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New Rail Service Could Connect North Wales With West Midlands And London

Map showing a proposed new rail service between North Wales, the West Midlands and London to be run by an open-access rail operator called Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway A new rail service linking North Wales, the West Midlands and London could begin operations next year.

Plans have been announced to introduce the direct service which would run five times per day Monday to Saturday and four times on Sundays, bringing a direct connection between some stations for the very first time.

The trains would stop in Wrexham General, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes and London Euston and also take in the new Darlaston station which is currently under construction.

It is anticipated it will create around 50 jobs, with roles mostly based in North Wales and the Midlands.

Train and rail infrastructure manufacturer Alstom has teamed up with Birmingham-based consultancy SLC Rail to launch a new so-called open-access rail operator called ‘Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway’.

These types of operators run on tracks and infrastructure owned by a third party but take full commercial risk for the operation of a train service, falling outside the rail franchise system used by the UK government.

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An application has now been submitted to the Office of Rail and Road for Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway to add this new service to the UK network.

The plan comes at a time when Shrewsbury and Telford are about to lose their own direct route to the capital after Avanti West Coast confirmed last month that it would cease the service in June, due in part to low passenger numbers.

French group Alstom has a UK head office in London and a major design and manufacturing plant in Derby although the future of that site currently hangs in the balance.

If approved by the Government, this would be the first time that Alstom has operated its own rail service in the UK as it seeks to plug holes in the existing network by running routes which do not currently exist. It estimates it would serve a core catchment area of around 1.5 million people outside London.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “These exciting proposals could see better connections for communities across North Wales and the Midlands, including direct services to London from Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrexham.

“Competition delivers choice for passengers and drives up standards which is why we continue to work with industry to help make the most of open access rail.”

Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s UK and Ireland managing director, added: “As the country’s leading supplier of rolling stock and train services, it makes perfect sense that we now move into operating our own fleet to serve passengers directly.

“Having been part of the fabric of UK rail for two centuries, we’re excited to enter this new era as an open access operator.

“Alstom is also committed to embedding sustainability into every element of our organisation and Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway will help drive a modal shift from road to rail by offering a greener alternative for travellers across England and Wales.”

SLC Rail’s managing director Ian Walters said: “From the Welsh borders to the Midlands, our routes will forge new connections, linking overlooked regions of England and Wales with direct services to and from London.

“Passengers will benefit from more competitive fares and new technology to simplify ticket purchasing for our new services.

“Our proposal will support sustainable housing growth, nurture communities and unite business, leisure, and commerce along the corridor. This will enhance economies and bring a positive impact to both communities and the environment.”

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