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£550m West Midlands rail upgrade welcomed

Centro has welcomed the planned £550m upgrade to the West Midlands rail network, detailed in Network Rail’s Strategic Business Plan.

The investment could help to cope with ‘soaring’ passenger numbers and ensure regional links can be developed to best connect and feed into HS2. Connecting the two planned stations with local rail would increase the number of jobs created and the economic benefits for the region.

However, the West Midlands Rail Members Group (WMRMG) has expressed its disappointment that the line upgrade between Birmingham and Tamworth is not included in the plan. This could have improved access to freight terminals at Kingsbury and Birch Coppice, the group has argued.

Cllr John McNicholas, chairman of WMRMG and Centro (pictured), said: “We believe the Strategic Business Plan is good news for passengers, bringing them more frequent, reliable and faster services on a number of key routes.

“It is vital we have a passenger and freight network which can meet the needs of the commuters and businesses of today but which can also maximise the significant economic benefits to be offered by the forthcoming HS2 high-speed rail scheme.

“We are particularly pleased that the electrification of the line between Walsall and Rugeley has been included as this is something that Centro and the region’s councillors had campaigned hard for.

“The one slight disappointment is that the absence of the improvements to the Tamworth line, as we felt this was important to help the cope with rising demand and prepare the network for the arrival of HS2 in 2026.”

Some of the key projects in the Strategic Business Plan for the West Midlands include:

  • A £255m programme of works to increase line speeds and reduce train congestion in the Stafford area.
  • £65m electrifying the Cross City Line between Barnt Green and Bromsgrove with three instead of two trains per hour between Redditch, Bromsgrove and New Street.
  • A joint Centro/Coventry City Council/Warwickshire County Council project for two new stations and an extra train per hour on the Coventry to Nuneaton line.
  • Electrification and new tracks between Coventry and Leamington boosting freight and accessibility to Birmingham Airport.
  • Walsall to Rugeley electrification improving journey times and capacity for commuters heading into Birmingham.

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