More trains and quicker journeys as Shropshire rail services targeted in transport plan

More trains and shorter journey times could be on the cards for Shropshire as part of a long-term strategy for transport in the Midlands.

railway ticket train stock

Transport body Midlands Connect said in its new strategy that it wants to see four trains per hour between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, with journey times cut by seven minutes to a total of 29 minutes as part of a plan to boost economic growth in the region.

The document calls for “a business case for an increase in service frequency between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton”.

It also hopes to see an extra Hereford-bound train each hour, and journey times cut by 14 minutes to 47 minutes, as part of a plan which will be submitted to the Department for Transport to help inform its plans for investment in road and rail in the next 25 years.

Midlands Connect was handed the task of developing a set of proposals to identify transport improvements to “unlock the growth potential of the Midlands”, meaning growing the economy and creating 300,000 jobs across the region.

It has now published its plans alongside the newly-released Midlands Engine strategy, and highlighted upgrades to the road links to Wales as one of the key issues for the 25-year plan, as well as improvements to rail services into the county.

While it gives no specific details of planned upgrades to the A5 west of Shrewsbury, it does highlight the importance of the road in improving cross-border links to Wales, particularly the port at Holyhead and another on the opposite side of the country at Felixstowe in Surrey.

The document calls to “develop a business case for further highway measures to support access to Holyhead and Felixstowe”.

Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “We sit at the heart of the UK’s transport network and therefore an investment in this region’s transport will have a remarkable benefit to the whole country and create a positive ripple effect to boost the development of industry, skills and infrastructure.

“This strategy will help to secure the further infrastructure funding needed to lay the groundwork for improved connectivity across the Midlands, bringing the East and West closer together and opening the region’s businesses to the world.”

The document highlights the need to improve connections for the sake of specific growth sites, citing four in Shropshire – Telford’s T54, Hortonwood, the new Hortonwood West extension, and the planned Oswestry Innovation Park.

Over the next three years Midlands Connect will use £17 million of Government funding to undertake the planning and design work on early priorities.

The proposals are aimed at unlocking £5 billion in “untapped economic potential” and help the Midlands Engine to create 300,000 new jobs over the next two decades.

It will also draw up the business cases needed to pursue a rolling 25-year programme of transport infrastructure investment.

Midlands Connect is a collaboration of councils and local enterprise partnerships across the Midlands, along with Highways England, HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport as an associate member.

Graham Wynn OBE, chairman of The Marches LEP, said: “The Marches has great potential and as a gateway to Wales there are vast opportunities to be had.

“Developing the projects set out in this paper could stimulate the economy and give our people greater access to jobs and businesses across the Midlands and into Wales from east to west and north to south.”

However, the developments in the county are not listed as part of the immediate set of priorities, and work to improve links between the Midlands and Wales may not begin until after 2020.

It means that development work on improving transport links to Felixstowe and Holyhead, which would mean improvements to the A5 past Shrewsbury, is scheduled to begin by 2025, with actual work likely before 2030.

Completion of upgrades tot he Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton railway line come with a similar timetable.

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Comments for: "More trains and quicker journeys as Shropshire rail services targeted in transport plan "

Roger

Interesting but very superficial. I note that as usual Shrewsbury is little mentioned and most importantly the NWRR not at all.

"The document highlights the need to improve connections for the sake of specific growth sites, citing four in Shropshire – Telford’s T54, Hortonwood, the new Hortonwood West extension, and the planned Oswestry Innovation Park".

The missing ones are for Shrewsbury. In Shrewsbury we have limited scope for growth due the weak road infrastructure which if not addressed will just create grid lock and zero scope for growth. The NWRR will ease the congestion and open up new development zones along it's route. So we have chicken and egg. No developments, so no new road, and because the road is not built, no scope for a development zone. Shrewsbury can not grow on the back of tourism or being a dormitory town for the West Midlands. The only jobs that generates are Zero Hours Minimum Pay jobs or the new form self employment in the "gig" economy which is jargon for paying people less that the minimum wage and forcing them into multiple jobs through which employers avoid the need to pay holiday pay or provide secure employment. That will make us the West Midlands "Capital of Poverty".

Therefore the NWRR is the most important road project in the Region because it is the enabler of the Noth West frontier development corridor. The A5 comes next but that is again where the thinking stops. What they are doing is connecting Birmingham to Holyhead. Shropshire is not a priority. Our second axis of development is the A49 corridor which again has no mention because it does not connect to Birmingham.

So again, as usual, Shropshire comes up short of expectations having been basically ignored except for what the Oswestry Mafia want. Will Shropshire be playing second fiddle to Oswestry for the next forty years as it to Telford for the last forty years.

This the second time in two days that Shropshire has been ignored. This one potentially more dangerous to our economy than the misplaced investment in the Flax Mill yesterday instead of anything else on LEP funding. It is unbelievable that the NWRR has not been included in this debate, Unbelieveable that Shrewsbury has no development zone. Telford gets three and Oswestry one. There is something drastically wrong with economic development in Shropshire, even criminally inept consideration. The very fact that Oswestry zone is included but the NWRR is not points to the fact that consultation has occurred and Shropshire did not ask for anything for Shrewsbury except the Flax Mill.

To me, I an seriously concerned about the competence in the Council that steers these issues from behind closed doors. If these people are that disinterested in our future why are they standing for office. Why only Oswestry, What's going on?

"Midlands Connect is a collaboration of councils and local enterprise partnerships across the Midlands, along with Highways England, HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport as an associate member".

