Plans to reopen rail line are put on hold

Plans to reopen a rail line between Wolverhampton and Walsall are effectively shelved for at least three years, it emerged today.

Transport chiefs say they cannot make the business case work and that rail operators would not be able to make a profit if they brought back the direct service. The main way to improve the business case would be a new station in Willenhall, transport chiefs have said. The only direct public transport link between the town is by bus.

Alternatively travellers can take a train to Birmingham that then goes back out to Walsall. Councillors on Centro, the West Midlands transport authority, will be told next week that there is “no affordable or feasible option to allow its reinstatement in the short term on a cost-effective and practical basis”.

It plans to flag up the prospect of creating new stations and providing more carriages and locomotives after 2015 when it next reviews the transport priorities for the West Midlands.

The service ran every 40 minutes but was closed by London Midland in 2008 due to low usage. On weekdays there were fewer than 10 passengers per train.

Centro has said it remains committed to getting a half-hourly service re-instated but that it would be “extremely difficult to achieve in the short term”.

It would need new signalling in Wolverhampton and Walsall and a new platform at Wolverhampton.

Stephen Rhodes, director of customer experience at Centro, said: “Centro is continuing to actively promote the potential for the reinstatement of the Walsall to Wolverhampton rail service within our various plans, and with key stakeholders.

“Centro’s intention is for the service to be re-instated on at least a half-hourly basis if it is to offer a credible service for passengers, but it is clear that this will be extremely difficult to achieve in the short term.”