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16.08.12

Direct links to London welcomed after FirstGroup WCML win

Some of the key areas to benefit from FirstGroup’s West Coast win are Shrewsbury, Bolton, Telford and Blackpool, which are to see direct services to London reinstated. 

The Government announced yesterday that FirstGroup would run the West Coast franchise for the next 15 years, starting in December, taking over from Virgin. 

The services from Blackpool are set to be delivered by 2013, and the other services from 2016. The direct links have been welcomed as they will dramatically cut journey times and improve the passenger experience. 

Richard Sheehan, of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is fantastic to hear potentially we will have this service back and the travel bosses have actually listened to the voice of business and the voice of the public.” 

Cllr Kuldip Sahota, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, said the council was “obviously delighted”, but would like to see them introduced sooner than 2016. 

Roger Goodhew of the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passenger Association said: “It’s a long journey to London, because we have to change and it takes over four hours. It will make possible things in London in one day because at the moment we have to leave very early and get back very late. It's not an easy journey.” 

The former open access operator Wrexham & Shropshire offered a direct service before its collapse last year, but that was a slow journey via Banbury into Marylebone, rather than on the WCML. Shropshire is now the only county with no direct services to London. 

Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail User’s Association, said: “It’s great news. Nobody is going to miss Virgin – they ended the last service.” 

(Image of Shrewsbury station courtesy PhotoOptik/Christopher, reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence.) 

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