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Shropshire to London rail link application sent to ORR

 A formal application from Network Rail and Virgin has been submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for the restoration of direct rail services from Shropshire to London.

Approval from the regulator is the final step before Virgin Train can get train services up and running. Campaigners in the county have been pressing for such services ever since the Wrexham & Shropshire direct services were axed in 2011. Even those services were slow trains into London Marylebone – it has been years since Shropshire passengers have had a direct, fast link to London via the West Coast Main Line, as Virgin is now planning.

Assuming there are no problems, Virgin Trains expects to be able to have services operating by the end of the year (though passengers have had such assurances before and been disappointed)

Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for Wrekin, said he was confident the application would be approved.

A Virgin spokeswoman told the Shropshire Star: “We can confirm that an application has been submitted to the ORR.

“The process normally takes around four weeks unless there are any problems or queries they need to come back to us with.

“The date of December is certainly one we are still looking at for trains to be running from Shropshire to London again.”

Bethan Thomas, of the Office of Rail Regulation, also told the Star: "We have received the formal application from Network Rail.

"This follows a standard industry consultation of potentially affected operators and funders.

"We will now consider the application in line with our published criteria and procedures which includes consideration of any comments made by industry consultees and the wider performance and capacity implications for existing services and the rest of the network.

"However, unlike Virgin’s previous proposals, this application is to extend current services to and from Shrewsbury and Blackpool rather than introducing additional trains on the very busy south end of the west coast main line, so the capacity and performance implications are likely to be less of an issue this time.

"We will make it public once we have made our decision on this application."

The ORR rejected Virgin’s previous bid in August 2013, citing just those concerns.

The new service will be timetabled so that people will be able to have a day trip to London. Under the plans there will be two services in each direction Monday to Saturday with one service each way on Sunday. All services will also run through Telford Central and Wellington.

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