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

Oswestry | News | Published:

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.

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.

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"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.

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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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