled by signals, should one be passed at danger you need enough room for the train to stop without causing an accident.

You can moan about Network Rail being 'utterly incompetent' but it was Railtrack who proposed a more advanced 'moving block' signalling system to help increase capacity, and had an agreement with Virgin to install it - except a suitable system didn't exist and still doesn't to this day. Don't forget that capacity is the driving force behind the building of HS2.

The Dr

This story sums network rail up, incompetent, they dont even know that Stafford is North of this line to Shrewsbury that not only links Shrewsbury to the Network but also Central Wales., according to the rail map if the train diverted to Stafford before Wolverhampton it would have to reverse back to Wolverhampton. Lets hope the Highspeed 2 line is cancelled it could end up anywhere.

Will

Dom - there is currently only ONE spare path per hour left on the WCML between Euston and Leighton Buzzard - that's pretty full! There may well be capacity elsewhere, but that's irrelvant if the service needs to get to London. To increase this any further would require a huge amount of work (a flyover at Leighton Buzzard and a Stafford bypass line to begin with).

Rog - the service would have used a freight only line to bypass Wolverhampton station and head north to Stafford, where it would reverse and head south east to London.

Nige

Rog @14:27 The fastest route from Wolverhampton to London is generally to take the 15 mins past the hour to Stafford and then a non-stop train to Euston. Despite the change, this is a few minutes faster than the direct trains via New Street which make 5 stops and are fairly slow as far as Coventry. The proposed direct trains from Shrewsbury would have used a freight line to by-pass Wolverhampton en route to Stafford and then direct to London - so much faster than changing at Wolves. Sounds a bit of a long way round at first but quite sensible when you think about it !

Tudor Lobb

This is pure railway politics and tail wagging the dog. Network Rail need to wake up to the reality of why they exist.

Geoff

As Rog says " Stafford can only mean the train heading north when after it has had to reverse out of Wolverhampton and head north to Stafford . This sounds a bit crazy ... A bit like the M54 when you want head north up the M6 by coming off the M54 onto single carriage roads for many miles to get on the M6 . Heck our planners do and say some strange things .

Nick

There is more to this story than meets the eye. The background is an on-going dispute between Network Rail and Virgin Trains regarding the blame for poor time-keeping on the West Coast Main Line and it has reached the point where Virgin are threatening to sue Network Rail. - It looks to me as if Network Rail are trying to get their own back and the new Shropshire service is caught up in the middle of this mess. The way forward is for the Secretary of State for Transport/DFT to quickly (within the next week) bang a few heads together to make this proposal work, otherwise we will not get the much needed service running for December.

SVM

How pathetic!! Can't Network Rail get their act together?

Andrew Blurton

If All The Public In The Shropshire Towns Are Getting Punished Without Their Direct Rail Service To London Euston Either Via Birmingham Or Crewe In Future Now & With The Norton Bridge - Crewe & Stafford lines & Viaduct Work Starting Soon With The Re-Signalling Project & All Shropshire Being Isolated From London As A Whole Would It Be A Good Idea Starting A Petition With The 38 Degrees People Power Change Website To Collect The Required E-Petition Signatures Across The UK & Also To Make The Shropshire Towns Get A Direct Commuter Service To London It Fully Deserves & Not Suffer Without Having One At All & Are The Public In Shropshire Suffering All The While As Well Too Before Any Electrification Arrives.

Roger

When people were demanding the direct London link it was about the withdrawal of the old direct link via Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

The proposal which has been rejected was for passengers from Shrewsbury and Telford going direct to London "Only" I do not think that that is viable so doomed to failure.

Any service to London is dependant on passengers using different sections of the route to fill the trains. There is no problem from Birmingham because the demand is there. There is demand between Shrewsbury and Birmingham but not so much direct from Shrewsbury to London. It is the combination that makes the service viable.

Speed in terms of minutes can be achieved by changing at Wolves or Birmingham and the Stafford route is not a whole lot quicker to make a big difference; so time is not the issue. Changes are a big issue because a connection lost can cost one hour to Shrewsbury or two hours beyond so through services assure that connections are not lost and that is a big issue. Rolling stock is an issue; no first class service and overcrowding the second class service. Catering is an issue for the very long days if a full working day in London is to be achieved.

All of these issues can be achieved from Electrification to Shrewsbury from Wolverhampton and that is out of site.

London is changing as well with the shift to eastend and the impacts on the underground system. Nobody wants to go to Euston so it is also a matter of how you get to where you want to be in London. Marylebone is not well served by the tube. So we need to look to a better interface with London. That really points to Crossrail which extends to the west of London so perhaps we should be targeting a direct service to Crossrail. There are also some interesting things going on between Oxford and Cambridge to link the main lines outside London which could provide quicker links to places other than London which could mean a link to this at Bicester could be useful. That rally points to the Chitern lines being useful but to crossrail instead of Marylebone. In this way we do not add anything to the West Coast conundrum. So the ideal answer is Shrewsbury to Crossrail via Birmingham new Street and International. I have no doubt that Chiltern are looking for that sort of service and the challenge for us is to piggy back that and extend it to Shrewsbury and even Aberystwyth and Wrexham to provide an effective hourly service without needing to increase rail capacity but to improve the rolling stock to a standard for bigger trains based on the Great Western routes from London to Aberystwyth and Liverpool. The best way doing that is through the Strategic Railway Authority and the Welsh Government.

ben

when Wrexham to Marlybone set up they said from the start "use it or loose it", people in shropshire didnt use it, so it went. Remember this when you want to save your village post office or becry the lose of town centre shops, USE IT OR LOSE IT SHROPSHIRE, this message applies to all services and businesses, we live in a free country, with a free market, services which no body uses go bust, end of, thats thatcherism, thats the facts people, tough luck, use it or lose it!

Tim

No direct link to London - get used to it!

The only way to get to London punctually is by taking a train to Crewe and connecting there to London Euston - 90 minutes for this leg, job done

Bernard

Virgin should be given the go ahead, but would be better run on the previous Wrexham Shropshire route calling at Tame Bridge Parkway and missing out some of the stations after Birmingham International giving a quicker time to Marlybone.