These are the people who will hold the purse strings on the NWRR. They obviously don't even know about the NWRR. The A5 to Oswestry is their only mention of roads in Shropshire. Yes Oswestry again. It would seem that Shropshire's 300,000 people are there only to support the 20,000 in Oswestry. I thought we had got rid of that problem but seems we have not. This is serious and affects the future for everybody in Shropshire. Shropshire has a great deal to offer the greater West Midlands than this. More for us to offer and gain from. More solutions for the West Midlands to take advantage of. But they will not know if we are not selling our case hard enough to be noticed. That means no more NWRR and goodby to Shrewsbury as a growing town. We will just be left sitting in our traffic jams for ever putting people and businesses off moving here.

It takes little imagination to see how Shropshire Council's Cabinet is determined to ruin Shrewsbury after they have finished asset stripping it. What then the future for our Children?

Roger

PS Yes the railway proposals look like an improvement. The job to increase the line seed from Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury has been deferred so long that it is now out of date. It was to lift line speed from 70 MPH to 90 MPH because 90 MPH was the fastest train using the line. That has now changed because virgin are running trains much faster than that and if we want better services to Holyhead etc we should be looking at 100MPH as a minimum. Electrification is of course still a possibility. Probably the only way to speed up stopper services because Electric Multiple units accelerate at better rates.

If we are looking forward we can not ignore the possibility of using class 800 trains for London Old Oak common to Shrewsbury Aberystwyth and Holyhead. They are dual mode diesel or overhead Electric . Electric drive can give up to 144 MPH in electric mode or 100 MPH in diesel mode. So in my opinion we should forget electrification and up the line speed to 100 MPH. Then find a new Diesel Electric Multiple unit with a higher acceleration and top speed. Replacements for our elderly class 158. They have to be new ones because ERTMS is required and apart from the existing ones none other exist at the moment.

In line with my comment above these are services specifically required for Birmingham to speed their commuters from Shropshire to work. HS2 is of little or no utility to Shropshire and we need improved services before HS2 is open. Not just Shropshire but the whole of the West Midlands. We can develop new services now which will endure beyond HS2 by using the Chiltern line because there is no more capacity on the WCML. and will not be before HS2,. We can do better than that.

Shropshire would also be looking along the North South axis to provide similar commuting capacity to the Northern Powerhouse for business and commuting links. No mention of the Shrewsbury Parkway Station yet. If we can't sort out the Town Centre congestion the Parkway station will become vital for commuters and businesses.

The important change we require from this group is for Telford and Shropshire to invite TfWM to run our public transport system for us by integrating road and rail services with through booking and their Swift card system for paying fares. We need to do a study on how we can develop railway services by reopening village railway stations and integrating local bus service as collector services to the local railway metro and relieve the road system of commuters. This is an enabler to spreading growth from the towns to the villages to encourage some limited rural development which is not feasible without improved connectivity. The railways exist and so do most of the stations, they just need reopening in strategic locations. We and They have to think outside the box of urban development nodes. Rural development is going to be based around farming and food production which is currently saturated so we need other new industries for the rural areas to support the urban and metropolitan areas. It is about how we support the Birmingham Engine but Shropshire also needs it's own economy and we can support the North as well as the Midlands.

As I see at the moment these proposals are a bit too Birmingham centric Too much of Them and not enough of Us.

Roger

I have now scanned Midlands Connect's planning document and can confirm that Shropshire has dropped off the economic map of England. Apart from some trivial funding in Oswestry there are absolutely no proposals to invest anything in Shropshire before 2030. This includes the railway improvements mentioned above and the A5 improvements. The A49 is not planned for anything but has been identified as a useful corridor with no specific proposals. Shrewsbury has been dropped as growth node and the NWRR is simply not in the programme. Telford gets support for it's 4 enterprise zones but nothing else at all. Herefordshire does very well on roads, railways and enterprise zones.

Regional devolution will have the impact of greater neglect of Shropshire.

The document is massive and does acknowledge that Shropshire is under control of the Midlands Engine but has no needs other than to improve commuting to Birmingham, in the 2030s.

It is an economic disaster that relegates Shropshire to the bad lands on the fringe not worth investing in.

It seems to have responded to who shouts loudest and Shropshire is not even whispering. The LEP has diverted all investment to Herefordshire because that is the powerhouse of the LEP. Our Unitary council has been totally ineffective and easily satisfied by a few pennies for Oswestry. We have been failed completely.

Without any offer of any infrastructure improvement we either stop building more houses and grant no further planning consents for new houses or the Shrewsbury will go into gridlock. Shropshire gets nothing so nothing is going to change anywhere for the next fifteen years. We will have a ghost town in ghost county.

The only hint of comfort that I see is that this is the first issue of the plan and if we shout long enough and loud enough the plans can be adjusted. I do not see that happening with the Tories in the Shirehall. We must evict them in this years local elections to find ourselves a voice. If they remain prepare your children for the fact that if they want anything better than a zero hours minimum pay job they must leave Shropshire and go to where the better jobs are. Shrewsbury will be a dormitory town providing low paid services to commuters. They will stop growing as the grid lock means they can't catch a train reliably. They will not get seat or improved journey times so no more will move here. We will drop off the Tourism map because tourists will spend more time in traffic jams than touring so all that will die.

We need an advocate to make the case that investing in Shrewsbury and Shropshire will improve the economics of the region more efficiently than trying to revive the metropolitan areas. From now on Shropshire will stand or fall by our own ability to sell Shropshire commercially, because all forms of government have failed us completely. The LEP has done worse by diverting what funds there were to Herefordshire. They have stabbed us in the back.

Telford will grow because they already have enough infrastructure, put there by the development corperation to support 200,000. They can stand a decade of no no investment.

Shropshire has a new Economic Development Officer. She has her work cut for her but today her challenge is greater than ever. To create economic growth with no seed money at all and a hopeless infrastructure. Best of luck to her but I suspect she will be looking for another job because this one is now dead.