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New 30-year West Midlands rail plan unveiled

A NEW era of rail services for the wider Birmingham and Wolverhampton area has been set out by the West Midlands Rail Executive, as it publishes its planning strategy for the next 30 years.

The plans have been divided into three categories – short, medium and long term. The short term plans involve a budget of £1 billion.

Some of the more immediate schemes include the restoration of passenger services on the Camp Hill line between Kings Norton and Birmingham New Street, and also between Wolverhampton and Walsall, where the passenger service was last withdrawn as recently as 2008.

The main medium term plan rests on the Midlands Rail Hub proposals being developed by Midlands Connect and also the arrival of HS2, which is intended to open from London to Birmingham in 2026.

Further ahead, the strategy says there will need to be ‘radical infrastructure change’ after the opening of Phase 2 of HS2 in 2033, including options for new rail routes and also new technology.

Other improvements will involve higher service frequencies and other ‘quick wins’ by working with the area’s local franchise holder West Midlands Railway to achieve £1 billion-worth of upgrades in the shorter term.

Opportunities for the development of rail freight are also included in the Strategy.

The plans have been drawn up by the WMRE in collaboration with Midlands Connect, the Department for Transport and the wider rail industry. There has also been public and stakeholder consultation.

WMRE chair Cllr Roger Lawrence said: ‘We are delighted to launch our strategy for delivering better rail services across the whole region over the next thirty years.

‘We very much appreciate the time and effort which our partners and stakeholder consultees put into developing their responses.

‘We are pleased that our approach received wide and strong support. The Strategy will support the exciting regeneration and growth plans that exist across our partner authorities, recognising the role that rail plays in connecting people, communities and businesses.’

The Strategy document also promises a supporting ‘Prospectus for Rail’, to be published later this year.

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