Centro has welcomed the announcement by the Government of millions of pounds of investment in the Midlands rail infrastructure. A £9.4bn programme of improvements to the national network was unveiled by the Department for Transport under the High Level Output Specification programme (HLOS) for the five year period between 2014 and 2019.
In the Midlands the Chase Line between Walsall and Rugeley is to be electrified, a scheme Centro has calculated is worth £113 million to the West Midlands economy and will generate 1,370 jobs.
This is a key project for Centro and one it lobbied hard to be included for funding in this period.
The Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton line will also be electrified while the Birmingham-Tamworth line will be upgraded with improved signalling.
The Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton line will form part of an ‘Electric Spine’ high capacity passenger and freight electrified corridor.
This will run from the south coast through Oxford, Bedford and via the Midland Main Line to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, with a link from Oxford to the West Coast Main Line via Leamington- Coventry-Nuneaton.
Centro chairman Councillor John McNicholas said: “This is very good news for the West Midlands.
“The government has clearly taken on board the concerns Centro, along with local councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships, raised when the Initial Industry Plan was announced.
“The Electric Spine enables freight to be taken off the roads, which is good news for everybody, but we will continue to work in other areas such as the opening of the Walsall to Stourbridge line to open up other capacity-releasing schemes.”
The electrification of the route between Walsall and Rugeley will:
Enable a half-hourly service to operate on the Chase Line on a cost effective basis
Improve connections for passengers changing at Rugeley Trent Valley for services to Stafford, Lichfield and London
Avoid the current need to reduce the peak service frequency on the Chase Line to free up scarce diesel resources
Provide faster journey times with higher capacity electric trains
Allow the conversion of the existing local diesel service on the Birmingham – Walsall – Rugeley line to electric operation, freeing up further diesel trains to strengthen overcrowded services on other routes.
Create significantly more operational flexibility in the deployment of LM electric fleet and make better use of both rolling stock, train crew resources and network capacity
Create a new electrified route between the West Midlands and the North West, relieving capacity on the current New St – Wolverhampton – Stafford route and creating an effective diversionary route for passenger and freight services thereby facilitating a more robust seven-day railway operation.
Electrification work will also make it easier to create a larger loading gauge allowing deep sea shipping containers to be transported.I
n the longer term, electrification could allow services such as the Birmingham – Liverpool train to run via Walsall, significantly improving Walsall’s connectivity to Stafford and the North West.
Cllr Roger Horton, Centro lead member for Transforming Rail Travel, said: “This package of measures offers huge improvements for the West Midlands and will help make the local network ready for the arrival of high-speed rail.
“Electrification not only brings environmental benefits but it will improve freight and passenger connectivity, bringing huge benefits for the wider region.”