£3bn rail plan would see 32 more Shropshire trains a day
More than 30 extra trains a day would run from Shropshire as part of a £3.5 billion plan to revolutionise the Midlands rail network.
The proposals, which would include new regular, direct services from Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury to London, are being put forward by lobbying group Midlands Connect.
The organisation is asking the government for an initial £45.5 million to develop business cases for a series of projects that would re-shape rail transport in the Midlands.
They are all included in the organisation's Midlands Engine Rail plan, and feature a Midlands Rail Hub and extra links to Birmingham Airport.
Among the potential benefits outlined for Shropshire residents are 32 extra passenger trains a day, reducing the journey time from Shrewsbury to Birmingham from 56 to 45 minutes, and a new direct hourly service from Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford to London.
Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine said: “In the Midlands, more people are travelling on the railways than ever before. We now need investment from Government to allow our people, businesses and infrastructure to reach their full potential, and to drive a further boost in passenger numbers.
"Midlands Engine Rail is essential in creating a more sustainable, productive and mobile Midlands.
“Whether they live in Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Birmingham or Leicester, our communities deserve the opportunity to make greener choices, to access a world-class education and to reach the widest possible variety of career opportunities. We must create a transport network that helps our businesses to grow, not holds them back.”
Gill Hamer, director of Marches LEP, said the proposals would spark a revolution in the region's rail services.
She said: "For too long commuters in Shropshire have had to endure slow, infrequent and indirect services – Midlands Engine Rail provides the capacity and connectivity our towns and cities need to thrive. As we work towards a carbon-zero future, its essential that we encourage commuters and visitors to get out of their cars and onto trains, as well as opening up access to skilled labour across the region. We welcome and support Midlands Connect's proposals to revolutionise the rail network in this region.”
Midlands Connect's report says the existing rail line linking Shrewsbury and Telford to Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley and Birmingham does not provide the capacity needed to support business and housing growth.
It warns that organisations are struggling to access and attract skilled workers, who it says "are put off from rail commuting by slow, overcrowded, uncomfortable and unreliable services."
It adds: "Slow line speeds between Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury are reducing productivity."
It also highlights Network Rail forecasts that say, without intervention, the corridor will soon be subject to ‘acute overcrowding’.
The group says the number of trains on the corridor to be increased from three to four per hour, with capacity released by HS2.
The report states: "These plans could introduce a direct, hourly service from Shrewsbury, Telford and Wellington to London, as well as doubling services to Birmingham International from Shrewsbury, Telford and Wellington. Ideally this scheme would involve electrification of the railway between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, offering a faster, greener and more reliable solution than the use of diesel or bi-mode trains."
It adds: "The study will also examine the economic case for speeding up Shrewsbury-Birmingham services from 56 minutes to 45 minutes, a reduction that can be achieved via track upgrades and possible electrification."