Government's railways plan ignores Telford, council leader says

The Government’s £96 billion plan to revolutionise rail travel offers no investment for Telford and no evidence of ‘levelling up’ for the borough's residents, a council leader has said.

Announcing the long-delayed integrated rail plan in the Commons last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would mean faster journeys and increased capacity up to 10 years sooner than originally planned.

But critics said it was “levelling down, not levelling up” after some previously pledged key rail schemes were scaled back or scrapped.

Telford & Wrekin Council leader, Councillor Shaun Davies, has expressed disappointment at the integrated rail plan.

He said: “This latest investment fails to demonstrate any benefit to anywhere west of Birmingham.

"Indeed, in a 162-page document, there is not a single reference to Telford and Wrekin or Shropshire and only two to Wolverhampton.

“The plan outlines that 75 per cent of the main lines will be electrified, however, there is still no reference to our line from Wellington to Birmingham.

“Under the latest plan, access to HS2 for Telford residents would see residents needing to drive to Stafford or travel by train to Birmingham then walk eight to 10 minutes to Curzon Street.

“Despite consultation taking place in 2014 it is also frustrating to see that the Secretary of State for Transport has asked for more time to make a final decision on whether to continue with the proposal to improve the link between the M54 and M6 which is critical not only to our borough but to the wider economy.

“My team, the council and I have been campaigning for this investment for 10 years now. We need action.

“Better connectivity means better jobs for local people, so it is bitterly disappointing to see another opportunity to level up for Telford and Wrekin missed.

“This isn't levelling up, this is doubling down on regional inequalities."

Last week, Mr Shapps confirmed that the eastern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Leeds would now grind to a halt at East Midlands Parkway, while a full high-speed east-west line linking Manchester to Leeds will not be built.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said extra high speed lines would take “decades to build” and would not deliver benefits to commuters quickly enough.

The plan has supported “in principle” the creation of the Midlands Rail Hub, although the Government has yet to commit funding to the £2bn project that aims to improve services across the wider region.

There was no mention of the electrification of the Birmingham to Shrewsbury line, which remains part of Network Rail’s long-term plans but could take up to 20 years to come to fruition.

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