Backing for plans to upgrade Shropshire rail route

Business leaders and politicians are calling on the Government to press ahead with rail improvements for the region – which would cut journey times and boost the economy by more than £20m.

SHREWS COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR JAMIE RICKETTS 08/08/2019 - Photos of Shrewsbury - Shrewsbury Train Station / Shrewsbury Railway Station.
SHREWS COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR JAMIE RICKETTS 08/08/2019 - Photos of Shrewsbury - Shrewsbury Train Station / Shrewsbury Railway Station.

Midlands Connect has been pressing for major improvements to the Shrewsbury-Black Country- Birmingham railway line, with the ultimate aim of electrifying the route.

The latest step has seen the organisation submit a business case with government, calling for £14.6m to make initial improvements on the line.

The proposal would increase the speed at which the line can operate to 90mph.

The work would require track realignment at two locations on the route, as well as signal improvements, and would cut journey times between Shrewsbury and Birmingham by up to four minutes.

Other benefits outlined are improved air quality, environmental benefits, and reduced congestion on local roads.

CEO of Midlands Connect Maria Machancoses said they estimate the scheme would generate up to £23m of economic benefits.

The drive for improvements comes alongside an expectation that far more people will be looking to use rail services on the line in the coming years.

The forecasts from Midlands Connect show significant population growth along the route.

Both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin are projected to grow by 11 to 12 per cent by 2031.

The growth comes alongside large numbers of new jobs expected within Telford, which will potentially see an increase of 22 per cent in new employment – around 4,000 new jobs.

The prospect has been welcomed by Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski, who has been campaigning for electrification of the route, as well as the Deputy Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Richard Overton.

Both have urged the government to back the bid, while Richard Sheehan, Chief Executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said county firms wanted to see the government support infrastructure improvements.

He said: "It is very clear that rural communities tend to end up with quite often sub-standard infrastructure, and improved rail links, electrification, and other factors that other areas of the country enjoy, all go to support inward investment plans from businesses, so it is really important that whenever there is an opportunity to invest in infrastructure that serious consideration is given to it and the government listens to the voices of local people."

Mr Kawczynski said: “Boosting line speed on this important route through Shrewsbury to 90-miles-per-hour will be a massive boost for local passengers and businesses, speeding up journeys and encouraging motorists to leave their cars at home.

“It’s fantastic that these plans are being brought forward and could be a great short-term win for this project.

“On a personal level, I’ve long campaigned for the electrification of this line, something that will secure truly green, sustainable connectivity for generations to come.

“I’m keen that Government supports us in the delivery of these improvements as soon as possible.”

Councillor Overton added: "We have been proactively seeking improvements to the rail line in our borough for many years, and welcome the potential improvements set out by Midlands Connect which have been developed collaboratively with stakeholders like ourselves.

“Whilst the ultimate solution must be the electrification of our rail line, the benefits that line speed improvements will bring in the meantime are significant and should be progressed as soon as possible.

“We know that the way we are travelling is evolving, and that greener modes of transport are key to making sure that our transport network is sustainable going forward and is all part of our wider ambition to support the local economy, create jobs and keep Telford and Wrekin moving.

“I hope that Government shares our passion for this scheme, and provides the required funding to enable work to commence as soon as possible.”

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