Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : West Midlands Rail Plan Finalised [July 2005]

The press release issued by the Strategic Rail Authority on 21 July 2005.

A confirmed ‘Route Utilisation Strategy’ (RUS) to make better use of existing trains and track capacity in the West Midlands, and improve punctuality and reliability, was published by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today.

It contains measures to improve service patterns for passengers and to tackle growing local and regional demand. It comes after three months of formal consultation with Centro (the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive), Network Rail and key local stakeholders. The Strategy, configured to accommodate passenger growth up to 2011 would deliver:

  • Better use of rolling stock, especially in the peak;
  • Longer peak time trains, where they are affordable and deliver value for money;
  • Extension of off-peak services from Birmingham to provide a higher frequency to Kidderminster, Stratford-upon-Avon and Rugeley Trent Valley;
  • Changes on the Shrewsbury-Wolverhampton-Birmingham corridor to improve performance, including possibly in the future, the operation of a peak time Shrewsbury-London service.

Principal changes from the consultation version, issued on 28 February include:

  • Train services at Stone station to continue, with calls in the Birmingham-Manchester services to replace the withdrawn local service;
  • Wolverhampton-Walsall local service retained until April 2006 then replaced by a fast coach service;
  • Revised and detailed forecasts of where and when peak passenger trains are likely to require lengthening and confirmation that demand for rail services continues to grow apace.

The RUS covers a geographic area centred on the West Midlands conurbation including the lines to: Shrewsbury; Hereford; Worcester; Redditch; Stratford-upon-Avon; Leamington Spa; Coventry; Nuneaton; Burton-on-Trent; Lichfield; and Stoke-on-Trent.

It indicates that route capacity in the region is likely to be sufficient to meet expected rail freight growth in the West Midlands up to 2011, except for Water Orton to Birmingham where Network Rail are developing a scheme to provide more capacity. The RUS will act as a guide for Network Rail’s major renewal of signaling over the next decade, directing provision of track capacity to where it is needed.

In order to deliver the Strategy’s benefits there would have to be associated reductions on lightly used routes on, or crossing busy main lines, such as the local services between Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford, Stafford and Nuneaton and Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Richard Davies, SRA Acting Managing Director, Strategic Planning, said:

“The West Coast Main Line upgrade is already delivering significant benefits for the West Midlands. The new strategy aims to further maximise the railway’s potential to passengers and freight customers. This RUS will put the railway in the West Midlands on a sustainable footing into the next decade.”