A new feasibility study released by regional transport body Midlands Connect outlines nearly £500 million of benefits to the economy if the railway through the Black Country to Shropshire is upgraded.
The study ‘Rails to Recovery: Building Back Stronger’ proposes rail electrification, faster local trains and a new hourly train to London from Shrewsbury. Its analysis shows that time savings to passengers are valued up to £377 million and the benefits of fewer cars on the roads and other environmental benefits are worth up to £145 million.
The ‘Rails to Recovery’ study examined a combination of faster and more frequent train services, including the potential opportunity associated with extending a future (post Phase 1 of HS2) London Euston to Wolverhampton service. As well as providing higher frequencies between Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford and Wolverhampton, the service could provide additional links to Birmingham International (for HS2’s Interchange station and Birmingham Airport) and destinations towards London including Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes for people in Shropshire and the Black Country. The scheme will also mean improved local connectivity for commuters into Birmingham.
The study shows that trains could be running as fast as 90mph if the route were upgraded; an increase from a mix of 70 and 50mph today. Residents using stations at Smethwick Galton Bridge, Sandwell & Dudley, Dudley Port, Tipton, Coseley, Codsall, Shifnal, Bilbrook and Albrighton will also see benefits from this scheme – increased capacity on their services meaning less overcrowding at peak times and quicker journey times on improved rail infrastructure.
Commenting on the release of the ‘Rails to Recovery’ study, Midlands Connect chief executive Maria Machancoses said: “This work could create a rail revolution in the Black Country and Shropshire. I know from experience, using this train every day, how overcrowded it can be.
“The report lays out how businesses, commuters and residents will all benefit from an upgraded route as will our economy. This is the definition of a win-win project and can help take us from rails to recovery.
“We’ve started this process, but we are picking up pace, and today is a first, critical stop, on our long journey.”