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Plans to improve Shropshire trains derailed

By Mark Andrews | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Plans to bring more trains and faster journeys to Shropshire's railways have been delayed by five months.

West Midlands Trains promised a raft of improvements when it took over from London Midland last year

West Midlands Trains, which last year took over services previously operated by London Midland, had pledged to introduce a raft of improvements in December.

They would have included half-hourly services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, including a new, fast service which would not stop at the smaller stations.

But the recent chaos caused by the launch of the summer timetable in the north of England has led to the Rail Delivery Group, which oversees rail services across the UK, delaying the changes until May 2019.

Francis Thomas of West Midlands Trains said the company had been ready to launch the new services, but was asked to delay them because of the situation elsewhere.

The new half-hourly trains would have been in addition to the services provided by Arriva Trains Wales and Virgin Trains, meaning that for most of the time there would be at least three services an hour from Shrewsbury to Birmingham.

It also means that the new fast services from the West Midlands to London have been postponed, as well as larger trains to create extra capacity between Birmingham New Street and London.

Plans to introduce later trains serving Wolverhampton, and better connections between London, Birmingham and the north-west via Walsall have also been put on hold.

Mr Thomas said: “We have already put a lot of work and preparation into the timetable improvements planned for December this year, and our preparations are on schedule.

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"We are therefore disappointed that we will not be able to go forward with these plans until May, but understand that these decisions have been made to reflect the network-wide situation.”

The Rail Delivery Group said timetables were routinely updated in May and December to allow for seasonal variations., as well to enable new services to be introduced.

It said the changes introduced in May this year were the largest in recent history, and following the difficulties with implementation it was decided to adopt a more cautious approach.

Its chief executive Paul Plummer said: "In parts of the country, many people have suffered unacceptable disruption following the introduction of the new timetable in May for which we are sincerely sorry.

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"After careful consideration, Network Rail and the train operators are acting now to make sure people get a reliable service when the December timetable is introduced, which means some improvements will be delivered more slowly than originally planned."

Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: "The railway industry has taken a long hard look at its plans for the next timetable change in December and, taking into account recent painful lessons, the industry has scaled back its ambition and tempered it with a more cautious, phased approach to introducing the new timetable.

"The railway is too vital for the health and wealth of our country to risk a repeat of the mistakes of May and this more balanced approach of ambition and caution is absolutely the right thing to do for the millions who rely on our railway everyday."

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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