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Victory as Shropshire wins direct rail link to London

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People power has won Shropshire a direct train link to London, with rail bosses today confirming services will begin next year.

It is a victory for more than 3,000 people who signed a Shropshire Star petition, which was backed by politicians of all parties and business leaders in the county.

Today Network Rail was challenged to build on the announcement by committing to expand services in the future by adding peak-time commuter trains.

The Government's Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) today revealed that, after meetings between Network Rail and Virgin, off peak services will start in May.

The ORR today said it "recognises the importance of direct rail services".

Trains will travel between London's Euston Station and Shrewsbury, with stops expected at Telford and Wellington.

  • See Thursday's Shropshire Star for two pages of background and reactions
  • Star comment: More still needs to be done

The move follows months of campaigning by Shropshire and Mid Wales MPs, business leaders and officials at Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils.

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A petition led by the Shropshire Star was presented in Parliament and Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski raised the issue at Prime Minister's Questions.

The ORR said train operator Virgin had worked with Network Rail to find an off-peak direct route to and from Shrewsbury on Monday to Friday, with another on Sundays. It will be incorporated into the draft May 2014 timetable.

But there will be no peak time travel after the ORR said the service had not come about through the "preferred option" of extending existing services.

It insisted today it would continue to work with the Department for Transport to see if that was "the solution to providing further services".

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Mr Kawczynski today said he was delighted by the news, adding: "All of our hard work has paid off. This has been my number one priority over last 12 months as it is vital for Shrewsbury's prosperity and my plans to help Shrewsbury business to export."

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard praised the Shropshire Star campaign, adding: "This is great news for local residents and businesses and all of us who have campaigned so hard for the service."

Telford MP David Wright said: "There has been a lot of cross party and community effort in trying to secure this service and the Shropshire Star has done its bit too.

"I am really pleased with the latest developments and it is important that people use the service so we can keep it."

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said "This is positive news for the county. Shrewsbury is the only county town in England not to have a direct rail link to London so I am pleased to that this new service will be put in place.

"I know there is strong public support for this service and this is something I and other Shropshire MPs made very clear when we met with the Transport Secretary to discuss Network Rail's earlier decision.

"This is welcome news for local businesses and tourism."

A spokeswoman for Virgin Trains said the company had yet to receive any formal notification from Network Rail or Department for Transport.

She said: "Virgin Trains is still in discussions with Network Rail and the Department for Transport about running services to Shrewsbury and no formal timetable offer has yet been made.

"We have made clear our intentions to run direct services to Shrewsbury and look forward to a positive outcome soon."

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